Traveling Tips #dadsasprincipals

This year we took the plunge and the whole family to Disney World in Orlando, Florida. This is true both literally and figuratively since we all got wet flying down Splash Mountain! The trip was both fantastic and exhausting, and I learned a few tips along the way that hopefully may help other parents. Comment below if you agree or have more ideas!

Pictures in Portrait Aspect Ratio
We’ve talked before with @dadsasprincipals about using pictures of your family on the background of your phone so that the first thing you see when you open up your phone is a reminder about what’s most important. My wife reminded me though to make sure you take pictures in the same aspect ratio as your background. If you take pictures in landscape, it’s difficult to crop and get the right angle for the picture. When you take them in portrait aspect ratio, they are perfect for your phone. When on vacation, make sure to take both landscape and portrait pictures. You can use the pictures in portrait throughout the year and keep rotating them. This was a big new goal for me on this vacation, to take a bunch of pictures of this way to use for later.

Creative Lock Screen Pictures
As follow up to the above tip, try to be creative with the pictures you take for your phone! Remember, you can have a different picture for you normal background and your lock screen image, the screen that comes up for you to put in your password to unlock your phone. For my lock screen background, I used a picture of the kids with their lightsabers with Kylo Ren! It makes me laugh every time I open my phone, like they’re helping to protect my phone.

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Pictures of Special Moments
When taking pictures, try to capture the little moments too, not just the set pieces where everyone is posed and looking at you. One of my favorite pictures from the trip is where two of our little ones were sharing Butter Beer (not real beer!) from The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Don’t just take pictures, capture special moments!

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Pictures & Sunglasses
A tip I didn’t use enough is to take advantage of sunglasses for pictures. If you have a tough time getting kids to all look at the camera at the same time or if you have multiple people taking pictures, use sunglasses to help. If they are all wearing shades, you can’t see their eyes and you’ll never notice anyone looking in the wrong direction. I wouldn’t recommend this for every picture, but it can come in handy during these sunny summer days.

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Carry the Bags Dads!
Dads, your wife gave birth to your kids, don’t make her carry all the bags! I’m all for equal opportunity, but come on! This kept frustrating me during the trip, to see fully capable dads walking without a care in the world while their spouse was usually pushing a stroller and carrying a back pack. Give her a break, carry the bag!

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Take Pictures of the Pictures They Take of You on the Ride
It’s not the same quality, but it serves the same purpose. Save a couple of bucks and have your phone ready to take a picture of the screen. Some of these shots are priceless! In this one, I knew it would show up so I tried to give my Home Alone hands-on-cheeks face! My family is in the front two rows. Of all my kids, my youngest was smiling! But the best is the random dad in the back row, his face is hilarious!

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Let Them Have Ice Cream
Something my own dad has told me in the past is a regret he had in our trips as kids. We didn’t grow up with a lot of money and we often barely had enough to take trips, so when we went, we often didn’t buy extras like toys or fancy snacks. He has told me that one thing he would have done different is to splurge on some of those items more than he had. The money is really not that much in the long run and you should factor that cost in to the trip ahead of time. Kids need break and special treats. It’s part of the deal to give them that memory. Don’t let their memory of you as a parent be that you were stingy and never would buy them a snack! I loved seeing our kids with ice cream all over their face laughing as it dripped to the ground.

Find Play Areas on the Road
Make sure you take advantage of play areas if you have long trips. We did this stopping at McDonald’s, and the kids fell fast asleep afterwards. This tip is definitely a child/parent win-win!

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Plan Ahead
So many times, dads like me leave all the planning up to their wives because we are often so busy or consumed with work. Looking back, it’s not fair to my wife that I did this because as soon as the trip began, I started second-guessing all of her decisions. Dads, be part of the planning process. This isn’t planning for your wedding where most of the time, you’re better off just agreeing and saying yes. This is a trip. Help out.

Don’t Over-Do It
By the end of the trip, we were definitely feeling exhausted. A typical week at home is busy, but there is more down time than you realize. When you are on the go every day from morning till night with out any breaks, you wear yourself down pretty quickly. When planning your trip, build in time to do nothing and relax. You will thank yourself later!

Hearing Protection
Most of the attractions at these parks are loud and have flashing lights. If you or your child has sensory needs, make sure to bring some type of headphones or ear protectors. My son loves these rides, but due to having autism, he often needs some type of ear cover to help with the anxiety due to the noises coming at him. With autism, each person is different. My son isn’t that bothered by the lights and noises. He becomes really upset due to anxiety of not understanding what is happening or not being able to predict what is coming next. If he doesn’t have ear protectors, he will put his fingers in his ears the whole time. Some type of headphones lets him enjoy the ride and relax. What was really cool for this trip is that our work at his self-advocacy is beginning to show. He’s starting to realize when he needs them and doesn’t need them. Instead of just always using them, we are trying to get him to request them. On one ride, I automatically reached for them to give to him but he told me he didn’t need them. Having your child know their limits and seeing them push through where they can is so exciting as a parent. If you want to buy noise reduction ear muffs, it’s easy to get them online, but they can be pricey. We used cheap headphones and cut off the wire that goes with them which saved us a few bucks, especially since the ear pads tend to wear down quickly.

Accommodations
Most of the major vacation attractions now provide accommodations to those that are disabled or handicapped. On this trip, we ended up needing both accommodations. My son requires this for the excessive lines and Disney provides an modified accommodation with their FastPass system so that we still have to wait, but we can come back instead of standing in line the whole time. Also, my father-in-law recently had back surgery and required a motorized wheel chair in the park. Just about all of the rides had separate access points for him with his wheelchair. Make sure to do your research ahead of time to know the park’s requirements for these accommodations. We had so much help from others that gave us tips. Also look online. Click here for a link to Disney’s information on their disability access services. Build in extra time for setting these up when you get there. At Disney, this was a very quick and smooth process, but at Universal Studios, this was a rather long line that we had to wait through which was ironic considering that we were trying to get an accommodation for waiting in long lines.

I’m sure there are more ideas out there. Stay hydrated, wear comfortable shoes, pack a rain jacket. I also wanted to give a huge shout out to my wife Kristine and to my in-laws Eileen and John for their help on for this trip and making it so special for our kids. Dads need their extended families for sure!

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