The Hook’s Guide To Being A Non-Sucky Traveling Dad.

They put the “over” in overwhelmed, the “father” in fatherhood and at times, the “dumb” in dumbass.

They are everywhere, across the highways and byways of the global hospitality industry. They are legion. I walk among them, but I am not one of them.

They are traveling fathers and I have spent the last seventeen years serving/observing them. I’ve been carrying luggage- and dealing with baggage – for families and other eccentrics for almost two decades in Niagara Falls, Canada. As a father myself, I’ve paid particular attention to the actions (and mostly, in-actions) of my brethren.

The modern dad means well, (I think), but for the most part, he needs to step up his away game considerably. Luckily, I’m here to help. Here then, are a few tips for the Modern Traveling Dad. The first one needs to be implemented long before you leave the house…

10)  Don’t sit on the sidelines during the planning phase.  Or to be more accurate, don’t sit on the couch watching the game while your spouse books the rooms, hollers at the kids to pack their bags, stuffs your clothes into suitcases and generally steers the entire ship.

Get involved. Scour the web for deals. If you really can’t afford that trip to Niagara Falls… don’t go! Never put yourself into the red just to get away for a week. You’ll wind up with crushing credit card debt that will outlive you and your spouse.

Helping the family pack is an area in which Dad can truly be indispensable. As a bellman, I encounter over-packers every day; you can keep things tight by at least trying to eliminate the clutter in your clan’s suitcases, Dad. The shock absorbers you’ll be saving will be your own.

9)  Lay down the law.  With the kids, I mean. Only a fool would believe he has a chance to laying down the law with his wife. Your progeny may be scarier than a mother-in-law convention, but if you establish your dominance early, you’ll be good.


8)  Whether you’re traveling or not, keep your eyes open – always.  Fair warning: this one was inspired by the Middle-Eastern dad I ran into this morning. Hard. You cannot stop in the middle of the lobby during the check-out rush – especially if you’re carrying a baby – and expect to escape unscathed. I bet when this guy woke up in the morning, the last thing he expected was to get an assfull of luggage cart – but that’s exactly what he got.

By the way, the baby and father were fine. The cases of pop on my cart? not so much.

7)  If you’re driving, don’t wing it.  Let’s be honest, 99% of family vacations become disasters long before the family ever arrives at their destination. You can’t shove parents, siblings (and sometimes pets) in a cramped metal box on wheels for hours and expect nothing less than a rolling heap of misery. Dads need to be able to gauge the needs/desires/tolerance levels of their brood and plan accordingly. MV5BMTgxNDU4NzQwMF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwNTgwOTY2._V1_SX640_SY720_And no, I’m not just referring to planting devices in your kids’ hands, fathers. In fact…

6)  Tech can be the enemy!  Yes, I’m bashing technology. On my blog. (Irony rocks, right?) I see it every day: entire families traveling together but completely isolated from one another, their heads bowed while praying to the pagan gods of Microsoft and their brethren.

So keep the tech addiction to a minimum. (Yeah, I know. Shut up and go with it.) Again, this point leads into the next…

5)  Talk to your kids – every day.  You may not believe this… but your kids are more than tech-addicted, gaseous, sugar-raged howler monkeys in overpriced designer garb, they’re real, mini, not-quite-fully-developed human beings with hopes, fears and dreams.

So spend time with them while traveling. Get to know them. They may just surprise you. And if they don’t? Well, that’s why God invented wine, bunky.

4)  Don’t let the kids spend all day in the pool!  Yes, I know your kids will be begging you to let them loose in the pool as soon as you arrive at the hotel (and probably before), but I have to advise you to be wary of the easy out. Spending more than eight hours in a ridiculously-over-chlorinated pit of water, chemicals and the bodily fluids of strangers will leave your kids looking like tech-addicted lobsters.

3)  Become fast friends with the concierge.  Bellmen are great sources of local knowledge and lore, but the concierge is plugged in, folks. The concierge will be able to direct you away from tourist traps and help you become the hero of the day in your family’s eyes. Just remember to tip them accordingly.  

And speaking of tipping…

2)  Use – and tip – the bellman, baby!  Nothing is more cliché than the following scenario:

  • Little Timmy, loaded up with ten bags strapped to his person and resembling a hunchback begging for death – at ten years old.
  • A baby stroller overloaded with luggage to the point where the only thing keeping it upright is a steady hand.
  • Grandma’s wheelchair/walker converted to a luggage cart.
  • (Don’t ask me where the baby and grandma are. I never know.)
  • An actual little red wagon transformed into a makeshift luggage cart.
  • A green metal garden cart converted into a makeshift luggage cart.

All so some schmuck can save five bucks while looking like a complete and total moron in the eyes of his family and the world. Don’t be a schmuck.

I’m here to help. So use me.

And finally…

1) Have fun!  Most of us have not-so-treasured memories of family vacations gone awry because our parents lost it on us, each other and scores of innocent bystanders. In my case, there was even property damage on an epic scale. But I rarely revisit those memories except to remind myself of the dad I’ll never be.

