Photo credit: Allan Clark

Photo credit: Allan Clark

There comes a time when every family just needs to get away. A chance to break free from routine chores, routine meals and routine experiences. It’s too easy for families to get bogged down in the ordinary tasks of everyday life. In other words, it’s time for a spontaneous road trip! The unstructured atmosphere of a mini-getaway weekend provides the opportunity to reconnect as a family.

Let your daughter eat pizza for breakfast and do cartwheels in a hotel hallway. Get silly by demonstrating your swan dive skills in the pool. In other words, relax and have fun with your kids. It may provide just the atmosphere for late night snuggling and a chance for kids to share questions or fears they are experiencing.  So throw some clean underwear and toothbrushes into a suitcase and hit the road with your family.

One of our friends recalled, “Some of our favorite family memories were waking up on a Saturday morning to announce a mystery trip. We’d hop in the car…playing 20 Questions with to determine where we were headed. Sometimes it was just a hotel with a pool 10 miles from home, yet we enjoyed the experience of a mini-vacation.”

Recently my husband and I took a spontaneous trip to Seattle. While walking by the Space Needle, we saw long lines at the door of “Vegfest”. Not wanting to be left out, we took part in this giant vegetarian food festival. We passed the afternoon watching cooking demonstrations as well as sampling over 700 free food samples. (No, we didn’t taste all 700!) Because we had this carefree and footloose feeling by being on a spontaneous trip, we attended an event out of our comfort zone. By the way, vegetarian, soy based chocolate hazelnut spread can never match the taste of Nutella!

While studying Europe in fifth grade, our daughter commented she had to do a report on Germany. Since airfare from Seattle to Munich was out of our budget, we took a spontaneous trip to Leavenworth, a Bavarian inspired village only three hours from home. What started out as “Ohhhhhh, I have to do this report on Germany” turned into a spontaneous and educational trip. (Which also resulted in an A+ report!)  www.leavenworth.org

A few years later we visited our friends near Springfield, Missouri. They casually mentioned how much fun they had in the quirky town of Eureka Springs. That statement alone was an excuse for a spontaneous two hour trip. The highlight was visiting Turpentine Animal Sanctuary where you literally could say, “Lions and Tigers and Bears, oh my!” This animal sanctuary lets you get very close to the cages during feeding time. I still recall the intensive growling from the tigers as their handlers got close with fresh meat. www.turpentinecreek.org

Spontaneous getaways teach children valuable skills in problem solving. What happens if the hotel swimming pool is closed? Should you buy gas at the start of the trip or at the destination?  How will you find your way back home? What are “early bird” specials at restaurants?

Since the purpose of a spontaneous getaway is to be spontaneous, let your kids get involved in the decision making process. Let them figure out which restaurant offers a Sunday brunch. Watch with pride as your ten year old asks the hotel staff to recommend a restaurant in the area.

So the next time family doldrums hit, tell your son or daughter, “Let’s hit the road!”