When I was growing up outside of Philadelphia in the 1980’s, May and June meant one thing – school was almost over and summer was about to begin. It was time for fishing at my Uncle John’s pond, riding bikes or sitting upstairs in my room, with my fan oscillating while reading one of my favorite books from the Choose Your Own Adventure series. It was fun to choose your own destiny and see where the next page took you.
I have fond memories of hopping in the station wagon (our version of the Griswold Family Truckster), heading east and getting on the Garden State Parkway headed ‘down the shore’. Sometimes it was just for the day, other times for a long holiday weekend. My mom would carefully pack our beach gear, floaties and a change of clothes for a nice seafood dinner and dad would clean out the car, check the engine oil and insist on loading everything into the car very specifically.
My parents would tag team to get us on the road and take turns running point on leading the ‘license plate game’ and/or ignoring us as we continued to ask ‘are we there yet?’.
Not much has changed on the parenting landscape over the years – just like my parents and their folks, my wife and I bear the burden of having to pull the truck over every 20 minutes for Mason to use the bathroom so we don’t break the streak of successful potty-training and take turns breaking up backseat fights over who holds the snack bag.
But it’s not to say that I can’t handle a good old-fashioned road trip with the kids. That’s part of the reason why I am excited to be a #TravelMANager for Hilton’s extended stay brands, Homewood Suites and Home2 Suites, and sharing with other dads how I prepare to take my kids on our own adventure – one that we plan ourselves. It may not have the dragons, trolls and danger of the books I read as a kid, but it certainly won’t lack adventure.
I’ve only actually traveled alone with my kids once.
About 2½ years ago, I was able to take Ava to visit Los Angeles for the premiere of Disney’s Planes: Fire & Rescue.
She was only 3½ years old then and there were certainly challenges to face, such as whether or not she was okay using the airplane bathroom by herself or what happens when we get to the edge of the airport escalator and she gets cold feet…
(HINT: Daddy trips, eats it and cuts up his legs in front of dozens of travelers all while trying to maintain a smile for my baby girl).
But all in all, the trip was wonderful – we got to order room service and watch movies together at night. It was a special daddy-daughter moment that we’ll always have together.
This is the other reason that I’m so excited to embark on another trip with her next weekend. Can anyone guess we’re we’ve decided to go?
THE WINDY CITY… CHICAGO.
Aside from occasionally grabbing a connecting flight through O’Hare, I’ve only passed through Chicago once, in 1997 when I stepped off an Amtrak train for a few hours, on my way to Los Angeles – a place I’d continue to call home for another 14 years.
I’ve conveniently scheduled our trip to coincide with a Chicago Cubs home stint at Wrigley. It’s been almost two years since Ava and I went to a ball game together (Phillies fans at heart, but you can’t deny the history and allure behind the Cubs!) and in true spirit of our visit, I’m ordering us up a few hats.
I also know that one of The American Girl flagship stores is also there, and we clearly will not be leaving empty-handed… we’re also planning a walk to Navy Pier and a really nice dinner or two. So here’s where I’m partially asking for your help. For those of you who either live nearby or have had your own visit to the third-largest city in the U.S., what say you?
Is there somewhere that me and my six-year old daughter should visit? Where is the best deep-dish pizza and where could we dress up and have a fancy dinner together? Hit me up with the local favorites – we want to try them! Leave your thoughts in the comment section here OR on the Dad or Alive Facebook fan page – I’d love to hear them.
In the meantime, I began to come up with a list of travel tips and advice for myself, from both personal experience and the tried and true practices that have sustained parenting road trips through history…
- As I mentioned once before in a previous article titled What I’ve Learned about Cruising with Kids – I always make sure to pull aside a small duffel bag and let my kids toss in a few of their favorite things that remind them of home – whether it be a stuffed animal, small toy or two, sketch pad with colored pencils or blankie. I might even load it with a new surprise pack of Shopkins or something to make her face light up mid-flight.
- Plenty of hand sanitizer – preferably the type with a little silicone loop that affixes itself to their bag. And a small thing of wipes.
- An extra outfit and sweater – you never know when life on the road will throw you a curveball – best to be prepared.
- An itinerary. Whether I keep it on the wallet app (or another third party app) on my phone or even a printed piece of paper that has our flight details, hotel arrangements or car reservations.
- On-hand lifestyle resources. Yelp for local restaurants or pharmacies and Uber if we need a quick ride back to the hotel if it starts raining.
- Keep a slower pace. My daughter has little legs and I shouldn’t be too focused on pressing her to hurry up – slow the roll and enjoy our time together. A frenetic pace will only stress both of us out.
- One thing that I want to keep in mind is the bathroom situation. My daughter is now 6 and able to use the bathroom completely fine by herself, however, in a massive public venue like an airport or baseball stadium, I’ll be sure to stay aware our surroundings and hopefully locate a ‘family’ restroom so that I don’t have to bring into the men’s room. What are your thoughts on this?
A lot of these ideas are common sense, but you’ll never know how much even one of them might help until you happen to forget. We look forward to sharing our journey to Illinois with you – follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see what we get into!
EDITOR’S NOTE: This was a sponsored post in conjunction with Homewood Suites by Hilton and the HWS/H2 Dads Team campaign. Follow them here, on Facebook, Twitter OR check the #DadTime or #TravelMANager hashtags for amazing content! Be sure to check out other amazing traveling dads here!