I can still remember how excited my sisters and I were when my parents took us to Disneyland for the first time. At the risk of dating myself, our amusement park virgin tour happened a bit before Disney switched from individual ride tickets to the all-access tickets they have now. It was also before anyone had heard of the Internet, so my parents planned our trip the way most people did back then: they went down to the local AAA office and asked for a bunch of free maps and guidebooks. Despite those rather primitive methods (at least from today’s perspective), my parents managed to put together a wonderfully memorable trip, which also included Knott’s Berry Farm. It was a trip that ignited my love of roller coasters, a love that I share with my children to this day.
This June, thanks to the folks at Homewood Suites by Hilton, my youngest daughter—who is already a seasoned adrenaline junkie—and I are traveling from the Bay Area to Washington, DC, where we’re planning to spend some quality #DadTime visiting Six Flags America, another thrill-ride-filled park: King’s Dominion, and visiting some of DC’s amazing museums and other attractions.
We aren’t leaving for a few weeks, but my daughter and I are already buzzing with excitement. Both of us can hardly wait to do the rides, of course. And we’re both looking forward to spending a few stress-free days just hanging out with each other. (My daughter, who’s 13, would never admit that she wants to spend time with me, but I know she feels the same way I do).
These days, planning a family trip is a lot easier than it was for my parents. To start with, all you have to do is hop on line, where you can get ratings for every ride, every restaurant, every storage locker, find average wait times, and block out every hour of your day. As our family’s official #TravelMANager, I delegated the amusement park planning to my daughter.
This brings me to TravelMANager tip number one: Get your kids as involved in the planning process as possible. I can tell you from first-hand experience that it feels horrible to have put a lot of time and effort into finding and setting up activities you think the kids will love, only to have them gripe and complain and say they hate them. Delegating is an important part of being a good TravelMANager (or manager of any kind). So encourage them to research everything, from activities and attractions to hotels and restaurants. The more involved the kids are, the happier they’ll be (and the less likely they’ll be to complain that “we never get to do anything we want to do…” And happy kids make a happy family vacation.
TravelMANager tip number two: Wherever you go, always build in some down time. Otherwise, you run the risk of turning a fun family vacation into work. My daughter and I are sharing the task of blocking out non-roller-coaster activities. We haven’t finalized the schedule yet, but the Washington Nationals are in town, and so is a circus (no, I’m not talking about visiting Congress).
TravelMANager tip number three: Be flexible and have always have a Plan B (and maybe C or D)—and ask your kids to do the same. Things rarely go 100% perfectly, so be prepared to make last-minute or on-the-fly adjustments.
As for me, I’ve got what’s typically the most complicated part of any overnight trip: picking the hotel.
My top issues are parking, proximity to where we’re going, a comfortable bed, free Internet, and a fitness center. Fortunately, Homewood Suites has us covered on all counts. Plus they’ve got a free hot breakfast to get us going in the morning (and we’re not talking granola bars and coffee here. The Homewood Suites breakfast includes eggs, sausage, and more).
Homewood Suites (and Hilton’s other extended-stay suite property, Home2) features a number of nice amenities we’re going to be taking advantage of. To start with, there’s the “evening social,” where we can grab a quick bite and something to drink—on the house. And every suite has a fully-loaded kitchen. I’m not planning to spend a whole lot of time cooking, but we’re going to be in DC for four days and there’s no way we’re going to eat every meal out.
So there you have it. Boom. Hotel problem solved in about two minutes.
Now it’s my daughter’s turn to present her proposed itinerary to the TravelMANager for approval. She’ll be up all night, poor kid. Meanwhile, I’ll be catching up on “The Blacklist” on Netflix.