Daddy-Son trips. Every 5 years. Forever. (My favorite parenting tradition)
When my son Tristan was 4 years old, my wife Andrea went away for the weekend with my other son Logan. I spent the weekend with Tristan. Just me and him. It was amazing. That weekend I realized, it’s so rare to spend a few days with only one of my children. Like most families, usually, we’re all together. Me, Andrea, Logan and Tristan. Or I’ll be with both kids. But it’s rare that it’s just me and one of my kids.
I remember after that weekend telling Andrea how great the weekend was with just me and Tristan and thought: “How do I make sure I have more special experiences like this, just me and each of my sons, one on one… forever”
That’s when I decided to start a new family tradition, every 5 years, until I couldn’t travel any more ( hopefully a long time from now ) I would take one of my sons on a trip, anywhere they want to go ( they get to pick ).
I’ve been doing this for 8 years now, and it’s magical. Some of my best memories with my boys are on these trips.
When I tell other parents about my 5 years daddy son trips, the reaction is universally the same: ”that’s a great idea, I should do that, tell me more”.
I’ve been meaning to write a blog post about this for years, and I’m finally getting around to it. This is how we do it:
Every 5 years, each of my sons gets to pick a new city to visit, anywhere in the world.
Our rules are:
- It needs to be an “adventure” ( ie: something exciting and different ).
- We need to fly over an ocean to get there ( COVID made this tougher )
- No active war or serious danger ( Paris yes, Iraq no )
- They get to pick the location. This is one of the things that makes this extra special. Them picking is the funnest part.
Although these are our rules… obviously, the time together is what’s special. I think the trick is to do something out of the ordinary, empower them to make the decisions and pick the location. If budgets are tight, I’m sure a local trip somewhere new would be just as special.
Although the trips themselves are amazing and special, the planning part of the trips are a big part of the fun. It creates something to look forward to, talk about, imagine and plan together.
I bought Tristan this great book. At bed time, I would ask him “Where do you want to go in 3 years?. At first, he wanted to go to Sri Lanka, so we would open the book to the Sri Lanka page and learn about that country. Then he changed his mind and wanted to go to Egypt, so we learned about Egypt. The planning of the trip, is almost as fun and special as the trip itself.
When he finally chose Paris, I bought a bunch of Paris books ( ideally ones made for kids like this ) and we would read them at night before bed. That way when we went around Paris, he recognized the sites and was really excited to see the Mona Lisa or the Eiffel Tower.
Pro-tips / things I’ve learned:
- Find a special music album for the trip: We would go through Apple Music and find a new music album we’d never heard before. We would listen to that music on our trip. After the trip, any time we’d hear the music, it reminded us about the trip. It became our music and triggered great memories.
- 5 years is a long time: We’re considering changing 5 years to 3 years ( 5 years is a long time, especially in kid-years )
- Don’t delay the trip. With Covid, we’ve had a hard time scheduling Logan’s 10 year old trip. I kept pushing it out because of travel restrictions until I realized that, it’s less about the location and more about the trip and lifestage. If you have kids, you know that a 10 year old is not the same as an 11 or 12 year old. Make sure you take the trip at each 5 year increment to not miss out on special memories while they’re still young.
- Let them decide what to do: When I went to Paris with Tristan, one day, I opened the subway map and asked him “point to somewhere on the map and we’ll go there today”. He was 5 years old. Empowering him to have control of what we did and where we went was so fun. He loved it. We ended up going to the sewer museum, but it was closed. We still had fun finding our way there and talk about it still 8 years later.
- Let them take charge and be brave: When we went around town, I was always looking for ways to let the kids take control. If I wanted to get a baguette, I would give my 5 year old money and ask him to go get it himself at the store while I waited outside. They would buy the metro tickets. I would stand back in the distance and jump in to help if they were stuck but they loved it.
- How to choose a destination: When they were really young, I would ask for some guidelines from them and would help narrow down choices to a few cities. Logan really wanted a beach. Tristan wanted to be able to fish. Having a travel book with all of the cities was also fun for the kids because they could flip through it and pick different destinations ideas based on the photos.
- Big cities are great for young kids. They’re mostly safe. They have TONs to do with a lot of history. Rome, Paris, London, Berlin, etc …
- No, 5 years old is not too young to travel with kids. I used to get this comment a lot: “ 5 years old? They won’t remember anything!”. In my experience, it’s true, they forget some things but they do remember a lot of great bonding moments and the photos will always be something you’ll reminisce about. Not traveling with your child because they are too young is like not reading them bedtime stories at night because they won’t remember the stories ( which is silly ). It’s all about the experience.
Where we went:
- 5 years old: Paris ( Great city, Great food, Easy metro transportation, EuroDisney, Lots of history )
- 10 years old: Caye Caulker, Belize ( Beaches, 2nd largest Great Barrier Reef, swimming with rays, fishing, friendly locals to talk to and play with )
- 5 years old: Rome ( Lots of cool history, Pizza is amazing, Kids Gladiator School is so cool! )
- 10 years old: Honduras was the plan but with Covid, we changed plans for Alaska.
I hope this inspires you to take these kinds of trips. You won’t regret it. These trips have been my most special moments with my sons and I look forward to many more.
Tristan's 5 year daddy-son trip to Paris
Logan's 5 year daddy-son trip to Rome
"How much planning should we do vs being serendipitous"
I think not planning is fine but if you can plan and involve with your child in the planning process that can be a really fun thing to do.
I would say it adds 25% to the experience ( they know what to expect, they help build the plan, they get more excited when they visit something they've red about, etc etc )
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