Tuesday, July 20, 2010

We have nothing to fear but MOMMY, WHAT IS THAT?!?!

Kids are afraid of the darndest things. The monsters in their nightmares. The monsters under their bed. The monsters in the closet. The monster who will someday refuse to stay at the old-folks home and will demand to live with them in their house.

Okay, the last fear is legit. The others not so much.

When traveling, Crazy Dad has never worried about what his kids are worried about. Crazy Dad tends to worry about his worries - such as paying for the trip, getting the entire family there safely, having a great time while there.

But part of having a great time is anticipating what your kids will worry about.

TALK IT OUT

It doesn't hurt to talk to your kids about what they're worried about. Crazy Dad's son was worried about a trip to a foreign country, because no one in the family spoke the native language of that country. Apparently nothing short of learning Esperanto would have calmed the boy down. Of course, that wasn't what he was REALLY scared of. He wasn't sure what he was nervous about, so he latched onto the language thing.

Most of your kid's fears about traveling tend to be around two things-

"I'm going to be BORED."

Try to keep them excited about the trip. Tell them exciting things they might do. People or places they'll see. Everyone is scared of the unknown, and for your kids, the trip is a BIG unknown.

And of course-

"I don't want to eat weird food."

Try to remind them of foods that they like that they'll probably find on the trip. And if all fails, suggest or strongly imply that you'll give in and let them get Chicken McNuggets from McDonald's on the trip.

It's not a promise. So if you want to lie and not fulfill the McDonald's offer, that's your parental prerogative.

ACT IT OUT

With toddlers, there's always one thing that will scare them on trips.



Airport security. Look at it from a 2 year-old's perspective. Everyone is tired, they've rushed to the airport, they've had to drag bags on and off of buses and trains and cars. Now they're in a huge line where everyone is unhappy.

Now everyone is taking off their shoes!
Dad is taking off his belt!
Mom is being patted down for a secondary security inspection!

And now some strange man or woman behind the enormous beeping gate is pointing at you and telling you to walk forward!

Look at it from your 2 year-old's perspective. EVERYONE HAS GONE FLIPPING INSANE.

So if you have a small toddler, roleplay the airport security steps with them before the trip. Explain that they'll have to take off their shoes. Explain that they have to walk through a big gate. Explain that they might have to walk to a police officer standing on the other side.

If they roleplay it once through, it won't be an unknown when it happens for real. And they won't be scared.

BUT YOUR KID IS YOUR KID

This is the caveat that Crazy Dad always likes to remind every parent. Your kid is your kid - and all kids are different.

When Crazy Dad asked his oldest daughter if she'd ever been scared on their trips, she said no. She always assumed that her mom and dad had it under control. But just because SHE thinks that way doesn't mean that your child will think that way. Perhaps Crazy Dad's daughter is just extraordinarily calm... or extraordinarily ignorant to how out-of-control her father is.

So if your child is a nervous type, then be aware of that and take extra steps before the trip to allay their fears.

Recently, family friends of the Crazy Family prepared for a trip to Ukraine. Their daughter was worried that it was so far and might be too strange. Our daughter offered to talk to her and answered all her questions. Yes, Ukraine was fun. Yes, they had McDonald's. No, they didn't speak Ukrainian. No, it wasn't a problem.

Your kids will follow your lead. So don't panic. Don't worry.

And at some point, you really should do something about all those monsters in your kid's room. Crazy Dad is just sayin'...

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Single Most Important Family Travel Tip of All Time

Allow me to repeat the title in obnoxious bold type.

THIS IS THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT FAMILY TRAVEL TIP OF ALL TIME.

OF. ALL. TIME.


Staying healthy? Forget it. Security? Not a chance.

Saving money? Finding adventure? Language? Culture? Activities? Photography and video? Family happiness? No, no, no, no, NO.

NO NO NO NO NO!

In Crazy Dad's self-declared expert opinion, there is one thing that you must know if you are traveling with a family. One subject that you must check, re-check, and check again.



Yes, the Nintendo DS charger.

Do you have it? Does it work? Will it work where you're going?

Crazy Dad has already come to the conclusion that the Nintendo DS is the greatest family travel invention of all time.

It used to be that parents turning around while driving to threaten, "Don't make me stop this car!" and "I will send you kids to military school if you don't be quiet!" and "This is why we're not having any more children!" was a cherished childhood experience shared by all kids.

Not anymore. Parents don't threaten their kids like that anymore.

Now any child, any gender, any background, any age. Plunk a Nintendo DS in their hands and they will magically be transformed into a happy traveler who lives to go anywhere their parents want to go without complaint.

Crazy Dad's not a moron, though. He DOES worry about the effects on children's attention spans caused by hours of blinking lights in their face. Crazy Dad's kids are rarely allowed to play their DSes in the house. But while traveling is a completely different story.

In all seriousness, if you have a very long trip ahead that would tax the patience of a normal kid, Crazy Dad highly recommends that you give that normal kid a Nintendo DS.

So now we return to the issue with the charger.

