I love to travel. I live to travel. I have long been a firm believer in the therapeutic benefits of the spontaneous road trip. I get antsy when I stay in one place for too long. And luckily I seem to have passed that passion for adventure on to my children. Somehow, and I'm not always sure how this happened, I've managed to make road trips enjoyable, fun even. I don't remember them being long and miserable. I never had that urge to give up on travel with them at any age. And maybe this is why...
1. We love the element of surprise. As the kids have grown, it has become more and more fun for us to simply not tell them where we're going. We tell them how to prepare. We suggest what to pack. They simply don't always know whether the bathing suit is for the hotel pool, a mountain lake, or the ocean. There is something exciting for the entire family about the build up, the questions, the guessing as we travel. There are loads of laughs as one place after another is ruled out. The trip in and of itself becomes a game.
2. The drive is half the fun. When the kids were little and I traveled alone with them, I would leave in the middle of the night for long trips so that they wouldn't be bored, so that they would sleep through the bulk of the boring ride. Now as they have grown older and can take themselves to the bathroom and require less supervision, we enjoy traveling during normal times of day. And the reason that we enjoy is because we make the drive fun. It isn't a game for shaving time off the trip thereby creating stress and anxiety. Instead, we will stop to try out a new restaurant. We will stop at a lookout to take pictures. We will stop if there is a store that looks interesting. We stop to smell the flowers, to stretch our legs, to grab a drink, and to take that potty break. It makes the drive so much nicer.
3. We believe in side trips. In fact, we rule the side trips. These side trips can happen for any reason. Maybe we saw a neat little lake that we want to stop at for a few hours. Maybe we ended up getting lost and we realized we were close to the zoo. Maybe we saw a sign for a place that we just wanted to check out. Yes, these are all valid reasons for a side trip. The zoo was my personal favorite. We could have been stressed and tense because we were off course. Instead, we saw it as an opportunity and used our time accordingly. Sure, we arrived home later than we expected. So what? We had made new and happy memories together.
4. Plan as you go. When we leave the house, we have a destination planned, a room reserved. While we're in the vehicle, we plan the trip. There is nothing more fun than spending that time together planning what you want to do. It definitely builds anticipation and excitement. We make sure that everyone has a say, that everyone is heard, that everyone gets a chance to do something he or she wants to do.
5. Make the trip part of a bigger picture. One summer, we were looking for the best ice cream. On every road trip, every spontaneous day trip, and every time we were in the car together, we'd end up finding some place we needed to stop and try the ice cream. It resulted in some very complex discussions about texture, flavor, and cost versus value amongst family members...and a lot of fun.
Family road trips can be made part of quality family time. It doesn't have to be the dark side of travel. Work to make it part of the trip itself and see how much better the entire trip becomes. Just because the drive is long, it doesn't have to feel that way.
And since we're always looking for a new destination...what's the best road trip you've taken?
When Nicki isn't tricking her family into the car for spontaneous road trips, she writes about parenting, relationships, and life at Suddenly *Not So* Single Journey.