Lessons I Learned On Vacation with My Dad

Brianna Krueger's picture

Every month, since I started writing for Wandering Educators, I ask my dad what he thinks of my article. It borders between ‘loved it’ and ‘not your best’. The ‘not your best’ always bugs me because when I ask why, the response is ‘it’s just not your best.’ Gee, thanks. I couldn’t figure that out from your first statement.

Needless to say, he’s the not the guy you ask to give a writing critique. However, I did begin to notice a theme over time as to when he would say my articles weren’t my so-called best. They were (and are) the articles in which he is not featured. (Sounds like someone has a bit of an ego….) Even when he is the butt of the joke.

So with father’s day being in June, as well as his birthday, I decided to deliver an article that will certainly appease him. A whole article dedicated to him. He’s surely been planning this since my birth and the birth of all my cousins, because from a young age he trained us ‘2-4-6-8 who do you appreciate? Uncle Rick, Uncle Rick’ as we marched behind him. (See that ego gloating again?)

And to inflate that ego a little more, as much as I don’t always understand these comments, people seem to enjoy telling me ‘your dad is so cool’ or ‘I wish he was my dad’ or ‘I want to be a Krueger.’ Hey, if you want to wash down trees with a special tree-growth formula, or unpack a seriously overstuffed car, or be in the trailing car behind the one your dad is driving in which the kayak sails off the roof at 70 mph, then be my guest to be a Krueger. I will not stop you.

With all the above inspiration in mind, I present Lessons I Learned On Vacation with My Dad, as told through my life’s experiences with my dad – through the good and the bad, probably borderline-bad because they make the best stories. As a frequent tumblr and pinterest peruser, it’s like the saying ‘no good story starts with a salad’ but in my world it’s more like ‘no good story starts without my dad.’ And that’s actually a compliment.

Feel free to add your best dad vacation lessons the comments or bless your dad for not being so insane… (But if my dad wasn’t insane, what would I ever write about?).

Good Things Come to Those Who ‘Do As I Say’

From ages 5 to probably 9, Brownie Points owned my and my cousins’ lives when we gathered for our yearly Krueger vacation. Brownie Points were the grandly exciting points we earned from the adults for helping out, being active, or my personal favorite, the bribe for getting out of the adults’ hair. Collecting them was a joy and a competition between us cousins, so naturally we were all angels (or the best angels we could attempt) to earn these points. Do as they say, and we’d get a point.

My Dad kept a record of our points on a large poster board that sat above the fireplace. There was nothing so sweet as seeing a new tally in our box, awarding us a point. Unfortunately, it took many years till after the Brownie Points system had been abandoned that I realized that they were simply imaginary. Sure, we kept track, but the points weren’t redeemable for anything!

My younger self is satisfied with the great joy the idea of the points brought me, but as an adult I really would like to redeem my brownie points… because when you dare use the brownie points on your younger cousins, you bet your butt that the adults actually make you redeem the points for them.

Good Things Come to Those Who ‘Do As I Say’. From Lessons I Learned On Vacation with My Dad

Doing sit-ups for Brownie Points

What’s Yours Is Mine

When it comes to eating, I’ve learned to always keep my fork ready in case I need to stab a fork making a move on my plate, like a shark in waiting. What’s mine (or anyone’s), is my dad’s. ‘Oh, what’s that? Let me try it,’ he says, stabbing his fork into your food as he makes his way around the restaurant table. Even into plates that has the same meal as his. Fortunately, there are instances when this isn’t so bad.

‘If you don’t eat all your food, we’re shoving it up your nose’ was probably the first food etiquette lesson I learned. As the picky eater I know I am, I’m guessing I had a lot of food shoved up my nose as a youth (and if they could enforce it now, I’d still have plenty to shove up there), so stab away at my asparagus.

When my dad grills, he gets bored. He likes to do a poor man’s version of multitasking, which means he walks away to go do something else like fall asleep in front of the TV, and we’re left wondering when we’re going to eat, if everything doesn’t burn up on the grill. ‘Burnt’ is in my dad’s cooking specialty, along with meatball-shaped hamburgers. Just be careful with the burgers - he once cooked a spider into one, thinking he had killed it. What a wonderful surprise for my friend who thankfully noticed the spidery legs before taking a big bite. Sometimes, it does pay to let him have his.

Don’t Play in Traffic

Being born to a hoardering overpacker (my dad), my family of four has traveled in 2 cars for as long as I can remember. We simply have too much stuff to squeeze into an SUV and trailer to take 1 car.  Over the years, we’ve developed a system that the overpacked car driven by my dad leads the pack, and the underpacked car, my mom’s car, follows in case the blinkers of the trailer don’t work or a strap tying something down comes undone. We are the eyes of my dad’s behind.

Unfortunately, being the eyes isn’t always easy – especially when you try to contact the car in front and they don’t answer their cellphone – so we’ve seen lots of interesting things pop off my dad’s car. And it’s always thrilling to be that car behind them. A Kayak, a water trampoline, a Christmas tree. All coming at you at 70 MPH.

We’ve gone back for every item that falls off and it’s even more thrilling daring to run for that trampoline and not get hit by a car.  Needless to say, seriously, don’t play in traffic.

Imagination is Everything

My dad is not what one would describe as creative. When I was born, he passed all of his genes to me, and somewhere along the way, because I didn’t get it from my mom either, I got creativity. However, this does not stop my dad from attempting to use his imagination for crafty ideas.

When my dad’s 14 year old car started rusting and falling apart, instead of buying a new car, he decided to spray paint his car and color in the rust. Except he did more than the rust; he did the whole damn car. If you catch it in the right light, you can see all the squiggly lines and designs. Almost worse is the foamy, yellow glue he used to stick his side-view mirrors on, making the car look like its oozing puss. Unfortunately, for the rest of us, we can’t use our imagination to pretend we’re not embarrassed when we drive around in his car. Imagination is everything, but it doesn’t create miracles.

Imagination is Everything. From Lessons I Learned On Vacation with My Dad

Everything Can Be Fixed ‘In The Future’

Whenever something goes wrong on vacation – and something always does- the best thing one can do is 1. laugh at it, and 2. learn from it. My dad knows this lesson very well because when the wrong thing happens he always says to my mom, “Sue, in the future…” – the ‘… ‘ being filled with whatever we need to do in the future.

One time when down in Mexico, my dad asked my mom for glasses cleaner and she told him it was on the bathroom counter. He grabbed the first one he saw and sprayed. It was hair-color protector. When that didn’t clean them, he grabbed my mom’s hair spray and this time asked if it was the correct glasses cleaner bottle. Finally, she had to come show him which bottle it was – the only bottle labeled of the 3, and labeled ‘glasses cleaner.’ We learned that “in the future” we must label all bottles to avoid confusion.

Another time, we had miscommunication issues while on an extended-family vacation. Much planning and organization went into the trip; unfortunately there was still confusion as to who, what, where, when, why, and how. There were a few “in the future” lessons we thought would be good, but the biggest one of all was there’s 24 of us. Traveling together will never be easy, but surely enjoyable.

Know Yourself

Over a year ago, I wrote an article about the 11 Types of Family Vacation Photos. I lied about the number. There are 12. That twelfth is The Rick Pose.

For 57 years, he’s been rocking the pose, putting his hands up in the air, and waving them like he just don’t care. Safe to say, someone knows himself and what he likes.

The Rick Pose. From Lessons I Learned On Vacation with My Dad


Thanks, dad, for all the lessons. I’m sure there will be plenty more to learn…..



Brianna Krueger is the Chief Editor for Wandering Educators


All photos courtesy and copyright Brianna Krueger