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The completely correct guide to traveling like a dad


(Drew Lytle for The Washington Post)

The Internet is no match for the endless abyss of information carried by our fathers. Dads are the masters of many domains — such as grilling, throwing the ball around, cracking open a couple of cold ones ⁠— but they shine most brightly in one arena: travel.

Though there’s no right way to travel, there’s definitely a dad way to travel. Dads are the kings of the road. This isn’t their first rodeo. They know how to get from A to B frugally and efficiently.

To celebrate Father’s Day, we’re breaking down the best travel advice from dads, because dads know best.

Arrive at the airport three hours early

If you’re on time, you’re late.

This fatherly wisdom can be applied to all parts of your life, but it’s particularly true when it comes to getting to the airport. It seems like most dads arrive at the airport no later than three hours ahead of departure.

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This isn’t because dads love the airport. (Although, there are plenty of amenities there to keep dads happy before boarding.) It’s because they’ve put up with your shenanigans long enough to know that anything can happen en route to the airport.

You can’t predict when your mom will leave her iPad at home, or whether an apocalyptic traffic jam strikes, but you can leave very, very early to prepare for the worst possible airport obstacles so that you don’t miss your flight.

Print out the essentials

Your dad’s smartphone has enough power to stream “Homeland” from the airport terminal, but it can’t be trusted to pull up a flight reservation at the check-in counter, so any and all essential travel materials are printed.

Dads don’t cut corners and they’re not saving trees, either. Tickets? Printed. Passports? Copied. Hotel reservations? Hard copies.

Bonus points for carrying those documents in a leather portfolio.

‘Checked bags are for suckers’

If there are two things dads hate, it’s wasting time and money. Checking a bag does both. It means waiting in line when you get to the airport, forking over more cash to the airline, then waiting at baggage claim when you land.

Don’t disappoint your dad by checking a bag, unless you’re on your way home and bought an extra suitcase for souvenirs. The key to making the most out of your vacation wardrobe is to follow your dad’s lead by paring down to a few mix-and-match staples.

Note that the dad carry-on bag isn’t complete without a Tom Clancy novel (either in paperback or on a Kindle), an array of neatly arranged cables, nail clippers and a glasses-cleaning kit.

A trip isn’t complete without a rental car

When you’re traveling, know that dad gets the car. Dad packs the car. Dad drives the car. There is no discussion here.

Important detail: One does not simply pack the car.

You may think you’re doing your dad a solid by offering to help load the trunk. You’re wrong. In the world of dad travel, there is both an art and a science to packing the rental with the family luggage. Step aside and leave it to the professional. However, you can gently place luggage near the trunk to assist.

If you’re not traveling with your dad, travel like one by renting a car wherever you go. This puts you in control of your journey and gives you an excuse to leave the group early in any scenario so that you can go grab the car and pull it around. It’s a move that makes you look good for helping everyone out, and it also gives you some alone time.

Know the road-trip rules

You’re not leaving before you check your oil, and you better not let the gas get below a quarter tank.

Stopping? No. Okay, maybe. Dads are efficient. There are no superfluous stops. Why do you think they brought a cooler? Stops will be made when absolutely essential.

Before you leave for your trip, check to make sure you locked your house. Better safe than sorry is the motto here, so check that lock no fewer than 13 times.


(Drew Lytle for The Washington Post)

Never travel without cash

Even as the world transitions to a cashless economy, dads know it’s better to have something on you just in case.

How you carry your travel cash is up to you. Options include: secret pouch that can be hidden under shorts; money clip buried deep within shorts pocket; zipped into fanny pack.

When you get back to the hotel, secure that cash in the room safe, along with your watch and passport.

‘Wake up early; we didn’t come here to sleep’

Dads aren’t burning daylight. They’re up and at ’em to seize the day.

While you’re up before everyone else, remember that dads are notorious for spending that early hour “me time” on others, so choose your activity wisely.

Popular choices include grabbing coffee for everyone or getting down to the water before the masses to save primo lounge chair real estate.

Dads know that when you snooze, you lose; set your alarm early on vacation if you haven’t developed a fatherly internal clock yet.

Lead the pack

To travel like a dad, it’s integral to walk no closer than 15 to 20 feet ahead of your group at all times. Leave the lollygaggers in the dust while you scope out the scene.

Much like sneaking out early to get the rental car, walking ahead of your family gives you room to breathe.

You may be vacation, but that doesn’t mean you have to disconnect from reality. While the gang narrows in, you can catch up on sports scores, news headlines and alerts from your home security camera pinging you about package deliveries.

Embrace the freebies

Hotel toiletries? Complimentary breakfast? Airplane meal? Free snacks in the lounge? Load up on what you can to curry favor with the dad of your trip.

No one navigates a hotel breakfast like a dad. Those things are designed with the business dad in mind. Hampton Inn waffles might as well brand the word “dad” right into that secret recipe dough.

Not only are you getting more bang for your buck, you’re also going to amass a collection of teeny, tiny 2-in-1 shampoo bottles that you can store under your sink for safe keeping.

All of that money saved can be put toward your next vacation. You can thank your dad later.

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