How To Travel With Kids During The Holidays – Without Killing Them.

HOOK’S NOTE:  I figured I’d keep the title simple, seeing as parents always seem to have a million thoughts running through their heads at any given time. Moving on…

I’m no travel expert like Sarah Pittard and I’m not what eggheads would refer to as a “responsible parent” but…

Wait, I’ve been a bellman for seventeen years and parent of a still-living, productive child for sixteen.

Never mind. Where were we?

Oh yeah. It’s the holiday season and my lobby is slowly filling up with moms, dads… and far too many over-medicated, hopped-up-on-sugar-and-Red-Bull rugrats. The cynic in me is itching to grab some sacks, black bags and one-way tickets to Cuba, but the humanitarian side of The Hook has another idea. In that spirit, here are some tips to help parents mold their little hospitality terrorists into model guests.

1)  LAY DOWN THE LAW.

Today’s parent seems to be more concerned with being a cool best friend than a guide/warden. Being popular is great (or so I’ve been told), but let’s face it, parents who apply a soft touch become pushovers and their kids become mini-Kardashians. I grew up with a girl who was a true hell-raiser; she smoked like a chimney, drank and cursed like a sailor, and boys climbed in and out of her bedroom window with frightening frequency. Her parental units went easy on her (unlike the boys who were anything but gentle, according to local legend), and they were soon rewarded with a new title: Grandparents.

I’m not suggesting you crack the whip 24/7, but trust me, your kids will grow to appreciate and more importantly, respect you, if you establish ground rules early on. Like, from the womb, shall we say?

His reputation may be in tatters at the moment, but I’ve always been partial to Bill Cosby’s immortal line about parenting:

“I brought you into this world.. and I can take you out.”

Boy, if I had a nickel for revery time my mom employed that line… Bill Cosby could borrow it to pay his lawyers.

Perhaps we should move on. What do you say?

The Hook’s ABCs of Travel For Kids

A)  Always be respectful of others, property, and the law in general. You may be snickering, but I’ve met many a super-villain-in-training over the course of my two decades in hospitality. Just because mom and dad are busy unloading the van (with a bellman’s assistance, hopefully), checking in or searching for the room, doesn’t mean you should run amok like Tasmanian devils on crack. Your parental units may not have the energy or willpower to take notice of you but believe me… others do.

I’ve herded many a rugrat stampede in my day and I’m not above doing it again. But I shouldn’t have to. You’ll be inheriting this world before you know it, kids; its never too early to start taking responsibility for it. It’s not as boring as it sounds. After all, your Uncle Hook is considered a productive member of society.

 B)  Be nice to everyone you meet – especially hospitality workers.  Trust me, kids, you may think its fun to terrorize hotel workers but never forget, we have master keys, we know where you’re sleeping, and we have access to cleaning supplies so no one will ever know we were there.

Consider that the next time you decide to create a homage to Jackson Pollock on your hotel room’s walls in crayon – or other materials.

C)  Instead of chaos, why not create some worthwhile, lasting family memories while traveling?  Put the phones/iPads/devices down and pay attention to everything around you. This will be hard, if not impossible for you to believe, kids, but there’s a big ole, three-dimensional world out there and your parents are only half as lame as they appear to be. And if they really are as lame as Kris Jenner from the neck up? Then this is the perfect opportunity for you to turn them around. Just inform them you have all their friends on Facebook and threaten to bash them if they don’t take their parental responsibility seriously.

And I haven’t forgotten about you, parents. Here are some rapid-fire tips to help ease your holiday travel stress.

1)  Dehydration is the enemy.  Kids love to whine – about anything – so keep them hydrated but not with soda or Red Bull… please! Admittedly, water isn’t my favorite drink either, but most tetra-pack juices are loaded with enough sugar to keep Mike Tyson going through ten rounds, so keep plenty of water on hand.

2)  Hunger is also the enemy.  (Yes, travel is rife with conflict. Get over it.)  But sugary snacks and fast food are not the answer! Fresh fruit is sure to keep your little monsters balanced. Just don’t forget to clean the car out when you arrive. Bananas and the interior temperature of a vehicle do not mix well…

3)  Idle hands are a menace to your peace and tranquility.  Traveling during the holidays?  It may sound strange, but a gingerbread house will keep the kids occupied for hours. Remember to pack an old tablecloth and rags though. General crafts and for that matter, books (your kids may not recognize them but they’re the best), are a great time-killer at any time of the year. Just don’t pack anything that can destroy a hotel room if you divert your attention for a moment or two.

