As peak travel season approaches, many parents may be feeling anxious about hitting the road (or skies or open seas) with the kids. Things are crazy enough at home, so you’re probably imagining how much more stressful it would be out in the great wide world — where you have even less control.
Fear not! If you’re freaking out about a looming family vacay, who better to ask for tips, hacks, and general life lessons than a bunch of travel-tested dads?
I reached out to some of my pals from all over the USofA for the very best, most comprehensive Dadvice you’ll find. And in true dad form, these nuggets of wisdom/war stories are offered up with a mixture of common sense, bad puns, and lots of heart.
FLYING THE NOT-SO-FRIENDLY SKIES
With kids that are still breast- or bottle-feeding, try to time flights to coincide with feedings during takeoff and landing. The sucking motion will help with air pressure changes on little ears, and hopefully lull them to sleep. • Chris Routly, OR
If you have long layovers, find out if your terminal has a kid’s play area. (Dallas and LAX have good ones) • Ian Worthington, NC
Don’t apologize for your child’s airport or in-flight behavior. Flying on a plane isn’t a magic carpet ride — it’s scary. It’s especially scary when TSA is patting down Dad because he let the kids pack their own carry-ons… one of which included a water pistol that gets taken away for fear that it’s an “incendiary device.” • Chris Bernholdt, PA
ON THE ROAD AGAIN
The first summer road trip we took with our new baby, we also brought the dogs. The challenge then was to find places to stop where we could grab a bite, feed the baby, and not have to leave the dogs in the car. We quickly learned that nearly every Mexican restaurant in the South has outdoor seating and allows dogs, so that’s been our pit stop go-to ever since. • David Rogers, NC
To keep the kids occupied, we play the License Plate Game, where you try to spot all 50 states. You get 2 bonus points if you can name the state capitol, and 3 points if you name a famous person from there, a fun fact, etc. The kid with the most points gets a reward of some kind — either first pick of the hotel beds or preferred seating at the next restaurant. • Greg Washington, WI
When you’ve been driving for a while and your toddler says her stomach’s hurting a bit, make sure to pull over. Otherwise you might find yourself hosing vomit off a car seat when you get home. • Lorne Jaffe, NY
HOTEL/MOTEL TIPS & TRICKS
Be prepared to baby-proof your hotel room. Pack outlet covers, corner covers, and anything else that will help give you peace of mind. When checking in, ask if you can get upgraded to a suite. If it works out, you’ll definitely enjoy the extra space — and the separate room is great for adults who like to be up later than the kiddos. • Robbie Samuels, MA
I know this may sound like a no-brainer, but wherever you stop on a long road trip — whether it’s a pit stop or hotel — make sure they have a playground, pool, or some other way for the kids to get out their pent-up energy. We spent 3 days driving from Colorado to Minnesota with two young boys, and we learned this lesson the hard way! • Alex Harwood, CO
1. Never sleep on top of the comforters; they don’t get washed often. 2. Take plenty of socks; bare feet are a no-no. 3. Don’t use motel glasses. Ever seen a maid carry dish soap? • Jay Knudsen, AR
Unless you’re traveling to a third world country, anything you need will be available when you reach your destination. Keep packing simple — enough necessities (snacks, clothes, diapers) for a day or two. Leave the monster stroller at home and opt for one that’s easy to carry and check-in. We made the mistake of lugging a brand new pack ‘n play to Puerto Rico. Turns out we didn’t even need it — in the new environment, our little one preferred to sleep cozy between his daddies. • Henry Amador-Batten, NC
Check out Target’s $1 isle or your local dollar store for cheap toys, stickers, etc. Wrap the items in tissue paper for the kids to open over the course of the travel day. • Ian Worthington
The best travel decision we ever made was renting a minivan. Our little family car is great around town, but we don’t have the finances for anything larger at the moment. We got a great deal through my wife’s company on a minivan rental, and that made ALL the difference. The kids had tons of room, and we could carry all the luggage we wanted, plus a lot of “extras” like a stroller. BONUS: When we got to our destination we could squeeze in grandparents, aunts and uncles in with us, so we weren’t caravanning everywhere. • Austin Dowd, NC
THINKING OUTSIDE THE MAP
As a dad who blogs about beer, I spend a lot of time in small town bars and breweries. I like to ask around at neighborhood bars for sightseeing tips or help with local activities. The locals know where to find playgrounds, kid-friendly restaurants, etc. They’re a great resource! • Darrell Humphrey, NC
For long road trips, print out a map of your travel route from Google Maps. The kids can track your progress and how far it is to the next stop, as well as hunt for city/road signs. This helps alleviate the inevitable “Are we there yet?” questions. • Ian Worthington
Anyone who has an infant needs a pickup truck. The ability to change your kid on the side of the road (or any other inconvenient spot) is exponentially improved when you can open up your tailgate and presto — instant diaper-changing table! And don’t worry if it’s a major blowout — you can hose it off later. • Jon Elliott, VA
Don’t limit your destinations if you only have a short amount of time. In recent years, our family has been to India and Zimbabwe, and both trips were only a week. They were amazing experiences our family will never forget! • Matt Schneider, NY
Two words: snacks and distractions. (Well, technically, that’s three words.) No child is more disruptive than a bored and hungry one, so throw in the towel on screen time and snacking, maintain your sanity, and get to where you’re going in one piece. • Brain Gordon, MO
Best advice, part 1: Bring a portable DVD player & your kids’ favorite movies. We took a road trip last summer to South Carolina, so I packed the player, DVDs, power cords, etc. Best advice, part 2: Don’t forget the headphones! About an hour into the trip, I realized the noise was going to drive me nuts. Luckily we were able to hit a Best Buy along the way to get some headphones, and had a peaceful drive from then on! • Scott Kirk, NY
Chewy granola bars and beef jerky make for great snacks that 1) don’t make too much mess and 2) help keep little mouths fed… and quieter. • Eric Wright, NC
Bring lots of non-cavity/fart-causing snacks. Sugar is your enemy. Kids cracked out, hyper, and strapped in a carseat is expletives worth of awful. • Brandon Morsberger, VA
Travel with children early and often — travel so much that it’s all that they know. This way they’re unable to realize the true torture that is sitting in a car or plane for hours on end! Also, fly as much as possible with them before they turn two; after that it’s a hell of a lot more to buy plane tickets for everyone! • Alex Mustico, PA
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I had a great time meeting and interviewing all of these awesome dads at HomeDadCon — the annual conference of the National At-Home Dad Network! So if you’re a stay-at-home dad — or will be soon — I highly recommend checking out the organization, which is dedicated to supporting and advocating for involved dads everywhere.
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