When we started road-tripping, our vacations always amounted to pretty much what I expected in terms of what we’d see and do once we arrived. But I must admit, the road trip part of our vacations surprised me. I had always thought that flying would be the best way to travel with a family, but after experiencing road-tripping, I’ve decided that when you fly you are missing out.
Here’s a list of some of my favorite aspects of road-tripping with my family:
1. Meaningful Conversations. Being crammed in a car together means talking. On road trips, we have some great communication with our kids (especially our teens) that we normally wouldn’t have. There just isn’t time in our everyday lives to connect on a deep level about their plans, their dreams, their thoughts, their friends, their ideas, and their hopes. But when you’re stuck in a car for hours–believe me, there’s plenty of time.
And not only are you connecting with them, they are connecting with each other. When one of them talks, the others are listening and responding, and there’s communication between them that doesn’t happen very often at home and certainly wouldn’t happen on a plane.
2. Impromptu Games and Laughter. Along with the talking comes the teasing, joking, and my personal favorite–the laughter. Being the mom of a teenage boy, I hardly ever hear him laugh outright at us, but that all changes when we’re stuck in the car and bored. Suddenly, there are “wet willies,” competitions to drink day-old milk that the kids find under the seat, tickle wars with the younger kids, and anything else they might find to entertain each other. Interaction between siblings warms a mom’s heart–even if it is drinking day-old milk! At least they’re laughing and playing together. It’s not an everyday occurrence for sure–and, again, definitely one that wouldn’t happen on a plane.
3. Exciting Pit Stops. My mom tells us about the road trips she went on as a child, and how, when they stopped for gas, they were given five minutes to be back in the car–and their father literally timed them to keep the trip as short and quick as possible. We like to take a different approach. We’d rather stop once in awhile and stretch our legs when we see a sign on the side of the road that boasts the “World’s Tallest Lizard” at the next exit. Sometimes it ends up to be a bust (okay, most of the time), but it’s still fun, and my kids still talk about how weird that “Hole in The Rock” was down by Moab, and guess at what that strange ice sculpture in WY was! I love those memories.
4. Exotic Eating. When we travel via car, we always plan for fun eating experiences along the way. We look for out-of-the-way diners or unusual places to eat. Those can create memories in and of themselves. Once in awhile we end up with a loser, but most of the time we find the best foods out in the middle of nowhere, and the kids talk about “that place we ate at” for years to come. We even have pictures of some of the dishes we ate! The eating on the road is one of the adventures of our trips.
5. Unifying Teamwork. Last year, we took a two-day family trip to Texas. That’s a long road trip. Twenty-four hours to be exact. We had planned two days each way for the driving portion of the trip, but on the way home, we were all so anxious to get back and we had a teenager who could help us drive, so we decided to drive through the night and get home early. To make it safe, one driver would be asleep in the back while another of us stayed awake to talk to the driver. We rotated every two hours. It became a ‘team effort’ to get us all home safely. There were some special moments when everyone was asleep in the car except for my son and me up in the front, the darkness of night surrounding us, the hum of the motor calming us, the stars shining brightly above us in the desert. We chatted casually about life and all it held in store for him, and of everything about our trip, that memory is my favorite. I don’t think I would have had that on an airplane.
You know that old saying, “It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey?” That’s exactly what I’d say about our road trips. When we first started road-tripping, it was all about where we were going and what we’d do when we got there. But as I’ve grown and experienced the many road trips we’ve taken, it’s the time in the car which is the most special to me.
If I could make one wish for every family, it would be that they, like us, would be too poor to pay for airplane tickets. Then they, like us, would be lucky enough to road-trip instead.
QUESTION: How can you make your journeys just as fulfilling and fun as your destinations?
CHALLENGE: If you haven’t had a road-trip, or it’s been awhile, plan one! If you don’t have time for a full vacation, do a weekend or day trip. Do some planning using the ideas here, get the family in the car and let the adventures begin!
*** Check out more great ideas for a successful road-trip adventure in our post: “Tried and True Road Trip Tips” (includes packing suggestions and a packing checklist). For more ideas on car time, check out Saren’s blog post here: “A Glimpse Into Our Car Time.”
Images provided by Marci Merrell.