It is summer and that means that families are on the move. As a kid, I had the fortune of traveling every summer to visit my family. One summer would be spent going to Italy and spending it in Naples, Italy. The next summer, my mother would take my brother and I on a cross-country road trip to visit my grandparents in Mississippi and along the way, she would chart out many adventures for us. These two destinations could not have been more different. These experiences were very special to me and they continue to make their mark on my life even as an adult.
My parents met in Italy when my Dad was stationed there while in the Navy and when I was 3, we moved to the USA. The fact is, my parents came from two different worlds and settled in a new world together. They were both far from their homes and the annual family vacation was about connecting with their roots rather than going to Disneyworld. Visiting grandparents is always a very special moment and being able to explore their cultures and their experiences is even better. When we were little visiting our family in Italy, we spent time in the city doing city things and then we would spend several weeks camping Italian style along the Amalfi coast. When visiting my grandparents in Mississippi, we were working in my grandmother's store, or riding tractors, fishing, anything outdoors basically. We never even asked to go to Disneyworld because our summers were packed with awesome adventures.
When I was a kid, it was very common to pack your family up in a car and drive long distances because air travel was still out of the question for many families. Today, it feels like if you have to drive more than 3 hours with young kids, then families prefer to fly which makes me think that we are losing the love and art of the family road trip. The Art of the Road trip is simple; have a plan as to where you will be sleeping, pack your food (keep it simple), be open to changing schedules / take rest stops, love your GPS and have some entertainment for along the way. My mom made sure we had a pool at every HolidayInn that we stayed at and that we had plenty of beach stops where possible. We had the opportunity to learn about our country and history with my mom who was still new to this country and was learning about it herself.
After many months of discussion and planning, I decided it was a good time for me to take my kids on their first long distance road trip. My husband, who is NOT a traveler at heart, could not join on this adventure and my mother had no desire since she had been there, done that. So it was going to be me and my 3 and 5 year old on the road to Mississippi for 9 days (NJ - MS is 21 hours straight! yikes) No problem for me because with careful planning and a very well organized system, my kids and I were not only going to survive this, we were going to have a blast. And a blast we did. We saw places that I would otherwise never go to (I mean these are not on my travel lists) and my kids loved hotel living.
When we finally got to my grandparents home, they had an all new set of adventures by being in a very rural environment and enjoying a sense of freedom that they could not have up here. On our way back, I squeezed in a visit with my grad school buddy in DC and our kids both shared a new adventure. The last day of our road trip was spent in DC and my husband took the train in and spent the day with us. At this point, the kids had enough of me and my husband was pretty much the man for the day. I was ok with it! In the end, we were all exhausted but it was a terrific feeling.
This road trip was awesome and everyone keeps telling me how brave I was but honestly it was a natural thing for me to do. My little ones were on their best behavior and yes, thank god for iPads! So if you are contemplating a road trip, go the distance! Your kids will love it!!!