A mother is the glue that holds her family together but it’s not easy being glue. So help your wife out, dads. Be there for your family.

Don’t stare at other women in front of your wife and kids.

Keep your temper controlled to non-Hulk levels.

tumblr_inline_myztgqSiv41rt6qr4Instill a sense of respect in your children – for themselves, your spouse and others.

Find out all you can about your destination, especially all those little details you rarely find in guidebooks.

Be the hero of the day. You won’t need a mask or superpowers to make it happen.

See you in the lobby, dads…

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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32 Responses to The Hook’s Guide To Being A Non-Sucky Traveling Dad.

  1. Great advice. I walk the beach daily and see the dads all focused on the smart phone while the kids try to manage by themselves. “Build the damn sand castle with your kids, you, idiot. ” I have never said it but really want to at times.

    • The Hook says:

      Don’t blame you, John.

    • List of X says:

      But how can you be sure that these dads aren’t googling sand castle blueprints?

      • The Hook says:

        Somehow, X, I doubt it.

      • List of X says:

        I know, it’s not likely, but I can totally see myself doing that – after I get off Facebook, naturally.

      • Looking up blueprints would be well outside two sigmas of normal probability distrabution. Of course I could be way wrong since my sample size is only ten or so. I think I will ask next time, “Hey you there with the iPhone. You looking up blueprints for a sandcastle or just doing your e-mails from work?” Will make the research much more projectable. Thanks 🙂

      • List of X says:

        Well outside of two sigmas will give you the expected value of zero dads in a ten-dad sample. 🙂 Besides, if they’re that busy staring their phones, they’re probably not even going to notice you asking them a question. 🙂

      • Maybe if I get to a thousand the sample size will be big enough to confirm my hypothesis. I sure want to avoid a type II error.:-)

  2. No truer words ever spoken! (Obviously from Zen Master of Vacations)

    “So spend time with them while traveling. Get to know them. They may just surprise you. And if they don’t? Well, that’s why God invented wine, bunky.” HA HA. (Having had a few trips of “We paid all this money and you are being totally obnoxious and ungrateful”, I can say in a few years, just about anything can but remembered with humor.

    At some point all kids act like total vicious aliens – it’s their job. Oddly in their mid 20’s, they often fondly remember those trips…not exactly as you do, but whatever. It’s the family being together thing)

    Great timing, Hook.

  3. Now… how to get this printed into a flyer and into the hands of EVERY SINGLE FATHER who travels with the family!! Hmmm…. Great advice Robert! And I ALWAYS use the bellman and tip accordingly!! oh uhm… for carrying the bags of course! Sheesh! Dirty mind much!! HA HA HA!

  4. I watched a mother today pushing a baby stroller, ignoring the child, and texting. It’s not just on holiday people act like dorks.

  5. Paul says:

    OMG! Here let me feel your forehead – hmmm- yep as I suspected, you’e running a fever Hook. Where’s the sarcasm? Where’s the cynicism? Where’s the sneering? Where’s the jeering? You are not well my lad. You are going to have to lay down and rest, drink plenty of fluids – preferably 90 proof or higher – and ask VL to bring you your supper in bed. You should be OK after a day or two – back to your normal self. Just in time for the Toronto comic-con. Be well my friend.

    OPh as an aside Hook I just did a guest post over at Cordelia’s Mom If you have a chance to drop by I would be honored. It is the first fiction piece I have ever had published and I would like your opinion. Thanks Hook.

  6. Robert – this is great. I travel a lot with my 7-year-old and I find if he doesn’t ask for electronics right away, I don’t offer them. We talk or he looks out the window or I educate him about all kinds of music.

    It’s an amazing opportunity to connect with your kid. But at some point, especially on really long drives, I’m find to give him something online to do.

  7. Madeline Harper says:

    Great advice. I spent 20 years married to a man who did nothing for vacation. Then managed to get to vacation and complain about every plan and meal etc etc. I finally couldn’t take it anymore. He didn’t want to hep but he wanted veto rights in situ! It was awful.

    He was a present Dad at least but he was as bad as my little kids when it meant keeping to a schedule or getting ready.

  8. Excellent advice! My ex failed miserably at #10, which is yet another reason he is named, “ex.” It’s tough being mom and wife and your cruise director, Julie, on every single vacation.

    The more fathers we can beat over the head with this list, the better vacations the women will have. Or, rather, the vacations will look less like “home” with all the associated duties but in a dazzling new locale and more like a well-deserved break for mom.

  9. The Cutter says:

    Well gee, if they can’t go in the pool all day, and you don’t want them on their phones all day, what are we supposed to do with them?

    I know you said to talk to them, but I assumed that was a joke.

  10. The drive is one of the best parts of the trip, in least in our family. No tech allowed, we play silly games, and take out of the way routes. The kids may all be young adults now, but that doesn’t matter when it comes to finding that “letter Z” on a building.

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