Family Travel + Fatherhood = Life as a Sherpa


Par for the course.

Par for the course.

Magnus Ver Magnusson has nothing on me. Sure, the dude has won four of those “World’s Strongest Man” competitions. And, yes, he can do crazy-ass stuff like drag a car with his bare hands and lift kegs full of lead (or something like that). I’m sure he could even bench-press all 185 pounds of my Italian-Jewish self, without so much as breaking a sweat.

That said, there is NO WAY the Icelandic He-Man can carry more crap than I carry on Villano family vacations.

Whenever we go away (and despite my steadfast beliefs in equal parenting and obliterating traditional gender roles), I automatically assume the role of Sherpa, schlepping everything from suitcases to diaper bags, car seats to inflatable pools.

Most of the time, I’m also carrying the baby.

Like competing for the title of World’s Strongest Man, these efforts require a number of sophisticated skills. For starters, they require strong fingers, especially when you’re carrying a grocery bag on each one. Second, they require balance; it’s hard work fumbling for keys when you’re lugging a suitcase and a 20-month old with the other hand.

Finally, being the family bellhop requires a good sense of humor, since inevitably you will find yourself pushing a plastic shopping cart of princess dolls through a crowded airport.

For years, I thought this phenomenon was something only I experienced. Then, this past weekend, at a party celebrating L’s fourth birthday, I found myself in a circle with three other dads, talking about family travel. And the truth came out.

One dad talked of a recent trip during which he was tasked with carrying seven suitcases by himself. “I was holding one with my teeth,” he admitted proudly.

Another Dad joked about the ridiculousness that ensues when he and his wife travel with their twins—and the boys’ twin car seats. “We have these special car seat bags you can wear like backpacks,” he said. “I usually wear one on the front and one on the back.”

The more the four of us shared, the more we all realized we were in the same exact boat.

Which, of course, begs the question: Why? Why is it that family travel + fatherhood = life as a Sherpa? Why does a vacation with kids prompt us dudes to do our best Magnus Ver Magnusson impressions? Most important, if we dads always are carrying the majority of gear on family vacations, why aren’t we more ripped?

I’m not suggesting that our wives carry more stuff. I’m also not saying that we all should hire full-time servants like the family on “Downton Abbey.” Really, I think it’s time we dads got our own television show—the modern-day, daddy-centric version of World’s Strongest Man.

The concept is simple: Over the course of a season, the dad who lugs the most stuff through a busy airport—without dropping it—wins a title.

If the show were serialized, I’d watch every week. And with more practice (which, BTW, totally would benefit my family on trips), I might even compete. If I close my eyes, I can almost see the Wikipedia page now: “Matt Villano, World’s Strongest Traveling Dad.” Who needs a Pulitzer with a distinction like that?

3 replies
  1. Erica
    Erica says:

    So glad we got connected. This post is really funny. I can totally relate. I think you’d have to include single moms in your traveling challenge though. 😉 I have traveled with my three children – alone – and I’ve been excited to see how much easier the lifting has become since beginning CrossFit classes. I also purchased this nifty little strap that attaches to your carryon suitcase so you can haul your child’s carseat on top of your luggage instead of on your back (after all, that’s where you need to have a backpack full of baby items, toys, snacks, diapers, etc.). Then you still have room to push a stroller with one hand. While my 8 and 9 year old sons (World’s Strongest Traveling Dads in the making) carry the rest of the load. All of this to avoid approx. $100 in luggage charges (RT savings of $200! Go me!). =)

    • Matt Villano
      Matt Villano says:

      Thanks for your feedback, Erica. Of course single moms can be part of the show! Do you happen to know what that strap is called? I’d love to mention it here in case people are interested in replicating your strategy for themselves.

  2. eileen at FamiliesGo!
    eileen at FamiliesGo! says:

    The strap is from gogobabyz. But there is also a CARES harness that you can use with toddlers that turns a airplane belt into a 5-point strap so you don’t need the carsear on a plane. Hertz and AAA offer free car seats with domestic car rentals so you don’t need car seats on the other side either.

    I also find carabiners handy for grouping bags together.


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