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. 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.
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.
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…