Looking back on your childhood vacations, what do you remember? You most likely recall a few details about the really cool places you went and the things you did. If you’re like me, however, what you remember most is spending family time together.
There are a few childhood vacations that stand out in my mind more than others, Disney World being one of them. But, contrary to what you might think, some of my clearest and fondest memories were built along the way—the little things we consistently did every vacation.
My father prided himself on ‘culturing’ his five girls. Without fail, he would find some historical site or offbeat tourist attraction: Old Rip, the petrified horny toad; Paisano Pete, the largest roadrunner in the world; or the beautiful Royal Gorge.
Pushing on through the chorus of “Oh, Dad!” from all of us girls, he would portray excitement and enthusiasm for the new adventure he was sharing with us. As he put it, “We don’t drive anywhere, we TRAVEL!”
Then something funny eventually happened.
As we grew older, the eye rolling decreased and we began to appreciate our family’s unique travels. Oh sure, we might have still complained a little, but we would secretly enjoy seeing our dad’s enthusiasm and we started to enjoy the experience.
This tradition–memories of my dad of finding interesting spots–started to take root into our own journeys. When I was 18, my sister and I drove home after a week away at an adventure camp. We spied the sign for Billy the Kid’s grave site, laughing about how Dad would be so proud of us, and away we went.
We had a fun time on our little detour and prided ourselves on our efforts. Following our impulse made the trip much more memorable and was a wonderful bonding experience for us.
Now that I am a mother of three myself, you better believe I carry on that tradition! On our road trips, my husband and I figure out memorable stops along the way. I love searching for different things we can explore.
I also love to seize the moment and let myself be flexible with our travel plans. We might decide to stop and just see what is down the next town’s main street. Sometimes, when we explore a new area we find unique treasures, like these huge wooden chairs in Boerne, TX.
My kids are young enough that our parental excitement transfers to them, so we have some fabulous times together. I even throw in stories of “When I was young, your granddad…”
As my kids grow older and maybe complain, we’ll just keep at it knowing that we are building memories! If I’m not sure what cool adventure to find, my best travel guide for those ideas is only a phone call away.
Families can form some of the best trip memories from consistent, small traditions. Make sure you keep in mind not just the fun you’ll have at your destination, but the fantastic memories you can make before you even get there!
What are some unique ways to add memories to your travels? These ideas may help you get started:
Local Specialties: Try out the favorites of those who live there! Some ideas include shaved ice, cream pies, and BBQ.
Favorite car games: Doesn’t everyone remember playing the “slugbug” game?
Children’s Museums: We love taking a break to explore the local science and children’s museums. They are always a lot of fun and a great way to burn off energy.
Water Features: Take a moment to dip little feet in city water features, swim in hot springs, or see the beauty of a waterfall.
Playgrounds: What child wouldn’t love to enjoy a new playground?
Special snacks: Try Bugles! Amusing to stick on little fingers and then eat off.
Odd Tourist Attractions: You know you want to see sites like the “World’s Largest Paper Cup.”
Walking down a new city’s main street
Funny pictures taken with your camera
Whether it is ice cream at a new place, a special game you play every trip, or stopping at historical sites–these traditions matter! They help your family build unity and love.
As a mom myself, I know my time is limited, but the small time taken will reap great rewards. I love knowing that I am helping my children remember our family’s bonding times. Thanks, Dad, for taking that time for me.
QUESTION: What do you want your children to remember about family vacations? How can you incorporate this into ‘travel traditions’?
CHALLENGE: This summer, as you travel near or far, try to incorporate some of the ideas listed above to make memories along the way.
Images provided by the author.
Originally posted on June 25, 2012.