Family travel can often be pigeonholed into two categories. The first being the whole family, sometimes even pets, packing up for a week long destination like Myrtle Beach or Disney World. The second vacation mode leaves the kids at grandma’s house while the parents jet off for a few days lounging on some tropical beach. Sure, there are many variations on this theme, but it still boils down to the whole family going somewhere. There’s something missing.
Not enough parents realize how important, and ultimately enjoyable, it is to travel one on one with their children. This is especially true for dads. While dads are increasingly playing a larger role in their childrens’ lives, not many plan trips with them. One on one travel with your kids is a whole different animal than family travel for many reasons. For starters, there’s less planning and more room for exploration. It can also be a wonderful social experience for both father and child as there is time to bond and open up conversations. Below are several reasons I feel are important for this type of travel and why I love setting off on new adventures with my daughter.
Five Reasons Why Every Dad Needs to Travel with Their Kids
Choose a Non-Family Travel Destination
Family travel is inherently limited to choosing a destination which will appeal to everyone. This tends to lean towards what younger kids will enjoy or all-inclusive resorts. Dads, you can get out of this rut. Take one or two of your kids and plan a trip to somewhere you would enjoy, but not necessarily a place your wife would go. There are plenty of places and events that fit this category.; baseball game, fishing, museums, etc. You only need to find one your child would love to experience with you and hit the road.
I could spend a day wandering the US Air Force Museum or an air show. While the wife would be bored out of her mind, my daughter would love seeing all the planes. Recently, my daughter spent an hour wandering through the collection of old farm equipment and tractors at the Henry Ford Museum; asking me questions about each piece. It surprised me that she had such an interest, but I also had the satisfaction of passing along some knowledge. This is not a situation that would ever occur on a full-fledged family vacation.
Take Time to Explore
Enjoy more flexibility to explore on road trips. While family travel is often committed to a tight schedule, one on one road trips offer the opportunity to head off the beaten path on a whim. My daughter has witnessed her dad running through a field of giant cement corn, learned the history behind collections of vintage restaurant icons, and viewed some spectacular landscapes. This summer we’re hoping to discover some dinosaurs and see shipwrecks along the Lake Huron coast. Searching out the quirky roadside attractions and eating at local restaurants is a lost part of most family travel today. Take the time to explore with your kids and find new curiosities along the way. They’ll always remember those moments.
Let Your Child Plan the Route
Let’s throw things for a loop: let your kids decide where to go. Let them pick a destination that hasn’t been on the family vacation radar. One of the best parts of traveling in a small group is choosing a more particular destination and making adjustments on the fly. Think of all those little folding travel brochures you picked up at each stop when you were young; the same ones your kids collect today. How many of those fantastic promises of glittering caves and World’s Largest Whatevers did you ever get to see? Most likely none. Let your child’s curiosity navigate and veer off your planned path for some new adventure.
Share Your Travel Memories with Your Child
Traveling alone gives dads a chance to share experiences or pass down some knowledge to their kids. Take the time to teach your kids how to fish, go hiking, or visit a museum you both find interesting. Return to a favorite destination from your childhood and pass on that tradition. Or maybe visit somewhere you’ve always wanted to go and share that experience of discovery.
We didn’t travel much when I was a kid. When I did get to go on vacation it was often to the same places and didn’t offer much more than going to the beach. Visiting the brand new EPCOT at Disney World back in 1984 was something that made a lasting impression and kindled my desire to travel as an adult. It wasn’t until my late 20s that my future wife took me back there and the Disney bug bit me. It’s the special trips that will be remembered by your kids. Sharing that experience one on one guarantees a place in your child’s heart.
Build Stronger Bonds with Your Kids
Another unique opportunity traveling alone with your child offers is getting to know each other better. Caught up in the rat race of daily life we spend our time with work, chores, and school. Whether you’re on the road or in an airport, there’s plenty of time for conversation. Even quieter kids may feel motivated to share their feelings when dad does the same. Take the lead in opening topics or sharing things on your mind and leave the door open for your child to share without fear of being judged. The insight gained from these conversations in twofold. You get a better sense of what guidance or support your child needs from you as a parent and a deeper bond also forms. Enjoy and make use of these days to learn more about your kids. You’ll be a better parent and it will also earn some respect points on both sides.
Escape from the routine of family oriented travel and head out for adventure with your kids. You’ll discover new places, have unique experiences, and build a stronger relationship. I find that there is no better place to grow as a parent than during travel. There are so many places to visit and opportunities to bond with your children. Sharing these experiences creates memories that will last a lifetime. So go, pull out the road maps and brochures, and let your child pick the next destination in your life.