Gay Dad Travel Advice: Back (and Forward) To School

16 08 2013

paul's kids

Call this mashing in vegetables with the foods your kids want to eat. But our Global Correspondent Paul J. Heney, a gay father of two, devised a strategy to blend fun travel and useful scouting. In his words:

I’m all about having fun on family vacations, but, as most parents do, I also like to throw in some educational things when I can. All the better if the kids don’t quite realize they’re learning something. Whether it’s a somber visit to the Pearl Harbor Memorial or a lighthearted stop at a science museum, my kids generally go along with it, and we all get a lot out of the experience.

My older son, Josh, is now 12, and while college is still quite a few years off for him, I’ve begun to key him in to the idea that you can’t ever begin too early with looking at campuses and considering options. And what better way than by visiting some unexpected universities while on vacation?

I was very much of the mindset that I wanted to go away to college and experience a different part of the country for four (ahem, five!) years. I loved where I grew up, but I wanted to try something different. Think about it–college is a sort of unique opportunity in your life where you can choose an all-new and relatively temporary place to live. So I traded the cold Midwest winters for the fun of Atlanta and the very different cultural issues of the South–and I wouldn’t have traded it for anything.

I’ve long appreciated and been intrigued by college campuses, and so I have gone to visit assorted universities when I’ve had extra time on a business trip. I love to walk the quad, visit the bookstore and student center, get the vibe for the place. My closet has sweatshirts from Colorado, Ohio University, Berkeley, and other places that I have no connection to–other than at I’ve been there to experience it.

On our summer vacation to Montana, Idaho and Washington this year, I made sure we stopped by two universities we were near: The University of Montana in Missoula, and Gonzaga in Spokane, Washington. While I don’t imagine that either will be on Josh’s short list, who’s to say? And some day when he’s looking seriously at Ohio State or Georgetown (or wherever), he’ll have a better sense than most kids what a campus is, what it should feel like, what amenities there are, how far the dorms are from the classrooms, what the conditions of the buildings are, etc.

At Gonzaga, he connected with the fact that the school mascot is a bulldog–the same as in our city school system. I bought Josh and his younger brother Gonzaga shirts with bulldogs as mementos of our trip and our visit. Plus, as the boys get into watching sports on TV more and more, I can now point out, say, how Gonzaga is doing in the March Madness tournament and remind the boys of the small connection they now have with the school.

And I figure, heck, if I can convince either of them to attend the University of Hawaii one day, what a side bonus for parental campus visits that will be!

Traveling Gay Dads: Weekend in Montana

13 07 2013

montana boy

By ManAboutWorld Global Correspondent and Traveling Gay Dad Paul J. Heney

Glacier National Park has been a hit with the boys so far. We’re staying at a simple place in National Park property called the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn. It’s really an amazing location, about 10 miles inside the park, at the confluence of several hiking trails. Mountains seem to sprout up in every direction and the skies are an unreal shade of blue. The complex, a few miles west of the Many Glacier area, includes campgrounds, small cabins to rent, and a very old school but serviceable series of motel rooms. There’s also a very nice Italian restaurant and a gift shop that sells camping and hiking gear, along with a good selection of food and drinks.

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Traveling Gay Dads: Day 1 – A Date With Helena (Montana)

11 07 2013
The Montana state Capitol in Helena. Quite beautiful inside.

The Montana state Capitol in Helena. Quite beautiful inside.

By Paul J. Heney

Our first day of our first gay family trip went well. We’d decided to save some money and use frequent flier miles, so we were somewhat restricted by the airline’s (United’s) whims. We flew from CLE-IAH-DEN-HLN. A three hour layover in Houston was actually a nice gift; the kids spotted a Chili’s and begged to have lunch there. We were fine with that, because it wasn’t McDonalds. We also took a tour of about every gift shop in the B and C terminals … but I convinced the boys to save their money, as they would probably see some really cool stuff in Montana.

Our only stress point came in Denver; we were about 15 minutes late, giving us 40 minutes to grab dinner (yes, McDonalds won out this time) and walk very briskly from gate B25 to B95(!). DEN is a really extensive airport, for sure, but when you’re pulling along a 6-yr old, it seems endless, let me tell you.

I pulled out some longtime dad traveling secrets. A shopping trip the other day allowed me to pack in ziplock bags: Protein bars, M&Ms (dark chocolate mint, highly recommended!), Doritos, Sour Patch Kids, some new trading cards and two new Browns jerseys as surprises for the boys. A fully charged iPad with a flight simulator app loaded allowed the boys to play pilot while they talked about the various 737s and regional jets we were riding in (and seeing out the  window).

Helena, Montana is one of the smallest airports I’ve been to, but that isn’t a big deal. I love tiny airports. Helena boasts four gates, one baggage claim, beautiful new facilities and about a 20 step walk from baggage to the car rental counter. Then the walk to our car took us across the street and down a flight of stairs. That took a whole minute, even with kids carrying luggage.

Our first night was at the adorable Elkhorn Mountain Inn, a small motel a few miles south of Helena. The kids at first kept saying “this place is weird” (yeah, I’ve turned them into hotel snobs), but after seeing the rustic decor including the huge stuffed animals on the wall, they turned their opinions around. Now they’re loving it.  Rooms are typical size for a motel but surprisingly updated. A free continental breakfast made this an amazing deal;’it can be frustrating to pay big money for breakfast every day when the kids sometime pick at their food.

Now, it’s off to Glacier National Park for us today! More adventures await … well, after a stop for some supplies that all parents will understand: Bread, peanut butter and jelly.

Traveling Gay Dads: First Family Trip With My Partner (Montana Bound!)

7 07 2013
A healthy fear of bears;)

A healthy fear of bears;)

By Paul J. Heney

Our first gay family adventure—should I be nervous?

In a few days, I’ll be taking what I am deeming my first gay family trip. I’ve traveled extensively with my two sons—and I’ve traveled extensively with my partner—but the four of us have never taken a trip together. Lance and the boys get along quite well, and this trip seemed like a natural. Until I pointed out to Lance recently that he’d never been around the boys 24 hours a day for a whole week. That got him thinking a little. And me as well, I suppose. Will we get along in the car? Will everyone want to do the same activities? Who sits next to whom on the plane? Will the lack of internet connectivity and television where we’re going drive someone (me!) insane?

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