So first off, I must confess that I am not the best traveler. In fact, my wife would be the first to say that I’m usually the first
person kid to ask, “Are we there yet?” Also, I can have a bit of an attitude which she would describe as pessimistic but I would define as realistic (as a friend from church often says, “trips are about making memories, not having fun.” 😉 Anyway, in case there are any other “impatient dads” out there here are a few tips I can offer after traveling fourteen hours through six states with my wife and four kids over the past two days…
Tip #1 – Always Be Prepared
Now I don’t just mean regular prepared (snacks, screens, etc.) I mean Boy Scout prepared (quarters, dimes, and nickels). That’s right, change can be your best friend and I don’t just mean for tolls. When in doubt I always go to my sure fire standby… A Coloring Contest. It’s a great way to curb the constant bickering, bring about some much needed calm and quiet, and, best of all, all you need is some pieces of paper, a box of crayons, a few parameters, and whatever loose change you have lying around in your
ashtray cup holder. Quarters, dimes, nickels, even pennies–it doesn’t matter because the real prize is personal glory and bragging rights (but seriously, you do need some change). For less than $1 you can keep your sanity for sometimes up to an hour and the good news is that as long as you have more change (and kids with a competitive spirit) you can use this tactic again, and again, and again, and again.
Tip #2 – Get in Good with the Guy at the Front Desk
Over the years we have stayed at many hotels that didn’t quite live up to their 2 1/2 star rating and our most recent stay in Dayton, Ohio was no exception. Thankfully though, I’ve learned the old adage that it’s easier to catch flies with honey is actually true. As long as you can keep your cool and make a friend at the front desk what might start out as a nightmare can turn into a nice stay (or at the very least nicer). This proved true last night when we raced to get to our hotel in order to still spend a half an hour in the pool before it was closed and I spent the first few minutes at the front desk waiting while the gentleman on the other side tended to the important matter of making sure that his dinner order was correct. After making chit chat and copying my
credit debit card twice (because he copied the wrong side the first time) he sent me on my way to Room 131.
This actually brings up another important rule, let’s call it Tip #2a, which is Never Unpack Your Van Before Checking Out Your Room First. After wheeling our luggage cart down the long corridor and figuring out which direction to swipe our keyless entry card we walked into our non-smoking two double bed room to smell, well, smoke. And, it didn’t exactly smell like it came from regular old tobacco if you know what I mean. So I went back to the front desk and after listening to the excuse that there’s were some rule breakers staying there previously and explaining that, no, spraying a little air freshener would not solve the problem we were swiftly moved to another room on the 4th floor which had a King Size bed (score!) and a fold out couch. This would suit us well because we figured that our youngest could sleep in the big bed with us, my other two girls could take the couch, and we had brought a fold-out cot for my son. Upon opening the couch though we found wadded up dirty sheets with toys in them. Time for another trip to the front desk.
After another apology by him I was assured we would have new sheets delivered ASAP along with a fold-out bed for my son (no charge of course) and he even got the pool guy on the line to say that we could have an extra 15 minutes for our troubles. In the end the bed was big and comfortable (or so my wife told me as she sprawled out on her side while I had a 3 yr. old curled up next to me on mine), the breakfast this morning was good, my son didn’t have to sleep on a cot, and we got wet before bed which which was our goal. Would I recommend this hotel to my friends? No. In fact, I did argue with my wife about leaving a tip the next morning because I didn’t want to reward a poor job (Did I mention I also had to go down for toilet paper and had no towels for the pool???). But am I glad I made a friend at the front desk? Absolutely! Because trust me… It could have been worse. I know. But that’s a tale for another time.
Tip #3 Find Your Happy Place
After a second day full of “He keeps putting stuff on my feet!” and “She keeps kicking my stuff!” despite new seating assignments, I was getting pretty irritable so, for the sake of my wife and the longevity of my children, I plugged my earbuds into my iPhone, put my seat back, covered up with the closest thing around (a nice pink baby blanket), and let Netflix wisp me away to another realm. That is, until the kids noticed and started bantering for both my blanket and my iPhone. 🙂
In the end we made our destination and will enjoy our stay with family until it is time for the return home. I will try to remember my own tips for the way back. You should to. But, even if you try and all else fails, remember to… Pray before you pull out of the driveway, forgive at the end of the day, and always ALWAYS make friends with the guy at the front desk.