When I was a kid, my father just didn’t give a damn about being a dad.
That’s the long and short of it; there was no father/son bonding time, no cherished childhood memories. Growing up, I had a buddy, Ralphie Newton, we called him “Crazy Fat Ralphie”. The kid would do anything he was dared to, you didn’t even have to pay him.
One day Ralphie’s dad, Crazy Senior, took him on an excursion to buy some weed. (Hey, it was the Seventies.) The deal went horribly wrong and they wound up in a high speed chase with the Niagara Regional Police that lasted through three cities and only ended when they crashed through a fence onto a farmer’s property and hit a cow. In the end, the NRP wound up with a ton of beef and Ralphie wound up with the best father/son story ever.
I remembering envying the hell out of that chubby bastard.
My father just never had a genuine interest in being more than a sperm donor. Now that I’m a father I’ve vowed to never make the same mistakes as my own progenitor.
And I’m here to do the same for you. If you’re a dad and you’ve taken a break from ESPN and Game of Thrones to read this, pay close attention. I’m about to give you ten travel tips that you won’t find anywhere else; these are “pearls” of wisdom I’ve accumulated after spending nearly two decades observing traveling dads.
Enjoy them. Pay heed to them. Live by them. Don’t blame me if they explode in your face.
TEN) Never slip out of character! No matter what may be transpiring around you, never, ever, stop being a husband/dad. Respect the role. Always. As I write these eloquent words to you fine people, a Bostonian dad is watching two Scottish lesbians paw each other on a lobby bench.
And his wife and kids are watching him watch them. In fact, his spouse is doing her best to burn a hole through the back of his head with her heat vision. But she isn’t Kryptonian so it won’t work.
However, one way or another, he will pay for his actions, of this I am certain.
NINE) Do your homework! They sometimes require more effort than we feel we can spare, but a sound plan can make a vacation EPIC rather than simply “meh”. Before you arrive at your chosen destination, use the world wide web for more than what you usually use it for. Scope out everything your vacation spot has to offer beforehand and maybe you can avoid the dreaded symphony of “What are we doing today?” that can ruin the day before it begins.
Find those little out-of-the-way spots, those awesome hidden gems that make a trip an adventure. (There are literally millions of travel bloggers who have already done the legwork for you.)
Heed my advice and your partner will be impressed beyond measure and who knows where that might lead?
You may not be built like a cartoon, but you can still be a hero, dad.
EIGHT) Don’t be afraid to go “off-road!” Yes, I’m a man of wild contradictions, just accept it. Plans really are important when it comes to constructing a memorable family vacation, but spontaneity is equally important. Just be sure you don’t put your family in danger by booking a last-minute tour of your destination’s seedier spots run by a toothless chap named Chaz…
Winging it every once in awhile rather than all the time can be fun if you exercise caution along the way. “And how do I go off-road, Hook?” I’m so glad you asked…
SEVEN) Make sure to become “insta-pals” with the staff. I’m not suggesting you ask the bellman to join you and the wife in coital congress – although that does happen more often than you think – but hotel staff are locals and locals know the best spots to be treated like a regular person rather than a tourist.
Plus, staff members can score you pretty much anything you may require (like, for instance, a kidney) or desire (like, for instance, two hookers dressed like Sandy and Rizzo from Grease).
You’re either laughing or rolling your eyes, but this sort of thing can happen anywhere – even in sleepy little Niagara Falls, trust me.
SIX) Tip the bellman, ya cheap bugger! There is no creature more loathsome to behold than the Cheap Dad. This is a fact, kiddies.
The Cheap Dad makes his wife walk behind him with her head down. He inspires his kids to deny their parentage. Hell, even the family dog – if its unlucky enough to be brought on vacation – will pull away from him, that’s how embarrassing it is to be seen with this prick.
“Do I need a bellman for the bags? Hell no! I’ve got kids! Let them work for a change! They’re twelve… they can handle it!”
Don’t be this guy. If you can afford to go on vacation, you can afford to let yourself relax and be taken care of for once. If you can’t afford a bellman, if you truly can’t afford a vacation, if you’re maxing out your cards or line of credit… THEN DON’T GO ON VACATION!
Sometimes it takes a bigger man to admit the family needs to cut back in order to get ahead down the road than to go crazy traversing the world while racking up more debt than he can ever hope to eradicate.
FIVE) Stay off your device while traveling. I‘m going to avoid using the slammer on this one – but that doesn’t mean it’s not important. In fact, this one could be the difference between raising happy, considerate kids who know how to communicate with people face-to-face and having kids in your family who can only communicate by text. I hate seeing dads walking around with their families, their eyes glued to cellphones or tablets, the family unit disintegrating before their eyes.
Scratch that, the family units in question aren’t disintegrating before the negligent dads’ eyes – because the dads in question are too stupid to look at their own families in the first place!
Children learn by example, people, this in by no means a revelation, so set an example your children deserve to behold.
FOUR) Don’t dress like a drunken crackhead – ever! Admittedly, I’m not the snappiest dresser to ever help raise a kid – but I know enough to take my wife with me when I buy clothes. I realize most men liken this experience to being back in the fifth grade and accompanying your mom to Sears for back-to-school outfits, but again, you don’t want to embarrass your family any more than you need to, right?
THREE) Don’t plan on getting laid. You’re on a family vacation, buddy, get lucky on your own time – and on your own spouse.
Yes, I know every parent needs to be a human being and not just a caregiver and wiper of boogers all the time, but far too many parents act selfishly while on vacation and their kids – and society eventually – end up paying the price. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve arrived at a room to find kids exiled to the hallway or glued to the TV while mom and dad defile each other in the shower, the desk, against the window, etc.
Act like a responsible parent while traveling with the clan and make time to act like a porn star when the vacation is over.
Put these thoughts out of your head, ya horny devil… you’re on vacation with the kids for Crissakes!
TWO) Never forget… things are going to go haywire! We rarely vacationed but when we did, my father let me run wild. Like a wildebeest. But one who would rather read comics underneath a tree while camping rather than actually run wild.
At any rate, he once let me eat all the candy I could shove down my gullet – right before we left Blue Mountain. Oh, and did I mention he let me have have a beer too? it was great.
Until I yakked all over the backseat of one of his favorite vintage cars.
Now, my father could have taken a deep breath, accepted the situation for what it was and found a way to move on… but of course, he didn’t. It was easier to lose his shit – which I almost did as well, by the way – and freak the hell out than salvage the moment and rise above.
You’re going to screw up. Life is going to throw curve balls at your nuts. Accept it and be prepared to be the truly cool dad.
Be Batfleck, stay calm cool and collected – even in you are overacting…
ONE) Live in the moment! I get it, it’s never been more difficult to survive and thrive in this world, never mind be a good husband and father.
Then again, this isn’t the Crusades or the French Revolution, so what the hell are you complaining about?
Be a good person. Period.
Sure, it’s not always going to be easy, but you can do it. Have faith in yourself. You say you don’t like your wife or kids? Well, that’s your problem, get over it! But if you do like your family, be there for them.
Focus is key, people. Put your worries aside for a few days, or better yet, deal with them before you go on vacation. We tend to ignore the big issues these days; it’s easier to bury them with artificial joy or affairs. You’re better than that.
Be the dad you always wanted – or maybe you had – and you’ll be all right.
See you in the lobby, dads…