Brad Mathias gives helpful hints on how to have a successful family road trip.
Whenever some of us consider a family road trip, we get a crazed image of a temporarily unhinged Chevy Chase loading up his dysfunctional wife and kids and piling into an old school station wagon to chug their way into the historical record of epic family disaster and misery…
It doesn’t have to be that way, just take a few minutes with your family to review and reflect and ask God together to direct your trip. He wants us to be together as families and a road trip is a great way to reconnect and refresh with our kids and our marriages! If you take some precautions.
Three considerations to a successful Family Road Trip Adventure…
1 – How long and how much do you have to work with?
How much time you have off of work or available to vacation is critical. You don’t want to drive all the way there and barely have enough time to snap some pics and upload your Facebook status before you have to redeye back to home, and then rush back to work or life exhausted and unable to enjoy the whole experience. It’s true, it is ALL about the journey, but the journey needs to be refreshing and planned enough to enjoy the luxury of pulling off the road to explore a really cool historical site or feed the kids' need to buy some trinkets at a tourist trap.
Money is an issue for us all, so planning realistically is important in reducing the stress on mom and dad and providing for the whole family to relax and enjoy the adventure together. Outline the budgets you have each day so the kids can help decide how you're going to spend it as a family. For instance, we often give our kids a vacation allowance (something they can work for in the months prior to your leaving by doing odd jobs around the house for extra cash…only we keep it until the trip so they don’t spend it), that money is for their trinkets and tourist souvenirs. We (mom and dad) don’t spend our money to get them another bag of the almost valuable pretty rocks in the fake leather pouch as a memento of their time.
Gas, hotel, meals and adventure money should all be calculated ahead of time so you can enjoy the options along the way without having to constantly wonder if it’s in the budget, or get tempted to use a credit card for an impulse buy. Usually $100.00 / day is good for miscellaneous fun stuff (go karts, tours, canoeing etc..) and $30.00 per person for meals + your gas estimate and a hotel on priceline is easy to grab for $75.00-$80.00 in any region. Combined, usually about $300.00 a day for a budget friendly escape. If you’re heading to a hot resort or national park, it can edge up from there, so call ahead for sure. Disney adventures are not for the faint of heart, especially with younger ones in the heat of summer (I warned you).
2- How far and how unique ?
I love to see NEW stuff, so I tend to drive further than others, up to 800-900 miles a day; but most folks have a 400-500 mile tolerance. I like two lane roads, most like four lane for faster travel. If you want to escape the city, head for the hills, ocean or mountains, I recommend no more than 10-12 hours to get to where your ultimately going. Longer than that can be a real drag.
For unique, I strongly endorse the US National park system. Their facilities and designated historic sites, forests and parks are always worth the trip. The biggies are Rocky Mountain National, Yosemite, Glacier, Olympic, Cascades, The Smokies, Mt Rushmore, Zion, Washington DC, Acadia, Sequoia and Redwoods…. all amazing, beautiful and life changing in scale and scope.
Think about a place that would interest and engage your family. Not just a place to drive through and snap a dozen pictures, but a place to explore. To hike, camp or swim in… a place to linger long enough to absorb the peace and power of God’s creation. It will seep gently into your heart and soul and revive you if you let it! Turn off the background noise, no work, no school, no distractions. Just you and nature and each other!
3- How old are your kids?
The younger your kids, the shorter your trip should usually be. And always (whenever available) stop only at hotels or locations with a functional swimming pool. They will love you for it! Be prepared to gear up with them and swim as long as they can stand it or until the pool hours expire!
As they get older, look for further and more historic destinations to explore and learn from, get adventurous. Try some semi-dangerous stuff. Rock climbing, whitewater rafting, alpine hikes in bear country. Giving your teens a chance to build their courage by overcoming their fears, and yours, is a HUGE opportunity not to be missed!
Bottom line. Get out of dodge… find the clear air and breathe deep of life. It’s essential for you, for your kids and for the health of the family. They need your full attention, ditch the mobile phone and ipads, it’s their time. If you have to bring work with you… DON'T GO. It will not work.
Peace out and good luck. Creation is calling and it’s time to immerse yourself in its restorative power!