As parents of two young boys, my husband and I want to make the most of our family vacations together. Road trips have turned out to be our favorite mode of travel, since they offer great family time in the car together, opportunities to make stops along the route to take in various attractions, and remind us to enjoy the journey just as much as the destination — a great lesson for our children in itself.
I probably inherited my love of road trip travel from my own parents – we’d pack picnic meals and stop at attractions that caught our eye along the way. Nowadays, my parents still love the idea of traveling, but as they age, they don’t look forward to the hassle of having to drive themselves. I can’t stand the thought of my fun-loving parents missing out on these beloved vacations – they are the ones who started the tradition! — so my husband and I now invite them along on most of our family road trip vacations. We’ve found that we enjoy having them along, probably even more than they enjoy going! Thankfully, we have a vehicle that accommodates extra passengers and luggage, and my parents are usually always willing to go whenever we invite them, even at the last minute.
We’ve discovered some wonderful advantages to road trip traveling with the grandparents, and have also come up with some helpful tips to ensure that a road trip with the grandparents is a “smooth ride:”
Advantages of Multi-Generation Road Trips
Built-in help with the driving and navigation: My dad helps with the driving and is an expert at finding so-called “short cuts,” which often turn out to be “long cuts on back roads off the beaten path.” While my husband takes the Interstate to get from Point A to Point B as quickly as possible, “Poppa” shows us scenery and attractions we would never have otherwise experienced.
Help with the children: My mom is such a blessing when it comes to helping with the kids. Sometimes I get to sit in the front seat and read a book while she keeps them happy and entertained in the back!
Learning Opportunities: These trips are wonderful opportunities for our children to hear stories and family memories, and learn about our family history and traditions. In addition, our parents have great memories to share about how different destinations have changed over the years, adding a unique and historic dimension to our travels.
Built-in Playmates: The kids get bored with Mom and Dad – so we’re happy to send them off to play with Nannah and Poppa on the beach (while we sneak off for a long walk or a date!).
Building closer family ties and relationships: Our relationship with my parents has grown so much stronger over the years through our travels together. And, I know that my children will treasure the memories they are creating with them as they grow older. I hope it creates a tradition for them with their own families!
Tips for a Smooth Ride When Traveling With Parents
Limit luggage: More people in the car means less cargo space. Thus, we limit our luggage to allow for more room for all the necessities, such as the kids’ electronics, Nannah-packed coolers full of food, and all the beach toys Poppa insists on bringing.
Have respect for personal needs: My dad has a bit of a hearing problem, so we have to be respectful of this as we talk to him, tune up or down the volume of our electronics and music as needed, and also understand when he needs to put on his noise-cancelling earphones for a while.
Allow everyone opportunities to do what they want to do, sometimes on their own: As much as we love each other, we have learned over the years that we can’t expect to do everything together all the time. Be understanding when someone needs to opt out of something, or needs a rest.
Be open to ideas for doing things that you normally wouldn’t plan or choose to do: Be willing to take that scenic short cut. Don’t be afraid to take the kids to see a sight you’re afraid they might find boring – you might just be surprised. And don’t be surprised when Nannah and Poppa enjoy the big roller coasters as much as your kids do!
Teach your children patience and respect for older generations: Our children have learned that they are a part of something greater than themselves – they are part of a wonderful extended family, a blessing in and of itself. They have learned more respect for their elders, and for the past. They are learning to appreciate looking at life in new and different ways, thanks to their grandparents.
If you are blessed to have grandparents around who are willing and able, invite them along on your next family vacation. It might turn out to be a blessing you never anticipated!