Traveling Solo With Your Kids

By , Contributing Writer
September 2005

When Sean Barton drives out of his driveway to start a vacation, he asks his children which way he should go – right or left. Now this may be a slightly different way to choose where your vacation destination will be, but that’s not the only thing different about this trip – Sean’s wife, Beth, is not in the car along with her husband and kids, Harrison, 7, Gentry, 7, and Cabot, 5. She is waving goodbye from the driveway, wishing them all a safe “Daddy’s Trip.”

This is the third year Sean has taken off with his kids without Beth. “One of six children, I did not get a lot of one-on-one time with my father growing up. I want to be a father that his children have fun with and fond memories of. When Beth had given birth to our fourth child, I felt like she needed a break. What better way to do that than to load the three oldest into the car and take off on what has become known as ‘The Daddy Trip?’”

The first year, the kids pointed west and Sean headed out that direction on the freeway. They landed up at Estes Park in Colorado. The next year, the car went east. “We ended up traveling through 13 states, seeing a Yankees game at Shea Stadium, going to the American Girl Store, visiting my parents, and touring Williamsburg, VA,” says Sean. This year’s adventures took them to Big Cedar, Mo., a recreational spot owned by the Bass Pro Shop.  Sean had to forgo spontaneity – it books up a year in advance.

Sean, Gentry, Harrison, and Cabot on their first “Daddy’s Trip” in 2003

The single parent trip provides an opportunity for one parent to get to know the kids out of their “home” environment – taking time to know each child as an individual. “Sometimes you lose focus when you’re going day-in-day-out in a family setting. Some of the conversations that we have are amazing, and generally started because of someone or something we have passed in our travels,” says Sean.

Next year, two-year-old Kennedy will turn three and will be able to join the family for “Daddy’s Trip.” What about Beth? She thought she may also join in. “We sat around the kitchen table one night at dinner and the question was asked. All three kids said, ‘No. Mommy has too many rules.’ The kids know that they have to do more without mom there.” Sean says he depends on their help and co-operation, and sees acts of kindness between the kids. “They know I am alone and they have to pull together.”

John O’Shea had always wanted to take his boys, Jim, 11, and Chris, 15, on a baseball trip, and had talked about it for years before finally doing so this past summer. “The motto of our trip was ‘Bubba Baseball Trip: 7 games in 7 stadiums in 7 days make one WEAK,’” says John.

Besides seeing Fenway Park, a Yankees-Red Sox game in Yankee Stadium, and seeing the two new stadiums in Pennsylvania, the O’Sheas got to see the sites of Washington, D.C., walking from the White House to the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorial to the Capitol.

“The best highlight for me was traveling together and having time to talk about life with the boys,” confides John. “The biggest benefit of traveling with just the boys was we could eat lots of junk food, throw our clothes into the suitcase, and make every game on time. Also, playing baseball in the hotel room at night was fun (with a squishy ball, of course.)”

Chris, Jim, and John O’Shea took in seven baseball games in seven days

John says the trip was not without a few hitches. “When going to the Phillies game, we got on a subway and about halfway there, Jim asked me to look at the tickets. Well, I had left them in the hotel, so we had to get off at the next stop, go back to the hotel and then begin our journey again.” (Now this is when the moms reading this are saying: “That would NOT have happened if we’d come along!”)

Jim kept a journal, recording the facts and highlights of each stadium. Some of his recorded facts: “The right field pole in Fenway Park is located such that certain seats down the first base line are in play, and in center field of Yankee Stadium are statues of famous Yankees.”

John says he would like to do a similar trip in the future to the Midwest, visiting places like St. Louis, Kansas City, Chicago and Cleveland.

Dr. John Goss of Bellaire envisioned a baseball trip for dads and their sons five years ago. His goal was to pick a different ballpark to experience the atmosphere and traditions of other great baseball cities. When he planned on it being an annual summer event, he could not have envisioned that it would grow to the magnitude it is today.

Barry Levinson took over the planning of the Fathers/Sons Trip three years ago, when it seemed evident that the group was getting bigger by the number of inquiries from different dads in Bellaire.  “The trip has become such a mainstay, that family vacations, summer baseball and camps are sometimes scheduled around the annual Fathers/Sons Trip,” says Barry.

The Fathers/Sons Trips have taken Bellaire dads and their sons to Arlington, Texas to see the Texas Rangers; St. Louis and Busch Stadium to see the Cardinals; Boston and legendary Fenway Park; San Francisco to see the Giants versus the Chicago Cubs; and the most recent trip, to Anaheim Stadium to see the Angels play the New York Yankees. Besides their baseball fix, they have enjoyed sightseeing in the cities visited. “In Boston, we went on a Duck Tour, an amphibious vehicle that goes on land through the city of Boston, and then without missing a beat, turns into a boat and goes into the Boston Harbor,” Barry recalls. For the trip to Anaheim, one of the dads arranged for former Bellaire High School standout, Jeff DaVanon, who currently plays with the Angels, to talk to the group and get other players to sign autographs. A highlight was riding the rides at Disneyland and California Adventure (One dad did not meet up with the group for the Angel’s game. He and his son rode the roller coaster 15 times. He reasoned there’d be few other opportunities in the future to do this with his son, and what better way to spend time together than riding the roller coaster!)

This year was seven-year-old Warner Goodman’s second time on the Fathers/Sons Trip.  Warner’s favorite part of the trip with his dad, Mark, was getting to eat breakfast, just the two of them. Mark said, “Landon (Mark’s older son) did not go this year as he was away at camp. The other boys on the trip took Warner, who was the youngest, under their wing. It was great to see.”

Another Bellaire dad, Larry Toups, who has made the trip twice, shared, “The trip gives you a chance as father and son to share experiences and memories that will last forever. Doing things in such a large group also gives you the chance to develop new friendships, learn a little more about friends you already have, and laugh a lot.”

So whether you’re heading out, driving through thirteen states and visiting the American Girl store with your daughter, or heading out to share your love of baseball with your sons in other stadiums across the nations, trips without your spouse have lasting benefits. One of them is that mom gets some peace and quiet.

Strengthening ties from a Mom/Daughter Trip

Six years ago, Bellaire resident Callie Paul gave her mom a retirement gift – a trip anywhere for a week. Callie’s mom chose Paris. “We’ve been going there every year since, except for the year she had heart surgery. As she was wheeled into surgery, she said she needed to get fixed so she could go back to Paris,” says Callie.

Callie says that traveling with her mom has helped her see her in a different light. “Not as a mother or a grandmother, but as a person or friend. We’re just sharing the experiences and enjoying each other’s company,” says Callie. As her mom was a high school art teacher, they love to visit the Musée d’Orsay, stopping for coffee or tea at one of the sidewalk cafés.

Callie says her mom visits Houston, “but when she is here, we often find ourselves lost in the buzz of the daily routine; not really spending time together. Now we frequently find ourselves laughing over tours gone wrong and talk about the best meal we’ve ever eaten at the Clos de la Violette in Provence.”

Callie hopes to one day repeat this tradition with her daughter, Emily, age 8.  “I joke that she’ll have to take her mom to Paris when she gets older. I have wondered if I will walk the same streets and sit in the same cafés with Emily some day. I hope to…it would seem right somehow.”