For some, the phrase “road trip” is sononymous with high stress and low patience, long days and short potty breaks. Admittedly, it takes alot of preparation and effort to propel a carload of kids cross country on a family vacation. But I’m here to tell you that it’s worth every “she’s poking me!” and “I need to go potty NOW” and “are we there yet?” Here’s why:
Enjoying the Journey
While I love to fly and appreciate its convenience when time is short, there’s a lot of America “in between” that you miss when jetting from one place to the next. These tucked away nooks are full of originality and truly serve up a unique slice of life! It is a rare treat to witness the changing scenery and cultural nuances that go with it. Stopping for a bite at a small town cafe or peeking into a local anitque shop adds color and variety to a family vacation. Families can even indulge a sense of adventure, straying from the beaten path on a whim. Many times my favorite part of roadtrips have begun with “Hey – what’s that? Pull over and let’s check it out!”
Tip: Stock your car with a good atlas and several smaller maps for the kids to follow along on. Mark the places you stopped at and what you found there. Depending on your route, it can also be fun to get an area guide book and plan out a few fun diversions from your course along the way. If possible, build in a couple of extra hours into your travel time so that you have the freedom to explore your surroundings and not feel rushed.
Bonding, bonding, and more bonding
What’s so great about being stuck in the car with your family is that you’re stuck in the car – no laundry to do, phones to answer or errands to run. The potential for quality time is endless, if you take advantage of it. Bring games that your children can play together while riding, or you can play with them. Sing together, read together, learn something new together, or discuss the effects of the current administration’s agenda on the political climate of the country. Whatever, use the time to interact and enjoy the beauty of having nothing better to do.
Tip: Hunt down a few fun travel games – some that are just for the kids, some the whole family can enjoy. Hang on to them until you start to hear the first whines or teases coming from the backseat. Space them out so there is a variety of activities during the trip. Check out a couple of your favorite childhood books from the library and read a chapter or two when your little ones start getting antsy. Obtain a second-language CD and teach everyone a few new words.
Broaden the View
No matter how vibrant of a metropolis you live in, there are lessons in diversity that your family can only learn through travel. Road trips provide rare opportunities to observe and even experience lifestyles that are completely different.
Tip: Research activities along the way or at your destination that will envelope your family in the local culture. Restaurants, art shows, concerts and farmer’s markets , many of them free, are all perfect places to start.
Pass Along Travel Traditions
When I think back to my own childhood road trips, I can still hear my parents’ harmonizing to Loggins and Messina songs. We had one of those awesome Volkswagon vans in half white, half orange and when my Dad took the middle seat out, my sister, brother and I could lay on the floor snuggled up under a blanket, stargazing as we drove through the night. (This was before seatbelts, carseats and safety laws) Mom and Dad sang together to put us to sleep and keep themselves awake on our long road trips. Now that I’m the parent, you can bet I’ve got a playlist full of John Denver and Dan Fogelberg to belt out while I drive. I hope my singing will instill in my tinys the same security and serenity my mother’s lovely voice instilled in me when I was young.
My siblings and I also made a game of collecting the quirkiest postcards from each gas station we stopped at. We’d then write cryptic messages on them and mail them to friends who never really understood how funny the whole thing was for us. But I still peruse the postcard selection at every pitstop and send my brother or sister a little something to let them know I’m thinking of them on road trips. The last time my son Jude and I drove down to Arizona, he loved getting in on the fun!
Tip: Think back to your favorite travel memories from childhood and how you might incorporate them into family road trips. Favorite snacks, games, or songs are a great way to pass down a bit of travel tradition to your tinys.
Our “Hit The Road” vacation is less than two weeks away! I hope our family will experience each of these benefits as we travel over 1500 miles in 6 days. I look forward to telling you all about it!