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Surviving Travel Hassles on a Family Trip

Matt Villano

We grown-ups are no strangers to the realities of everyday travel. Plane delays unexpectedly trap us in the airport for half a day. Traffic jams turn a 4-hour road-trip into an all-day affair. Trip cancelations force us to spend another night in that 2- or 3-star hotel.

Those of us who travel all the time understand these failures all too well. And without exception, we despise them.

For our kids, however, most of this stuff is brand new, which means that when we encounter these developments on a family trip, the kiddos think it's still pretty cool. Plane delays mean more time to roll tennis balls around the empty airport. Traffic jams mean more time to look out the window at those cement mixers. Another night in a hotel means another night of jumping on that big bouncy bed.

My wife and I learned this lesson earlier in the month. A home construction project gone awry forced us to spend a few nights in a local Hampton Inn. We rued the inconvenience, plying the girls with crayons and sketch pads while we prepped them for a disruption that required patience and good behavior.

Turned out our daughters needed none of that; they found the whole experience downright fun.

Proof of their perspective was indisputable. L, our Big Girl, loved having a fluffy queen-sized bed to herself (she’s got a firm twin at home), and was head-over-heels excited about the sugary cereals at the all-you-can-eat breakfast bar in the morning.  R, the baby, also seemed pretty stoked; when she wasn’t crawling circles around the spacious room, she was tearing up surplus rolls of toilet paper—something she never gets to do at home.

Their excitement continued after the fact, too. As recently as last week, L’s preschool teachers told us she was STILL talking about the hotel. To this day, every time R lays eyes on an innocent roll of toilet paper, she goes after it with abandon.

Sure, the girls likely wouldn’t have enjoyed our hotel stay indefinitely. But in a pinch, reinforced with a positive attitude on the part of me and my wife, our girls enjoyed the “hassle” of an unexpected hotel stay. The experience showed us how agreeable kids can be. It also reminded us that sometimes, family travel is less about the destination and more about all the new stuff along the way.