I am extremely lucky to have a wife that loves to travel. This was evident from our first date when she shared with me that she was travelling to Europe alone within the next few weeks, just for fun. I am still in awe of that decision, as I know I would never be able to have the confidence to plan and execute an event such as that. I can barely plan ahead for the weekend.
Fast forward six years, we have visited 34 US states and 3 countries together. Nearly all of these trips have included our children.
I dreaded flying for the first time with my son. He was only 9 months old at the time and I don’t exactly feel at home 10 feet above the ground, let alone 35,000. My brain immediately goes into overdrive when I step on airplanes, and I start trying to calculate the odds of a disaster. Never mind the fact that I know nothing about actual odds and will still buy a lottery ticket when the jackpot increases to historic levels. I am just sure karma intends for me to win $500 million and has only been testing me all those times I can’t win $5 on a scratch off.
Fortunately for this first family flight, we were eased into the situation by getting a free upgrade to first class. I suspect the ticketing representative noticed the terror I was trying to hide and decided to take pity. Overall, the flight to our destination of Puerto Vallarta didn’t go nearly as bad as I expected and my son slept nearly the whole flight. We had an unbelievable time and my son experienced his first ocean, which he couldn’t get enough of.
The return flight was another story. I am generally not a person that expects or wants a lot of attention. With a crying baby on a plane, you get most everyone’s attention. I credit my wife for ensuring that I was properly belted in and unable to attempt a mid-flight departure through the emergency hatch. She is exponentially more patient than me and I envy that.
Needless to say, I have since prioritized the road trip as the lesser of two hells. At the least, I can take some breaks to clean up the puke my daughter inevitably manages to grace us with each vacation. I learned quick that you can’t ever have too many wet wipes in the car. She is a trooper, though, and always waits patiently while her dad ladles her lunch from the car seat.
The good news is that with two kids, they tend to entertain each other now and I haven’t yet had to quote my mom when she would yell, “One more word and I will drive this car right off of a damn bridge!”. I can’t blame her though, we were horrible kids and there were 6 of us. She is a strong woman to not have followed through.
We still have to deal with the stench of old fast-food happy meals and carrying enough baggage into a hotel to host an army, but we get the benefit of seeing parts of the country we normally wouldn’t visit. When it gets boring and the kids are napping, my wife and I can play “Who will be the first to spot a bathtub being used as a garden planter?” As Brooklynn will also inevitably fall asleep, I get a few moments to listen to another book on Audible, guilt free.
With the exception of Mexico, California and the Bahamas, we have chosen to road trip for all of our other vacations. This has resulted in quite a few experiences for my kids, as we visit locations along the way. Dax first learned about meteors and touched a meteorite at Meteor Crater in Arizona. The kids saw their first waterfall up close and personal taking a boat ride under Niagara Falls. I still hear Dax talk about the time an ostrich popped his head in our car looking for food at a drive-thru wildlife preserve in Texas. Now that I think about it, letting that giant bird get a few inches from my toddler son might have been bad parenting, but we all survived. I am sure I could have snatched him back with only minor mental scaring.
With the goals we have set of taking our kids to all 50 states and the priority we have placed on family vacations, I think we have created healthy curiosity for our kids. I credit my own family and especially my father for taking the time to show us the country on our many family vacations. I hope when my kids grow older, they will look back at the time we spent together and choose to share those experiences with their own children. Both the good and the bad…