Creating Special Connections: Travel as One Parent and One Child

Creating Special Connections: Travel as One Parent and One Child

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Eric Cohen and his sonAbout a year ago, my 14-year-old son and I were driving through Austin, Texas, trying to find some good music on the radio of our rental car. Having no luck, my son said “Dad, let’s just plug in my phone and listen to my playlist.” The first song was a classic: Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” The second was Kansas, “Carry on My Wayward Son.” And the third was more 80s classic rock, Styx singing “Come Sail Away.” I was shocked to learn that my son was a big fan of 80s rock. How had this escaped me? I’m a very involved dad – we eat dinner as a family four or five nights a week – and yet I never knew.

This is just one reason I’m a big believer in parents traveling one-on-one with their children. Family vacations are great, I’m 100% for them, but few parents take the opportunity to travel and have some alone time with one of kid at a time. I believe parents and kids are both missing out.

Have you ever heard the phrase “No child ever enters the same family”? Put another way, the arrival of each new child changes the overall family dynamic. So let me ask this: how often do you get to know a child outside of that dynamic? Probably very rarely, if ever. It’s a missed opportunity! If you aren’t already a single parent with an only child, then travel as one parent and one child lets you build a special one-on-one relationship that can be hard to establish in a mix with more family members. You learn things about your children that you never knew, like their taste in music, and they get to see how you are without your spouse around. Maybe better, maybe worse, but you for who you are.

Better yet, shared memories are created. About two years ago, I took my daughter to Beaches Turks & Caicos for few days, some of which were for work. On a work day, as we were waiting for lunch to be served, I was checking my phone/email and she was looking at hers. When my phone dinged with a new text alert, I opened it to find a message from my daughter. Just two words: ”THANK YOU.”

Sure, your kids will remember the family trip to Disney, Hawaii or the lake, but they’ll remember a special “daddy-daughter” trip in a whole different light. The trip with my daughter is something she and I share that my wife and son don’t. It’s special to us and bonds us in a unique way with its unique set of memories.

These trips don’t have to be long or extravagant. An overnight to the nearest big city for a baseball game will do. Or pack some bags for a three-night getaway. Traveling as one adult and one child can be nearly as cheap as just one adult. These days, a family vacation for four can require a hefty budget, especially with air travel, but travel for two can be much more manageable.

Eric Cohen and his daughterOther trip logistics are easier too – less baggage to keep track of, fewer opinions on where to eat and greater ease getting tickets for two than four or five or more. And activities can be planned for that child’s specific interests. Got a five-year-old and a 10-year-old? It can be hard to make arrangements for them both if the younger one wants to spend all day on kiddie rides or the splash pad, while the older child wants to hit the coasters and surf. When it’s one-on-one, though, you are sure to please.

As part of my trip to Austin with my son, we attended the video game conference of SXSW. I’m not much of a gamer, but I took great joy in watching my son in his “happy place.” He loved checking out the new games, learning about new products and soaking in the gaming culture. I loved seeing him in his element, something I never would have been able to experience had we not taken a few days for our father-and-son adventure.

The next time something crosses your radar that you think one if your children would love to do, think about how you can make it happen. Swimming with dolphins, going to a baseball team’s spring training or other trips can happen much more easily when it’s just “us two.” And the memories you create will last a lifetime.

Eric CohenEric Cohen writes for Macaroni Kid Family Travel and is the co-founder of Macaroni Kid, the largest resource for family events and activities reaching more than 1.5 million parents in 5,000+ communities.

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2 responses to “Creating Special Connections: Travel as One Parent and One Child”

  1. Hi Eric,

    I love this article because these experiences are so rich for both the parent and the child. The parent, in this case you, is likely to blog about it or share it with others while the child, in most cases, stores it in their emotional bank account. The result is the same enhanced connection and raised spirits.

    It has been my passion over the last few years to purposefully curate one of a kind travel contexts to nurture exactly these types of experiences.

    In a Get There And Back travel adventure game parents and children engage and connect with each other through games, challenges, processes and activities while guiding themselves through stunning nature over seven days. During this time boundaries are dropped, camaraderie intensifies and openness becomes more the norm.

    We have 5 family and one parent child experience happening this summer here in the Austrian Alps.

    I would love for you to check it out and let me know your thoughts.

    Thanks for reminding me that I am on the right path and that these experiences are very much needed, even if many of us don’t know it just yet.

    In gratitude
    Geoff Havenaar

    • eric says:

      Hi Geoff
      That sounds very exciting! Best of success with your program! I look forward to learning more.

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