4)  Be fair with the radio dial/CDs.  I realize most families don’t see eye-to-eye when it comes to auditory stimulation (weird sentence, I know, but you’ll be fine). However, your kids will turn on each other – and you – if they don’t have something charming to soothe their savage breasts. (Okay, I admit it… that sentence was even weirder. I’ll bring things back to relative normal. Promise.)

So try this: Play a few minutes of their favorite stations/tunes and then switch to yours. The balance should keep everyone happy and who knows? You may even bond with the little devils.

And speaking of which…

5)  When all else fails.. talk to your kids!  This is a radical concept and may be tough to absorb, but your kids are actual, albeit tiny, human beings with hopes, dreams, thoughts and opinions on many a subject beyond boogers, video games and internet porn.

So take a leap of faith and fill those travel hours with conversation. I fondly remember the good old days when people communicated without the benefit of texts or Skype or any other device or platform. Or as many a teenager refers to those days, The Dark Ages.

Believe it or not, those were good times.

**************************

I was a child of the Seventies and so my parents had a sure-fire tactic they’d employ before any family excursion. They’d select a neighborhood family that moved away months before as an example of what would happen if I decided to act out.

“Remember Jason Richards from down the street? He got out of control the last time they went on vacation.. and it was the last time he went anywhere! They didn’t move away… they hid the evidence and started over somewhere else!”

Needless to say, I was a model child while traveling. Of course, that tactic wouldn’t fly these days, not with Twitter, Skype, Facebook and a million other social media sites in play, but it was damn effective back then. My point is this: Never discount the value of a good scare when it comes to child-rearing. Kids are resilient and they watch more violent television in a week then I ever did in my entire childhood, so feel free to put a good fright into them.

The trip you’ll be saving will be your own.

Well, that’s all I have for you today, folks. This is just the tip of the iceberg, obviously, but I’ll be revisiting this topic the next time a family unleashes their “little darlings” in the lobby.

 This sight isn’t that far removed from the actual reality I reside in,  friends…

 

About The Hook

Husband. Father. Bellman. Author of The Bellman Chronicles. Reader of comic books and observer and chronicler of the human condition. And to my wife's eternal dismay, a mere mortal and non-vampire. I'm often told I look like your uncle, cousin, etc. If I wore a hat, I'd hang it on a hat rack in my home in Niagara Falls, Canada. You can call me The Hook, everyone else does.
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58 Responses to How To Travel With Kids During The Holidays – Without Killing Them.

  1. Great advice Hook. I wish more parents would do these things!

  2. Pamela Edwards says:

    Bravo Hook ! My parents were as you described & it’s a shame nowadays more are not ! Wonderful advice !

  3. Kayla Lords says:

    We’re traveling in a couple of weeks (a 10 hour drive – yippee!) and won’t be staying in a hotel, but these are the rules for the 30 minute drive to the mall or the 10 hour drive to Grandma’s. Every time I’m hear, “You’re the meanest mom ever!” an angel gets skates or something like that…and I smile.

  4. Paul says:

    Well said Hook.

  5. hollie says:

    All good advice! Thankfully, my son is very well-behaved when we travel, mostly because I lay down the law.

    He learned at a very young age that he was expected to behave properly or receive consequences, which I stick to. I let him shout requests for music from the backseat, mostly because my parents never let me choose the music. He is polite and quiet in public.

    The only time he ever embarrassed me in a hotel is when, at just barely 7 (he is 8 now) he asked a girl checking us in what happened to her arm. She replied it was Psoriasis. He said “Oh, my Papa had that. I think that is why he went to heaven.” No, the Psoriasis did not cause his death but she took that to mean that she was going to go to heaven for having been afflicted with the skin condition and she just laughed and laughed. She kept asking him about everything he had done that day when we returned to the hotel and was very sweet, so thankfully he hadn’t offended her!

  6. paul says:

    I don’t have kids but these advices are good to know 😉

  7. This is all really sound advice. Who are you and what have you done with The Hook?

  8. Norm 2.0 says:

    Clearly explaining what you expect from them and not being afraid to lay down the law; more parents need to be doing this. Great post.

