The night before a road trip always felt to me like the night before Christmas. The same way you wrap all your gifts and get the cookies set for Santa, you make sure your bags are all packed and squared away in the car. And of course, you hardly get enough sleep, you just lay in bed anticipating what the next day, or days, will bring.
You wake up and the car trunk is strategically packed so everything fits, and you have a little bag – a carry on, if you will – to keep by your feet for any necessary items you may need to reach while in the car. For me, I had a blanket, a camera, a couple of CDs, and a pen and notebook. I’ve always been a fan of documenting experiences, and road trips always found their way into my journals.
I’ve went on road trips with just about everyone in my family, and I can honestly say I’ve never had a bad experience – besides the occasional hair pull with my sister when we were really young and smushed together in the backseat. But overall, I’ve always walked away from road trips wishing they never came to an end, primarily because I had the best time being stuck with my family for hours on end. My relationships with my family members would not be as strong as they are today had we never embarked on our road tripping adventures.
Think about it – if you’re going on vacation and choose to fly, you really miss out on a valuable experience. On planes, most people are found doing individual activities – reading, listening to music, playing digital games. If you and your family are heading somewhere that’s within reasonable driving distance, I urge you to grab your family and hit the road. Don’t rob yourself and your family of precious memories.
A handful of years back, at the Thanksgiving dinner table, a couple of my cousins and I were saying how much we wish our grandparents in Florida could join us for every holiday and how much we missed them. With a little arm twisting and eyelash batting, we successfully got my aunt on board for our plan to visit them in Florida. A month later, the day after Christmas that year, my aunt, my two cousins, my sister, and I pulled out of the driveway at 5 a.m. and began our trek from Pennsylvania to Florida.
Because the drive was so long, we made sure to make plenty on pit stops along the way. My favorite stop was at South of the Border, where we got out to stretch our legs and shop around, and ending up leaving with a sombrero for each of us. Thanks to the many hours we had together and endless car games – everyone loves a good round of the license plate game –, we enjoyed ourselves so much that we made the trip a couple more times. Each time after, we explored new pit stops along the way, made new experiences, but of course, always stopped at least once for our classic Cracker Barrel road trip meal.
Building relationships, memories, jokes, and traditions are some of the best reasons to engage in road trips. After spending enough uninterrupted time with your family, you’d be surprised how close you get. While the end of any vacation is always disappointing, you know that when you road trip, the ride home is just an extension of the fun.
Besides choosing road travel instead over air travel, road trips can be useful as vacations in and of themselves. Back in middle school, my grandpa planned a road trip for my sister, Emily, and I in which we hit about 5 amusement parks throughout the state. We had no one destination we were visiting, but rather, many. We journeyed around in his Honda Odyssey minivan for a week, just me, Emily, Nana, and Grandpa. Our road trip was our vacation that summer, and I hope to one day plan something just as special for my children and grandchildren.
Look at road trips as an adventure. You’re in control, you’re in the driver seat. If you’re heading out for vacation, what would like to see that lies between your start point and end point? What is something that everyone in the car would be excited to see or do?
Road trips are what you make of them. I was lucky enough to grow up with treasurable road trip memories, thanks to the love and creativity of my family. I believe there’s nothing like it, and I hope that all children and adults should have the experience of bonding with all generations of their family on the road.
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