As a kid, our summer family road trips were the most exciting part of summer. Now with my own family, my husband and I have embraced road trippin’ as part of the experience we want our kids to have. He didn’t travel as much as a kid, so many of these experiences are new for him too. The Kent Crew defines a road trip as any trip that has an overnight stay and requires at least one bathroom and gas break to get there. These are my five reasons you should take a family road trip.
Distraction Free Conversation
There is no escaping when you are in the car for hour. We talk to each other and the kids. We sing songs, point out locations or landmarks and cool license plates. If the kids are watching DVDs or sleep, my husband and I are able to have uninterrupted conversations. No little voices asking for snacks, phone calls, catching up on work, cleaning up the house or other distractions. We are a captive audience for each other to laugh and share.
Some of the best conversations my husband and I have ever had are on the road, while the kids are sleeping. Sharing our goals, visions, expectations, or funny things that have happened. Distraction free conversations are life to a relationship.
The flip side can be distraction free conversations with yourself. When I am sleep, husband listens to his choice of music (jazz) uninterrupted. When I drive and he sleeps, I actually prefer to turn the radio off and enjoy the silence. With two littles always on the move, I don’t always get to just enjoy the sound of quiet.
A family road trip can save money
There are always deals to be found on airfare. Even with the cheapest airfare, flying 4 people can be a budget breaker. According to GasBuddy, the 2,450 mile round trip driving to Orlando in our SUV would cost $285.00. Four round-trip tickets from Rochester (ROC) to Orlando (MCO) on Southwest airlines would cost about $1,500. Even if we stopped in a hotel overnight there and back for $200 a night, the total would still be less than half the cost of flying.
Our actual trip costs on a road trip to Disneyworld with a rented van for seven days (gas was cheaper).
- Gas: $225 Rental Van: $500 = Total $785
- Flying: $1500
Depending on where you live your numbers could look very different. When we lived in Maryland, we had access to three major aiports (BWI, Regan and Dulles). Flying from BWI to MCO on on a deal on Southwest would be as low as $1,000 for 4 people. Just so happens that flights from Rochester are some of the more expensive around. Also, I have a family member that works for a rental car company so when we do rent vehicles, it is at a big discount.
While driving might mean it takes longer to get there, for us a family road trip saves money.
Move at your own pace
For most of my career as a recruiter I traveled about 30% of the year, so I’m a fan of flying. But getting me, myself and I on a plane is way different than trying to wrangle up the Kent Krew. I like being able to move at my own pace, leave when we decide, and being able to stop and check out something new.
You can’t beat the speed of air travel, but we aren’t in a rush right now. Part of the joy of the journey is getting there. Choosing our own schedule is more relaxing. And, when the kids start bugging out, having meltdowns, can’t find “must-have” toy and what not, I’m not concerned about leaving late or missing a plane or train. With a special needs child, there are times when he may have a meltdown, anxiety attack or just need a moment. Being able to pull over and tend to his needs is comforting to us all. We do plan to introduce him to air travel at some point.
Being able to move at your own pace also means we get the chance to check out random things we find interesting. Perfect example, we were on the road traveling for the 4th of July from Washington, DC to Rochester, NY. We knew we’d miss the fireworks shows, but we figured somewhere along they way we’d see something pop up. Around 9:00 PM we were in Williamsport, PA when a show was fireworks show was starting. We pulled over into the parking lot of th eLittle Leauge Baseball Museum, got out the car and created a core memory. There we watched the fireworks from a cliff overlooking the city.
Learning Happens Everywhere
As a homeschool family, we embrace the philosophy that learning happens everywhere. You can create a road trip that will double as an educational experience, or you can just take the learning as it comes. Whatever works for you.
Learning isn’t limited to classroom and books. Your trip can include visitng historic locations and landmarks, museums or exploring nature as part of the learning however, just getting there can be a lesson too. On a road trip you can infuse geography, history, social studies and science into your time on the road. Listen to audio apps to learn a foreign language, study a map of where you will travel, and observe the scientific changes in nature. Driving through mountains, swerving through valleys, discovering different bodies of water, rock formations, clouds and weather patterns, all out the car window.
Doing some research about a location is a great way to prepare kids for what they might see, and get them excited about the trip. It’s cool to read and watch YouTube videos about Niagara Falls, but another to experience the force of nature in person. The same can be said for so many of God’s creations like the Grand Canyon, our many national parks and the oceans.
The life learning comes in the form of doing new things, stretching imaginations, shifting comfort zones, developing patience when it’s “taking forever” to get there, meeting different types of people and navigating new surroundings.
You can bring more stuff
Since we are now out of the diaper phase, packing is a much better. No longer require a diaper bag, portable high chaire, cooler for milk and so many other things babies and toddlers need. Since I breastfeed, we even travled with my Medela Breast Pump for a few years. Now, they kids carry their own bags!
My husband is a thrifter and Ebay resller. He can’t pass up a good thrift store, Salvation Army or Goodwill. So it is inevitable that we end up at least one thrift store while on the road. When he does discover something he wants, he doesn’t have to hesitate to get it because we can’t fit it in a carry on bag. I also get to shop a little less concerned with how we will get the items back home.
Time to hit the road
While driving might not be for everyone. There are long rides, car fights, and the occassional sick child who vomits after getting car sick. Long road trips are not all cupcakes and rainbows. They can be stressful and chaotic, but also fun and memorable. Since we live about 6 hours from some of our family, our kids have been taking trips since there were born. Don’t be intimidated!
Try a short trip a few hours from home to just get your feet wet first. Pick a location and do a short trips of just a few hours away. Decide if you will rent a car of drive your own. If you drive your own make sure you check all of your fluids, tires and brakes. We have a roadside assistance emergency kit that includes jumper cables and road side flares in case of emergency. Also, check your spare tire to make sure it is inflated and ready to be used, as well as your car jack.
Organize and understand what to pack for your car ride and your trip. For longer trips we carry a small cooler for water and juice boxes. We must have our portable DVD players or Amazon Kindle tablets along with the car chargers and ear phones. Also make sure to have phone charges and the dual charger that plugs into the car so we can charge multiple devices at one. We also keep in the car paper towels and wet wipes.
Whether it is a trip to grandma or a trip to the Grand Caynon, get out and experience the road!