At the start of this summer I was reminded how much I look forward to sounds and smells of season. The sweet aroma of freshly mowed grass, the symphonic melodies of the cicadas in the low-hanging oak trees and especially the warm feel of the bright sun on my face when I join my dog to hang my head out of the minivan window on the way to the grocery store.
It also reminds me that I only have five summers left with my girls. Just five more until they grow up and go off to college. Sure they will come back to visit, but we know it won’t be exactly the same. Until then, I plan to milk it for all it’s worth by taking my kids on an old-fashioned 3,500 mile road trip to make the most of these five fleeting summers.
Although my hubby and I may not be able to leave the girls a big fat inheritance or give them lots of fancy things right now, what we can give them are “experiences.” We can give them “us,” our time, our love and sweet, sweet memories. Best of all, we can do all cooped up in a minivan for “51 fun-filled hours” across the United States as we embark on an adventure of creating intentional family time, a closer bond and a shared exploration in the wonder of nature and culture.
This self-induced quality time also gives an opportunity to enjoy days of fun and adventure while really putting more focus on the family. It gives us time to really focus on our unit and organically create meaningful conversations without distractions.
Many of today’s kids are caught up in a world of over scheduling and electronics and are preoccupied with texting, cell phones, TV and computers. It’s important now more than ever for youngsters to take time to get “unplugged” from electronics and crazy paces that pull us away from our family and “reconnect” to their own personal development individually and collectively.
Perhaps experiencing a road trip yourself as a child, you understand the profound positive effects that still matter to you as an adult. Now, you know that you want the same thing for your own kids. That’s why family road trips can be more relevant today than ever, because they can help strengthen bonds and memories at the same time.
The following are just some of the many benefits of going on a family road trip adventure. You and your kids can:
10. Spend your day being physically active – Many children (and their parents) spend so much time these days inside and mostly sitting down. Road trips and exploring new sites provide a wonderful opportunity to move. Running, swimming, jumping, hiking, climbing!
9. Experience success and become more confident – Road trips and family travel can also help kids build self-confidence and self-esteem by removing the kind of academic, athletic and social competition that shapes their lives at school. Let the kids help read the map, pick out the restaurants, write food reviews or make decisions on what attractions you may visit. With its engaging activities and diverse opportunities to succeed, road trips can be a real boost for youngsters.
8. Gain resiliency – The kind of encouragement and nurture kids receive from parents on the road make it a great environment to endure setbacks or try new things - all of which can be growing experiences. How you handle a flat tire, a closed highway, getting lost and finding your way back again, are all great life lessons that can help your children learn how to conquer fears and deal with adversity.
7. Unplug from technology – When kids take a break from TV, cell phones and the Internet, they rediscover their creative powers and engage the real world— real people, real activities and real emotions. They realize there’s always plenty to do.
6. Develop life-long skills – Through family travel parents can provide the right instruction, equipment and facilities for kids to enhance their practical life abilities, their artistic talents and their adventure skills while on the road. The sheer variety of activities offered by visiting new places makes it easy for kids to discover and develop what they like to do.
5. Grow more independent – Taking a road trip is the perfect way for kids to practice making decisions for themselves without parents and teachers guiding every move. Managing their daily choices in a safe, caring environment, children welcome this as a freedom to blossom in new directions.
4. Have free time for unstructured play – Visiting attractions and spending time with mom and dad free from the overly-structured, overly-scheduled routines of home and school, life on the road gives children much needed free time to just play. Riding along in the minivan is a slice of carefree living where kids can relax, laugh and be silly all day long.
3. Learn social skills – Being confined to the car or minivan means joining a close-knit nomadic community where everyone must agree to cooperate and respect each other. When they live in close quarters whether it is in a hotel, cabin or campsite, kids share chores, resolve disagreements and see firsthand the importance of sincere communication.
2. Reconnect with nature – Taking a road trip and visiting the great outdoors is a wonderful antidote to “nature deficit disorder,” to the narrow experience of modern indoor life. Outdoor experience enriches kid’s perception of the world and supports healthy child development.
1. Reconnect with family – Free from the social expectations pressuring them at school, family travel time encourages kids to relax and open up and encourages rare intentional moments. The fun of the road trip draws you closer, builds a shared bond and creates fond memories that will last far beyond these precious fleeting summers.
Carla Meadows is a Oklahoma City native, wife and mother of two tweens and a loveable Golden Retriever who blogs about building intentional family moments through the wonders of travel at home and across the U.S. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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