  9. Bang on the money advice. I sure hope parents, whether they’re traveling to your hotel or anywhere else, take heed.

  10. 1jaded1 says:

    Best advice ever. I was also a kid that travelled in the 70s. We received a similar talk and “the reminder” look before exiting the car and entering the public venue. You rock, as always.

  11. I used to love road trips with my folks because we actually got to spend time talking to each other. It’s amazing what a confined space will do!!

  12. This is awesome! I don’t have children but sometimes I wish I could slap them when they are being brats and destroying my waiting room…..

  13. girlseule says:

    We weren’t too naughty as kids, but we did have our share of “If you kids don’t behave I am turning this car around and we are never going on holidays again!!!” moments when we were little and went away on holidays. Sometimes I see kids and it does seem they are worse behaved then when I was young, but maybe thats just me getting older! I guess ipads and DVD players in cars have made long car trips easier maybe!

  14. LucyBre says:

    I agree Hook, we spend too much time with our faces glued to screens (I say as I type from my phone…)

  15. We’ve been lucky, when our kids were small they were angels in public, at relatives, and always invited back, then at home well they were not angels. We basically just didn’t let them get away with stuff, plus I was always prepared. Well attending a funeral with one of my children, I brought a few crayons & some paper (they hated colouring books). My daughter quietly drew pictures for the hour and all was good. Parents seem to want to be their child’s best friend, this is wrong, plus some seem to be afraid to hurt their child’s feelings, oh well, punishment isn’t for pleasing.

  16. angielynn says:

    Oh yeah, totally much needed! 🙂

  17. PinkNoam says:

    I’m currently compiling a list of places I can go where there are no kids. If that fails, then I’m going to start shoving print-outs of this blog at parents who’s kids are pissing me off =) thanks!

  18. A hotel reality show would be too much for TV. Not that people would feel embarrassed or guilty, the hotels would be afraid it would discourage travelers.
    Great advice… media is missing a bet by not having you on the talk show circuit.

    • The Hook says:

      I know, right?
      I’ve been killing myself trying to sell “The Hook” as a guest to shows like Steven and Chris and Breakfast Television, but I always come up short.
      Thanks for being a steadfast friend and supporter.

      • Smart marketing is critical. New year, new direction?…adapting isn’t always bad…besides once they get to know you – and realize you have a book….

      • The Hook says:

        I don’t mind adapting.
        I just don’t know which skin to throw on to break into TV Land…

      • Gotta get someone’s attention. All roads possible
        You have material that would easily work for mag. article on vacations with kids (not to early to think about that submission) or even a quick/inexpensive ebook.
        When you manage to get in front of someone, you’ll be a big hit: humor, astute observations and what a writing style.

      • Oh, you’d like one of the newest yard decorations in the neighborhood: 3 brand new garden hoes stuck vertical in the ground with big red bows under their “chins”
        Must get pix…

  19. Gennie says:

    I’ll try and remember all this when we hit the road next week!

  20. markbialczak says:

    Every traveling parent should remember, Hook: Just because it isn’t your House doesn’t mean you should act like nobody’s home. I like your guide. I hope it can sink in to some folks who need it.

  21. Let me tell you the truth…children RUIN traveling. I was quite the map-hopper until mine came along. Holy Jesus did they suck the joy out of that. We were on a flight to Orlando to visit (what else?) Disneyworld. I was chatting with a stewardess in the back of the plane. She said that the Orlando routes are all jam-packed with families go to and from Disney and Universal. Kids everywhere. She said those routes are know in the airline industry as being the best form of birth control on the plant. She’s right.

  22. Many of these travel tips would work well with a few adults I know.
    May I add one to the list? (thank you!)
    SLEEP! Never underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep. My kiddos are great to be around and travel with UNTIL they get a few less hours of sleep. That’s when the whining, moaning and belly aching happens–and that’s just my husband!
    Even my taller/bigger than me football player son listens when I send him to bed early.
    Mama knows!

  23. And that last note from Lord of the Flies….wowsers! I didn’t travel much with my family when I was a kid. And when we did, it wasn’t on long car trips very often. I was an only child until I was 11 so my life was a tad different. Great advice for parents though and I agree with every word!!
    I can only imagine the little terrors you see in your lobby! *groan*
    🙂

  24. curvyroads says:

    Such great advice, Hook. I am a step-parent, not a parent myself, so when I see our lovely granddaughters acting like little over-indulged monsters, I keep my big mouth shut and try to remove myself from the immediate vicinity. But I want to share wisdom like this. 😉

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