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Published July 06 2010

Parenting Perspectives: Know thy fellow travelers

We’re smack-dab in the middle of vacation season. That time when you pack up the kiddies in the minivan or take to the air for two weeks of getting away from it all.

Whichever way you travel, I want you to be prepared for the wild life you’ll see along the way. Not animals, but other families whose vacation styles differ from your own. So here, in no particular order, are the people with whom you might be sharing a tour bus.

The why-are-you-so-crabby-you’re-supposed-be-on-vacation family: We all have our crabby times during vacations. But this family seems to be yelling or complaining constantly – to each other and to the people serving them. A couple of years ago, I had a firsthand encounter with such a family. All of us were boarding a bus at Disney World with a driver who looked like Mr. Green Jeans. This family didn’t take kindly to Mr. Green Jeans politely asking them to load cargo in the back door.

“Geez! Gina, the drivah’ says we gotta load the strollah’ in the rear daw!”

They were furious. It must be a really big deal in New Jersey to bring your stroller in the side entrance.

The we-might-be-visiting-this-place-but-we’re-from-this-place family: Many of us are proud of our hometowns, but some families feel the need to exclaim it from the mountaintops when vacationing. I remember a few years ago in the Black Hills of South Dakota, I ran into a family of seven dressed in matching Ohio State University T-shirts. They proudly talked about being Buckeyes (the school’s mascot) most of the day. On a positive note, their bright red shirts probably scared away the bears.

The we-paid-a-lot-for-this-vacation-so-we’re-going-to-get-our-money’s-worth family: Vacationing is not cheap, and this family believes that quantity is quality. Dad runs the family ragged trying to catch every show, every attraction and every landmark until the family collapses onto their hotel mattresses, resigned to eating Cheez Whiz and crackers for dinner because they’re too tired to move.

The nature-is-glorious-so-let’s-revel-in-it family: This might be the most puzzling of all vacationing families to me. They don’t just camp – they CAMP. Off the grid. No electricity or bathrooms. Just the great outdoors and a tent. Closer to nature. Closer to each other. I’d rather be close to my mini-bar and cable TV.

The mom-who-puts-everyone-to-shame-even-on-vacation family: I know women like this. And I even like some of them. Their children have never tasted store-bought mac and cheese or watched television longer than they should. Even on vacation, this woman doesn’t let up. She packs only healthy snacks in individually wrapped packages to be consumed while doing educational games in the car. I’m not sure I can take the pressure.

The if-it-happened-150-years-ago-it-must-be-interesting family: This family lives for history. To them, vacations are like a Ken Burns documentary. They stop at historical landmarks and scenic overlooks no matter how far off the beaten track. They immerse themselves in what happened here and who slept there. They buy books and DVDs as souvenirs, and their kids usually get A’s in history class.

There you have it. Certainly, this is just a partial look at the many families you might run into at rest stops along the interstates of this great nation. But one final piece of advice: If you see a guy worried about where to pack his strollah’ … just walk away.

Tracy Briggs is a mother of two and is a personality for WDAY AM 970.