If you travel internationally, you know about issues with power adapters. Some countries use the flat prongs, some countries use the round prongs, some have the tri-prongs. In addition to the shape of the adapters, there's also the issues with voltage levels.

Most electronics now have taken the voltage issues out of the picture. If you check the fine print on your electronics power adapter, it will tell you that it can handle a range of voltages. So if you're in the United States and fly to Russia, as long as you have the adapter plug, your iPod will charge just fine in the U.S. and Russia. Ditto with your laptop or cell phone or electric shaver.

In fact, nearly ALL modern electronics can handle the varying voltages.

Except one.

Except the greatest family travel invention of all time.



The Nintendo DS adapter does NOT handle dual voltages. The power adapter for a U.S. Nintendo DS will not work in Europe - or vice versa - even with the appropriate adapter plug. Nintendo, in their wisdom, chose not to let the DS charger handle both 110 and 200 volts.

So if you're in the United States and traveling to Europe, you must purchase a brand new DS power charger that will work in Europe. Vice versa - if you're in Europe and traveling to America, you must purchase a brand new DS power charger.

This probably wouldn't have been a catastrophe if Crazy Dad had been in, say, England when he discovered that he would need to buy a European-specific DS charger for his children.

Crazy Dad discovered this while on vacation in Russia.

IN RUSSIA.

Crazy Dad tried to find a DS charger in several countries along their trip - hitting toy stores throughout Russia, Ukraine, and Hungary. Every time his kids got their hopes up, Crazy Dad dashed them by being unable to find a charger.

(Note: There's also the issue that Crazy Dad's kids have a Nintendo DS Lite, which has a specific charger that doesn't work with the original Nintendo DS or the new Nintendo DSi. Thanks, Nintendo. Thanks a lot.)

Crazy Dad finally found a European DS charger in Dresden, Germany. And there was much rejoicing.

Hopefully you can learn from Crazy Dad's misfortune. To recap-

-Check your electronics. Specifically, check the chargers to make sure they're multiple voltage. Crazy Dad has found that pretty much all modern electronics are, but if it's important, double check it.

-If you need a different charger, try to order it before the trip. Third party power chargers on Ebay are quite cheap.

-Kids love the Nintendo DS. If you want to enjoy some peace and quiet on a long drive or plane flight, shove a DS in their faces and give them a set of headphones.

-Nintendo really should reconsider their engineering decisions regarding their chargers. Or at the very least, reconsider their marketing positions in Eastern Europe.

That's about it for now. Apologies for the long delay between blog posts. Crazy Dad went through a brief period of sanity... but that's all done with. Crazy Dad is back.

And fully charged.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Being a Dad takes Guts

Time to hype the safety benefits of using a neck wallet.

There are pickpockets in every city on Earth who prey on tourists, so it's easier to keep your money and documents safe by tucking them in a neck wallet. You don't have to be armed or learn self-defense or anything crazy. Just make it a little difficult for the would-be criminals, and they'll let you go and look for an easier mark. A neck wallet is just the thing.



Crazy Dad has used a neck wallet similar to this and it's worked out well. The neck wallet is generally pretty comfortable and worry-free.

It used to be there were four members of the Crazy family, and Crazy Dad carried the passports and tickets for all four members. No problem. They were kept safe and sound in the neck wallet around Crazy Dad's neck.

But two things have happened recently.

1. The Crazy family added a fifth member. A new child with their own passport, and-

2. The United States transitioned to their brand new passports. These next-generation passports have smart chips in them - so the passport is much thicker, heavier, and rigid.

But on the most recent trip, Crazy Dad thought it'd be no big deal. Not like going from four to five would make a big difference on his neck.

He was wrong.

One day into the trip, Crazy Dad could feel this literal millstone hanging around his neck the entire time. It wasn't just a fifth passport - it was having to carry a fifth set of papers, plane tickets, travel documentation, train tickets.

All hanging from Crazy Dad's neck.

And that wasn't really the worst part. The worst part was what it did to Crazy Dad's self-esteem.



CHECK OUT THAT GUT. Only it's not a beer gut. It's a fake flab of fat created by a thick, brick-like neck wallet. Crazy Dad is self-conscious enough about his dainty figure without seeing pictures of himself looking like he swallowed some enormous novelty Lego brick.

And it's only going to get worse. While the adult passports don't expire for a while, kids' passports expire every five years. So soon the family will be saddled with three of those thick 'War and Peace'-style passports.

So lesson learned. Neck wallets are cheap, so Crazy Dad is buying a second one for only-married-into-Crazy Mom to carry. Time to share the gut.

No guts, no glory.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Stuff I didn't know existed - AAA Exchange

Go figure. Learn something new everyday.

The Automobile Club (AAA) has reciprocity with international driving associations. So if you're a member and get in car trouble overseas, you can get services extended to you for free or at discount.

Check out their list at aaapublicaffairs.com.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Kids Fares on Public Transportation in Europe

Some data that Crazy Dad culled from the internet. This is just a summary of what he found - please confirm for yourself before you step on that bus or train. You don't want your vacation experience to be colored with, "So then I had to pay an exorbitant fine..."

