Sure moms may do a lot of the vacation heavy lifting -- planning (and worrying) that all will go well and everyone will have a fun time. But even if moms are the chief planners, as research suggests, dads do plenty of heaving lifting too -- starting with the suitcases and duffels. They're the ones playing Marco Polo in the pool, tossing the football at the beach, constructing those huge sandcastles and watching the crew so that mom can sneak off to the spa. In our family, it's usually the dads who do the cooking at the vacation condo or cabin too. (Thanks, honey!)
As Father's Day coincides with the start of the summer vacation season, (check out the Taking the Kids #BEST SUMMER section), I figured there's no better time to offer some suggestions to up dad's fun quotient on vacation, which is a much better idea than yet another Father's Day tie, or an IOU, accompanied by a charming kid's drawing to:
1. Promise no back-seat squabbling on the upcoming road trip
2. Let dad sleep in on vacation
3. Give dad an hour of kid-free time every day. (Wouldn't that be something!)
4. Promise to pose for those family reunion photos without griping.
5. Promise to be responsible for enough ice or gathering wood and kindling on the upcoming camping trip.
6. Promise that each child (assuming they are old enough) will plan a day of the vacation itinerary.
You get the idea. Consider what would really please the dad and grandpa in your life on vacation? You could:
7. Get dad a book or e-book that's set in the locale where you are going, whether history, travelogue or a novel. Ask your local librarian for suggestions.
8. Organize something on vacation that you think the dad in your life would love but would never arrange (read pay for himself) -- a massage, a golf or tennis lesson, maybe a cooking class.
9. Get a gift certificate for something he's never done -- an intro to scuba, if you are going to be in tropical climes or maybe a surfing lesson in Southern California or Hawaii? Dad probably would never sign up for a lesson but likely would really enjoy himself. (Tip: Paddle-boarding is really fun and not that tough to learn!) If dad has always wanted to learn to scuba dive, he could do the coursework online through PADI and then complete the certifying dives at a tropical resort.
10. Get a gift certificate to a local brewery, distillery or winery where you plan to vacation. (We're going to check out Scottish distilleries in a few weeks, for example.) I'm sure surprising dad on vacation by bringing along his favorite spirits would also be well-received or bring along something new, like Haig Club Scotch Whisky, which was developed in partnership with David Beckham and Simon Fuller.
11. Get tickets to a Major League baseball game in the city you're visiting, if dad or grandpa is a fan. Consider a Minor League game, too, if there is a team where you are vacationing. On Cape Cod, everyone turns out to watch the country's best college players compete at the Cape Cod Baseball League. (Here’s what I wrote about joining the fun.)
12. Get tickets for an outdoor concert you know dad would love.
13. Organize a guided hike where he doesn't have to lead the way. (If you happen to be in Aspen, check out the hikes offered by the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies.)
14. Arrange a free tour in English based on dad's interests in many cities around the world and in the United States through the volunteer Global Greeter Network. (Here’s what I wrote about our fun experience in Paris.)
15. Connect with a local guide through a company like Tours by Locals where you can tailor the experience, whether in a museum or a city neighborhood, to dad's interest. These tours are also popular with cruise passengers who prefer to opt out of large cruise excursions.
16. If you can afford it, spring for either a VIP tour or express passes that allow you to go to the front of the line at the theme park you plan to visit. Less stress for dad!
You can never go wrong with some travel clothes to suit where you are going:
17. Consider a Tilley hat, if you are going to be in the sun a lot. My husband has brought his on every trip to sunny climes since he bought one in New Orleans.
18. Puffy vests and jackets from Mountain Hardwear and REI, because they fold into their own pocket and take up little space -- perfect for an airplane pillow.
19. A new lightweight rain jacket, if you are going to be outdoors a lot, especially in the mountains where it tends to rain every afternoon.
20. An insect-repellent shirt or hat. (They really do work, I learned in Alaska, even after umpteen washings.)
21. Instead of getting dad another cotton T-shirt, try ones that wick moisture and dry quickly. So-called travel shirts from companies like ExOfficio look good, have secret pockets, don't wrinkle and in a pinch can be washed out in a hotel sink and left to dry overnight. (Consider their undershorts too -- really comfy, but something dad likely wouldn't buy for himself!)
So many choices! Happy Father's Day!
Eileen Ogintz is the creator of the syndicated column and website Taking the Kids. She is also the author of the ten-book Kid’s Guide series to major American cities and the Great Smoky Mountains. The third-edition of the Kid’s Guide to NYC has just been released.