The Real[ist] Family Travel Writer is Born
posted by: Amber Johnson
I have always loved to travel. The problem is, travel has not always loved me. I once journeyed to France for a wedding, only to get lost and miss the entire celebration.
I built a career as a travel writer by writing a humor column about my mishaps. During a meeting with my editor, I made reference to one of my misfortunes on the trail and he professed, “You mean this stuff really happens? I thought you were making it up because there is no way all that could happen to one person!”
Welcome to my life.
When I had a family, there were understandably even more challenges. My recent solo trip home with my children confirmed it: I am the Real[ist] Family Travel Writer. While so many writers expound upon their tried and true tips for “The Perfect Family Vacation,” I keep it real. Family travel is about survival. The only two things that keep me sane are my sense of humor and a huge dose of denial. Maybe Prozac would help, too.
And so as the Real[ist] Family Travel Writer, here are some insights I gleaned from my trip that I summed up as follows to my husband: “Hell is assuredly an easier commute than flying solo to Canada with two young children.”
Case study #1
I hate DIA (Denver International Airport). This trip had some new doozies: baggage problems with “easy” check-in that forced me to wait 20 minutes for an agent; an online reservation that never reserved my son Bode’s ticket as a lap child and resulted in even more delays; those many hours we were stuck in the plane on the runway because Denver’s drought chose to end during that three-hour window and the floodgates were opened.
REAL[IST] TRAVEL WRITING TIP: BUILD AN ARK. IT WILL GET YOU WHERE YOU ARE GOING FASTER THAN DIA EVER WILL.
Case study #2
I took a big risk this trip and brought my double-wide Chariot jogging/biking stroller instead of my stream-lined Graco. Navigating The Beast was tough enough at the airport but I faced a whole new set of problems in Calgary. Do you know that adage “What comes up must come down?” Evidently, this does not ring true at Calgary’s C-Train station as my dad and I tried to board the train to go downtown to the Stampede. We scaled the huge ramp up to the ticket station, only to discover there was not a ramp going down to the platform. Huh?
After carrying The Beast down two flights of stairs, it would not fit through the doors. I thought that was the end of it until we tried to board the train and we ran into the same problem. We kicked the kids out and tried to cram it in sideways. Nothing. We finally had to disassemble the #%&*# stroller completely and catch the next sardine-packed train where my poor dad had to stand crammed up against the wall to keep all the parts in place.
The most ironic thing of all? The Chariot is made in Canada and it does not fit through their standard-sized door.
REAL[IST] TRAVEL WRITING TIP: DO NOT TAKE DOUBLE-WIDE STROLLERS TO CALGARY BECAUSE EVIDENTLY PEOPLE ARE SKINNIER THERE AND ALL THEIR DOORS ARE ON A PERPETUAL DIET.
So, why do it? As a recent New York Times headline put it, “Sure it’s frustrating and expensive, but travelers just have to travel.” The article went on to say that many people consider leisure travel to be essential, not discretionary.
My “essentials” included seeing my children play with my parents in my childhood home, holding my Great Niece for the first time, cookouts under the stars, a daytrip to the Canadian Rockies, lazy afternoons at the lake and hanging out with a longtime friend on my parent’s deck under a canopy of lilac bushes and stars. And yes, even going for walks with that #%#& stroller along my beloved Fish Creek Park trail. These make up for all the ulcers.
Mind you, my return flight to Colorado is tomorrow and next month my husband, children and I are braving the 13-hour journey to Yellowstone.
Suddenly, that Prozac is sounding better and better….
What are some of your tried and true “real[ist]” family travel tips?