No guarantees are made to its accuracy. Translation - don't waste your time trying to sue Crazy Dad. He'll just plead not guilty by reason of insanity.

Hope this helps!

***

AUSTRIA

Vienna - U-Bahn, Buses, Tram

-Kids 5 and under free.
-Kids 14 and under free on Sundays, public holidays, and school holidays.

Checked May-2009

***

CZECH REPUBLIC

Prague - Metro, Trams, Buses

-Kids tickets 6-15.
-Kids 5 and under free.

Checked May-2009

***

FINLAND

Helsinki - Tram and Metro

-Kids tickets 7-16.
-Kids 6 and under free.
-NOTE: An Adult traveling with a kid 6 and under riding in a pram / carriage / stroller also rides free (except on U-lines).

Checked May-2009

***

FRANCE

Paris - Metro / RER / RATP

-Kids 4-9 half-price
-Kids 3 and under free

Checked May-2009

***

GERMANY

Berlin - U-Bahn, S-Bahn, Buses, and Trams

-Reduced fare tickets for kids 6-14
-Kids 5 and under free

Checked June-2009


Dresden - S-Bahn

-Kids tickets 6-14.
-Kids 5 and under free.

Checked May-2009

***

HUNGARY

Budapest - Metro/Trams/Trolleybuses/Underground/Buses

-Kids 5 and under free

Checked May-2009

***

POLAND

Krakow - Buses/Trams

-Reduced fares for "Students and school-children"
-Family Tickets available on Saturday and Sundays

Checked May-2009

***

RUSSIA

Moscow - Metro

-Kids 6 and under ride free.

Checked May-2009


St. Petersburg - Metro

-One kid 6 and under rides free, when accompanied by paying adult.

Checked May-2009

***

SLOVAKIA

Bratislava - Buses/Trams

-Kids 5 and under ride free.
-Reduced Fares for kids 6-15.

Checked May-2009

***

UKRAINE

Kyiv - Metro

-Kids 6 and under ride free.

Checked May-2009


Kyiv - Buses and Trolleybuses

-"One child of preschool age, without giving it a separate place"

Checked May-2009


Lviv - Tramway

-"Pupils and Students" fare half-price

Checked May-2009

***

UNITED KINGDOM

London - Buses and Trams

-Kids 10 and under ride free.
-Kids 11-15 can get child-rate Day Travelcards - otherwise pays adult fare.


London - Tube, DLR, and London Overground

-Kids 10 and under ride free when accompanied by an adult.
-Kids tickets 11-15.

Checked May-2009

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Being a Dad can keep you out of trouble

Before dragging his family to a new exotic country, Crazy Dad likes to do a little bit of reading on crime and safety issues. Not likely that Crazy Dad will put his family in a dangerous situation, but he has to do his due diligence.

There's nothing quite as shocking as flipping through a Lonely Planet guidebook and finding the words "be aware of Death Squads".

But for this upcoming trip, Crazy Dad is visiting a country that has some standard warnings about crime and safety issues. The warnings always are downplayed with the caveat, "Just use common sense."

Here's the problem. Common sense? Common sense tells us not to spend money we don't have. Common sense tells us not to talk on the cell phone while driving. Common sense tells us that God doesn't speak to us through divine appearances in Grilled Cheese Sandwiches.

Common sense? Crazy Dad needs more specifics. What kind of things might get him into trouble? So he did some research online and found these recommendations for avoiding crime and staying safe in this particular country-

-Do not get intoxicated. Criminals prey on drunk tourists.
-Do not stay out past midnight in non-touristy, unfamiliar neighborhoods.
-Do not get into confrontations or fist-fights.
-Do not antagonize or acknowledge skinheads, gang members, or hooligans.
-Do not enter seedy out-of-the-way bars - most are run by organized crime.
-Do not enter casinos - most are run by organized crime.
-Do not enter strip clubs. They have hidden surcharges and fees are forcibly enforced by violent bouncers.
-Do not accept propositions from attractive young women. Men are sometimes taken back to hotel rooms, drugged, and robbed.
-Do not agree to drinks or meals with attractive young women. Women receive commissions from restaurants and bars to lure men to their establishments.
-Do not get involved with prostitutes. This country has one of the highest rates of HIV in the world.
-Do not buy or inquire about drugs. Despite what you may hear, they are illegal and you will face a possible 5-10 years in prison.

Now that's better. This list clarifies what kind of things will keep Crazy Dad safe. Simply put-

All those things you could do before you got married? Don't do them while on vacation.

Seriously. Being a dad with kids makes it easier to stay out of trouble. Before he got married and had children, he might be tempted by a few of those things on that list. I mean, what guy doesn't sometimes feel the longing to antagonize hooligans and skin-heads?

But now? The only thing that Crazy Dad is considering right now is a Grilled Cheese Sandwich.

Stay safe out there.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Gravy is not Soup

I haven't laughed this hard in a while. Enjoy 20 ridiculous complaints made by holidaymakers.