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…