Posted by: laughs4dads | May 26, 2010

Parenting Tips: Family Vacations

Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of the summer travel season, so I thought I’d provide some advice about taking a family vacation.

Don’t do it.

Or, as my brother-in-law Gary (see post of 3/5/10, Bad Influences) says: “There is no such thing as a family vacation. You can take a family trip, but it won’t be a vacation.”

To explore what Gary means by this, we start with a definition. According to, a vacation is “a period of suspension of work, study, or other activity, usually used for rest, recreation, or travel.”

Gary’s point is that, since a parent’s work is taking care of the kids, a family vacation does not provide a suspension from this. Further, it is not exactly restful.

No matter what you call it, however, you’re bound to take one, so I offer these tips, which are primarily aimed for the parents of toddlers:

    1. If you are planning on traveling by automobile, just shoot yourselves.
    2. If you are planning on traveling by airplane, just shoot the other passengers.

You’re going to ignore that sage advice, aren’t you? Okay, then, if you insist, here are some other pointers for traveling with kids:

    3. Pack carefully. By this I mean every toy your child has ever played with.
    4. If you are going to an isolated resort or a less civilized country that may not have the supplies you need, be sure to bring enough diapers, formula, wet wipes, etc. for the duration of your stay. This should result in approximately three thousand dollars in airline baggage fees.
    5. If you’re flying, before leaving for the airport, make sure your child is not on any terrorist watch lists. There’s always an article in the newspaper about some airport security guard pulling a kid out of line because his name matched one on the list. Alternatively, you could not name your child Osama.
    6. Make sure you bring lots of activities for the extensive flight delays you will encounter precisely because you are traveling with a child. Because you simply cannot carry enough activities to occupy a toddler for three hours in an airport terminal, feel free to allow your child to wander aimlessly around the waiting area, causing travelers to trip over them, until someone reports your child to security as abandoned baggage.
    7. Bring Dimetapp or some other over-the-counter medicine that will make your child drowsy and make the descent less painful. You may also want to bring a little something for yourself, if you get my drift.
    8. If you’re driving, pull off the highway at every rest stop. Don’t ask your child if he or she has to potty, just pull off. If you don’t, your kid will have to go as soon as you pass the rest stop.
    9. Be sure you have a vehicle with one of those rear seat DVD set ups. If you don’t, before leaving on vacation, buy a new car.
    10. Don’t forget to include the grandparents in your vacation plans. Simply drop your kid off with the grandparents and go someplace nice.

Regarding Tip #9, I actually hate those car DVD players. Mostly because we didn’t have them when my daughter was a kid.

Yes, I know; every generation thinks the one that came after had it too easy.

“Oh,” said Neanderthal to Homo Erectus,*“you have fire now.”

“Oh,” said frontiersman to turn-of-the-century person, “you have electricity now.”

“Oh,” said depression era man to post-WWII vet, “you have affordable suburban housing and a job and food and hope now.”

“Oh,” said our parents to us, “you have disposable diapers now.”

And to today’s young parents, I say, “TVs in the back seats of your car? Are you friggin’ kidding?”

I see all the TV commercials with kids plugged happily into earphones in their minivans and SUVs, quietly watching DVDs with big smiles on their faces, while mom and dad sit calmly in the front seat, completely unmolested by their children. And increasingly, I’ll find myself behind one of these rolling entertainment centers on the road and try to figure out what they’re watching, as if it’s some sort of mobile mini drive-in movie.

Well how is a family supposed to bond that way? I mean, what good is a family road trip without traditional pastimes like ”License Plate Bingo,” and “I Spy?” How is a family supposed to come together without enduring the hardship of finding music everyone likes? And how can mom and dad function without arriving at their destination with massive headaches caused by hearing “Are we there yet?” every five minutes, starting from when they back out of their driveway?

No, instead, they emerge from their vehicle like total strangers, almost as if they had taken separate modes of transportation. They have traveled a great distance, but are no closer to each other than when they left.

Lucky bastards.

*I have no idea if this is historically accurate. See Blog disclaimer.


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