If you’ve ever been on an airplane, the Vacation Dad is a recognizable figure. He’s pacing outside the gate in his New Balances, he’s taking work calls and he and his family, whom he largely ignores, have been at the airport for six hours already. If you’re lucky, you might spot him downing a $10 draft beer from a Chili’s Express at 10 a.m. The airport is often a liminal space, but the videos that people share on TikTok of their Vacation Dads in the wild represent a universally familiar experience.
“So all of our dads are the exact same?” a comment beneath one such TikTok reads. “White dads are all the same person lmao,” another commenter jokes. (While there are many variations of the Vacation Dad — maybe he’s wearing loafers instead of New Balances, or drinking a margarita instead of a beer — they’re all still of the same species.)
Backed by the Home Depot theme song, which went viral in 2019 as the soundtrack to dad behavior, the main takeaway from these TikToks is that for dad, the work never stops — even when he’s on vacation. He might have a drink in his hand, but he’s still going to keep himself busy by shooting off emails or managing everyone’s boarding passes. Though it’s intended to be a time of leisure, Vacation Dad never truly relaxes.
In fairness, this is largely because he’s caring for his family and ensuring that everything goes smoothly. “That’s how a hard-working man takes a vacation… everything and everyone before himself,” a top comment on a popular Vacation Dad TikTok argues. Others (often not so nicely) point out that Vacation Dad is likely funding much of the vacation as well. “I have a great dad, and we had a great vacation,” one creator responded in the comments after receiving criticism that she didn’t value her father enough. “He thinks this video is funny and laughs about it… and I appreciate everything he does. I am not ungrateful.”
All of which is to say that the videos are as much an appreciation of a father who is doing everything he can to keep his family happy — even if that ultimately translates to him being annoyed and avoidant — as they are lightheartedly poking fun at him. We might not understand the logic behind Vacation Dad’s behavior, but we at least recognize that it’s probably motivated by stress.
Here’s hoping he gets a brief respite to kick off those New Balances and put his toes in the sand for a minute or two.