With the end of summer almost here and Labor Day coming up, many families will be taking their last vacations for the summer. To save the money for airfare and the hassles of a crowded airport, many families in America decide to drive to their destination. The downside of such trips can include being crowded into a cramped vehicle for hours with everyone just wanting to arrive.
A couple years ago Dawn and the kids and I drove from Idaho to Michigan for a family reunion. As with most things, we did some things right, but there were few things I wanted a “do over.” For example, I wish we had taken some time to see more things along the way. Of course this would have either added to the length of the trip or limited our time with family. In our case, because the kids do well academically, I would have opted to extend the trip a day or two.
This brings me to my first suggestion, take plenty of time. Adding a day or two to your trip is not likely to break the bank, or in the case of trips during the school year, cause your kids to become high school dropouts. If you can, arrange to get any schoolwork they will miss before you go and they can do the work while on the road. This has the added advantages of keeping the kids mostly quiet and allows you to help them and be involved in their education process.
In this same vein, try to stop at places of educative value and places you are not going to see very often. We made the mistake of not going 50 miles out of our way to go to Mt. Rushmore, but one time we stopped at a small town festival we ran across and it was really a lot of fun, with great food and incredible hospitality.
If at all possible, travel in a vehicle big enough for the length of the trip. We were in our suburban that allowed the kids to spread out a bit. Please make sure everyone keeps their seatbelts on, trouble can find you quickly on the road.
Technology has found its way into road trips. GPS has had the benefit of keeping us from getting lost, but unfortunately we miss out on the adventure of getting lost and the camaraderie of figuring it out together. We did not have a DVD player or one of the entertainment center so many vehicles have these days, but one of the kids brought a portable DVD player that had been a Christmas present. I don’t know who bought it for them or how much it was; but when the kids got tired, or Dawn and I wanted a little time to talk to each other, that person was my nominee for “Person of the Year.”
On long trips, we have found it a lot of fun to take one route there, and another route home. We haven’t found it to take that much more time, the new scenery makes it seem like two trips in one and well worth the effort. A little planning allows you to take advantage of more scenic destinations along the way.
Long trip or short, family or fun, school year or summer vacation, road trips with your family can be a fun and fairly inexpensive way to spend quality time and see some of the wonderful sites our nation has to offer. My family wishes you all a safe trip with the sun in your face and a fair wind to your back. Bon Voyage!
Mark Altman is a speaker and leadership consultant with the Altman Leadership Center. He has graduate work in Marriage and Family Counseling and is the author of Leadership For All the Mountains You Climb. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.