For spring break this year I took my 15-year-old son and his friend to Florida. My son has been less than enthused by the idea of travel lately, partly due to the plethora of opportunities he has had. The bribe of having a friend along on this trip paid off in more ways than one. I expected that my son would have more fun with a friend along. What I didn’t expect was the lesson we both learned about perspective.
While I wouldn’t say my kids are spoiled by miles and points, I will admit that their unique vantage point sometimes produces an outlook that I’m not thrilled to see. We travel for an average of one month a year thanks to miles and points, and the “wow” bar keeps getting raised as a result.
Not so with my son’s friend. He hadn’t been on a plane since he was three, so the entire experience of flying was a revelation. His sense of wonder was engaged by a flight from Washington, DC, to Orlando on Southwest Airlines. Not an Etihad Apartment to the Maldives: a two-hour flight on a budget airline.
The excitement was contagious. My son became a tour guide through the airport and a teacher of the intricacies of navigating TSA checkpoints. Experiences that usually generate an eye roll, such as taking your shoes off, became just another part of the adventure.
My Platinum Card® from American Express comes with Priority Pass access, so we relaxed preflight at the Turkish Airlines Lounge at Dulles Airport. As we entered the lounge, my son’s friend was at first confused, then elated, as I explained that he could help himself to the generous spread of pastries. It was probably my son’s 50th time in a lounge, but I don’t think he appreciated the access until he saw it through his friend’s eyes. (At least he wasn’t complaining about the lack of grape juice anymore.)
Once we landed, we continued to breathe rarefied air, at least in my son’s friend’s opinion. We have National Rent a Car Emerald Club Executive Status, again thanks to our American Express Platinum Card, which allowed us to choose any car on the Executive Aisle. The boys spent 30 minutes trying out cars until they chose the perfect ride for our trip.
“I Can’t Believe This Is Real”
The magic reached its peak in a logical place: Disney World. My son is thoroughly versed in all things Mickey — as the kid of a Disney World guidebook writer, how could he not be? The downside of so much Disney is that it becomes less and less magical with each subsequent visit.
Not so with my son’s friend. His jaw dropped the moment we walked into the Magic Kingdom and didn’t reset until they returned to the hotel at 2am that night. I heard him remarking to himself, “I can’t believe all of this is real,” in the way only a first-time visitor to Disney World can.
The boys took on the four-parks-in-a-day challenge (though not the every single ride challenge) with gusto, which my son hasn’t wanted to do since he was 10. My son’s friend even got him to stand in line for photos with Chicken Little and Caballero Donald. I can’t get my teen to pose for a photo at all under normal circumstances.
With my son’s friend in tow, even the Dole Whip tasted better. OK, maybe not better, but I sure enjoyed sharing the experience with someone new.
Cinderella’s Lost Slipper
This trip wasn’t the first time one of my kid’s friends totally changed my travel perspective. A few years ago we brought an 8-year-old friend along to Amish Country and she was wowed by a decidedly midrange hotel. In the lobby, a spiral staircase led to the upstairs “ballrooms” where the hotel hosted weddings, bar mitzvahs and corporate holiday parties. She leaned over to me and whispered, “This must be where Cinderella lost her slipper.”
Let me repeat that: a Park Inn in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, had her believing it was the setting of a royal ball. Talk about a change in perspective.
If you’ve been shrugging at a partial ocean view hotel room or rolling your eyes at an “average” airport lounge lately, bring a kid — not your own — on your next trip. One day watching her marvel at the little things will get your head on straight and remind you why all the hard work earning miles and points is worth it.
For more inspiration:
- How Not to Spoil Your Kids With Miles and Points
- 7 Ways to Enjoy Travel With Teens and Tweens
- What to Do If Your Kids Don’t Want to Travel Anymore
Featured image by Klaus Vedfelt / Getty Images