The title says “father” only because I’m writing this post from my perspective and incorporating actual concepts I used with my daughters. My original objective was to somehow compensate for years of job assignments that called for extensive travel. I actually modified an idea one of my IBM bosses used with his kids to compensate for extensive business travel. The extra bonding I was able to achieve with my daughters and the stories we both are able to tell forever have immeasurable value. I’ve shared this idea with friends and co-workers, many of whom have adopted or modified it for their own use. If you also like the idea, help me spread it to others.
My father-daughter getaways were first and foremost an opportunity to spend one-on-one time together. I chose to couple this with a vacation trip to somewhere my daughters had never seen before. But jumping on an airplane is absolutely not required. The most important thing is the one-on-one time together. I also incorporated various educational exercises, not in the academic sense but rather life lessons and other rudimentary skills.
With three daughters, I decided to have three formal, pre-planned father-daughter getaways with each. There ended up being more than that with various impromtu outings and local ventures but these were more significant and as soon as I did them for my oldest daughter, the standard was set for the other two. Here’s what I did:
After Elementary School
During the summer after elementary school and before middle school, I took my daughters to Washington DC to see our nation’s capital (see related blog post titled “Washington DC with Kid(s)“). During elementary school, kids learn about our system of government and they learn about significant Presidents. So the site visits during our getaway were mostly the traditional tourist destinations in and around Washington DC (White House, Capital, Washington Monument, Smithsonian Institute, Mount Vernon, etc.). The educational exercises I incorporated into the trip were as follows:
- Navigating an Airport – During the travel day to Washington DC, I explained every step starting with tracking where we parked in the parking lot, getting the boarding pass, figuring out if our flight was on time, passing through security, finding our gate, etc, etc. Then, for the travel day back home I gave my daughter our flight information (airline, flight number) and confirmation number and said “get us home”. I told them before the trip that this was going to happen so they could pay attention and ask questions during the outbound travel day. And on the return day we arrived at the airport an extra 30 minutes earlier than usual so that time pressure was eliminated. If they asked me a question, I shrugged my shoulders and said “remember how we did it on the way here”. Once at the home airport I said, “get us to our car”.
- Navigating the Subway System – Very similar to the airport navigation exercise but in this case related to the Washington DC subway system, which is a great one to learn on because it’s very clean, safe and simple. For the first 2-3 subway rides I explained how to read the subway map to determine the best subway line(s) and route as well as how to find the right platform to stand at. After that it was their responsibility to do it all. If we jumped on the wrong line or were going in the wrong direction, I just let it play out. Nothing bad is going to happen other than wasting a little bit of time.
After Middle School
During the summer after middle school and before high school, I let my daughters pick any city in the continental US (see related blog post titled “New York City with Kid(s)”). Using frequent flier miles and hotel points from my road warrior days, we set off on a 4-day father daughter trip. It’s potentially no surprise that all three of my daughters selected New York City. The educational exercises I incorporated into the trip were as follows:
- Itinerary Planning – I suggested several things to see and do but worked collaboratively with my daughter to build a day-by-day itinerary. We used a map to determine which desired destinations were close to each other and also got on the Internet to learn the best time to see certain things while avoiding big crowds. In some cases we were able to order tickets online for a specific day/time, which locked in portions of our itinerary. As you would expect, some things went faster and others slower than expected, which meant we had to adjust our plans and improvise. Exactly the purpose of the exercise.
- Budgeting – I told my daughter exactly how much I was able to spend on the vacation, leaving out any flight and hotel costs. Then I told her that she could spend it however she wanted. I helped her understand how much taxi rides, subway rides and broadway shows typically cost. And anything we ordered tickets online for had known costs. I also described the concept of a daily budget for miscellaneous unforseen or opportunistic expenditures. But it was up to her if we rode the subway versus took taxis. Same for how many shows or really nice restaurants we went to. We kept a tally of how we were doing versus the budget and each night would decide if adjustments were needed. As you can imagine, we adjusted almost every night. Exactly the purpose of the exercise.
Senior Year of High School
This wasn’t a trip to a particular destination and wasn’t purely a one-on-one activity with my daughter. But I wanted to mention since it was another special bonding opportunity and something my girls still talk about. During their senior year of high school, I took them to a concert of one of their favorite musicians/groups. I also bought an extra ticket for a guest (which could mean boyfriend).
For those of you that are travel road warriors (and even those that aren’t), I hope this blog post gives you some ideas for extra parent-child bonding via one-on-one getaways. Both my daughters and I have lasting memories from them. Please comment if you have similar ideas and please spread the word to others you think can use it.
See my other blog posts on parenting here.