On a family road trip while I was young, I remember lifting my legs off of the vinyl covered seat of our old station wagon periodically so that my skin would get a break from sticking to the seat. When we'd exit the car for a bathroom break, I had the distinct red marks on the back of my thighs to prove it. We had no A/C and the air constantly gushing in through the open windows kept us looking disheveled. We'd break things up by jumping over the seats going to the way, way back and to lay down and stretch out as we could see sky out the windows that only cracked an inch. For us, the destination was California to see family, the beach and Mickey Mouse. I don't remember it being miserable and being stuck in a car, I just remember being with my family. And now, I want to create those memories with my kids (added bonus - they won't be sticking to the vinyl seats).
Today, it seems that Americans love to head to the beach. More and more, families are heading to beaches outside of the U.S. Spots in Mexico, the Bahamas, and Caribbean have family friendly beaches and resorts. All-inclusive resorts offer everything you need to relax, including child care, and unlimited drinks and food. While I would not be one to turn down a tropical vacation, I hear less and less of families attempting classic American road trips.
Last year, I embarked on a road trip with my middle child across South Dakota. It was nothing short of amazing. I had never been to South Dakota and visited the beautiful Badlands, an incredible state park and of course, Mount Rushmore. I had a surge of national pride and wanted to share that with the rest of my family. This year, our family is planning an incredible cross-country road trip where we'll stop in 9 states, visit 4-5 national parks, and many other small stops (it's on the agenda to stop at the World's Largest Czech Egg). If you don't know where to start planning, go to roadtrippers.com. It not only has a bunch of ideas already plotted for you, you can plug in your starring point and your destination and then find things along the way that will appeal to your family - outdoors, points of interest, places to eat, places to stay, etc.
I definitely understand the barriers to road trips, one of them being children under the age of 4. Trying to attempt a cross-country road trip with a little one may be the end of you. So, my encouragement to try a classic road trip comes with caveats, one of which is that your kids are old enough to tolerate long periods of time in the car. We drove 12 hours (which was supposed to be 9 hours) to Washington, D.C. one year while my twins were potty training. It was pretty horrible. But, two years ago, we drove about the same distance with excellent results - it was the family vacation when we graduated to successful road trippers. Even if you can't do a cross-country road trip, give it a try this summer with at least one or two 1-day road trips. Over fall break, I took my kids to visit friends about 3 1/2 hours away for a couple of days. On the drive there, I planned 3 deliberate stops on the way there. It took us all day long to get there but we stopped at an exotic feline rescue center, a town filled with the world's largest things (mailbox, birdcage, wooden shoes, wind chimes, etc.) and a state park. All 3 stops were awesome and something I didn't think we'd make plans to see on their own. If you need an even shorter road trip, check out your state parks to see if there is one with in an hour that you haven't visited and make a day of it.
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Don't give up on the great American road trip. There are so many state and national parks that you have yet to discover. There are unique cities and towns that you could fall in love with. But most of all, you'll be creating memories with your family and devoting time to one another.
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