We love to road trip, and I frequently get asked this question … Why travel in a car, especially with kids, when you can fly? I mean, who wants to cram a two-year-old into a car and drive for 22 hours?
Well, for several reasons, but mostly because there are so many more things you can see and stop to do along the way. There are definitely times when we fly but we generally prefer to hit the road.
Road trips allow more flexibility … the ability to change it up a bit.
And you can also happen upon amazing things you hadn’t even planned.
Driving through Indiana on our way to DC, my husband saw a sign for the Hoosier gym where my favorite movie, “Hoosiers,” was filmed. So we pulled off to see it. We took a tour and I even got to shoot baskets in the gym where Coach Norman Dale inspired those players on that legendary team.
We had another amazing opportunity to veer off our path when we saw a sign for the Flight 93 National Memorial near Shanksville, PA. I had no idea we would be anywhere near the site and it was a very emotional and memorable experience for me.
I am a planner, though, and I like to really research and make a schedule of what we’ll see and do, where we’ll go and when we’ll do it.
When I’m planning, I try to make sure every trip has these three things:
- Something educational/historical/cultural.
- Good, local food (I talk about this more in Road trips and food – what to pack and where to eat)
- Let the kids pick something fun they want to do.
Here’s an example … a few years ago, we planned a trip to Minnesota simply because it was one of the few states we hadn’t traveled to yet.
At the top of the list was the always popular family-vacation-destination, Mall of America. I personally would never plan a trip around shopping because I hate shopping (thank you, Amazon, and every other online shopping site I frequent). But it was someplace the kids wanted to experience. So I caved.
Before we got to the mall of all malls, however, there were other things to see and do (#1 – education/historical/cultural and #2 – good, local food).
On our way (we had been to a family reunion in Wyoming), we passed by the World’s Largest Holstein Cow in North Dakota (didn’t stop, but fun to see ).
Our first stop was the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum in Walnut Grove, MN, which includes both historical pieces and items from the TV series (we’ve read the “Little House on the Prairie” books, so this had been on our list of places to see for awhile). We made sure we also visited the Ingalls dugout site where Laura and her family lived along the banks of Plum Creek, a beautiful area surrounded by towering trees.
Once we arrived in Minneapolis, we had dinner at Victor’s 1959 Cafe, a cute little dive that serves oh-so-good Cuban food and that was featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives on Food Network. I loved the Picadillo a la Cubana. And ALL of the desserts.
We also took part of a day just to travel over to Wisconsin to eat some squeaky cheese (cheese curds) at Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery. Well worth the drive.
Upon our return to the Twin Cities, we took a tour of the Guthrie Theater and visited the Midtown Global Market, a diverse area of international food shops, art, jewelry, flowers and more.
And last but not least, we took on the mall.
The LEGO store was a hit with Hunter where he probably spent a couple of hours creating and building with other kids. There’s American Girl and Build-a-Bear. The Crayola Experience and the aquarium. And then the rides and characters at Nickelodeon Universe.
And for my enjoyment, Larry and I just happened to see a mall cop riding a Segway a la Paul Blart. Seriously. Best part of the day for me …
… and that the kids were exhausted …
And if we’re being real frank, not every moment of every road trip is going to be as perfect as you plan it. There’s going to be fighting in the backseat (and probably the front seats). There’s going to be frustrations and times to test your patience. But those times will be forgotten (mostly) and you’ll have made many great memories you and your children can reminisce about when they’re older.
And if you find yourself in the midst of your travels and it’s not going so well, just remember what Winston Churchill said: “If you are going through hell, keep going.”
It’ll make for a funny story.