by Mark Timm, CEO Ziglar Family
There are a few things that I always associate with summer: watermelon, fireflies (or lightening bugs for my southern friends), baseball, swimming in the lake, and our family road trips!
A few years ago, we set a family goal of taking a road trip around the country. All eight of us in an RV for more than six weeks – talk about togetherness!
At the time, our six children ranged in age from 11 to 17. We knew college would be coming soon for some of them, and we wanted to seize the opportunity to travel while we were all still together under one roof.
As a blended family, we wanted to take intentional action that would position our children to build family bonds. As anyone who has taken an RV trip across the country knows, there is no better way to do that!
There’s nowhere to run or hide. You have to figure out how to make it work. You have to be all in. And let me tell you, the trip was amazing. It accomplished the bond building purpose and then some!
We involved our children in the planning process for the trip from the very start. We posted a huge map of the United States on the wall and then asked each of them to choose a specific spot they wanted to visit along our general route.
We planned to drive from Indiana across the northern Untied States, all the way up to the state of Washington, then down to San Diego in southern California. Our return trip brought us back across the southern United States before returning up to Indiana.
We saw Mt. Rushmore, Yellowstone National Park, the Redwood National Forest, the San Diego Zoo, Hoover Dam, and the Grand Canyon. We even stopped at Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas, took a ghost tour in Albuquerque, paused at Graceland, and enjoyed the Fourth of July with friends at Stone Mountain near Atlanta, Georgia.
8,000 miles later, we accomplished our goal and it brought us all closer together.
You don’t have to go quite as big as we did to enjoy a family road trip this summer — in fact, that was pretty much a once-in-a-lifetime event for us, too. But even smaller road trips can be a ton of fun for your family, especially if everyone gets involved in the planning and execution of the trip.
Here are my top 4 tips to help your family plan a memorable road trip this summer:
It worked incredibly well for us to have the entire family sit down together with a map (digital or paper) and plot out our route. Encourage the kids to do some research about where you’ll be driving, and then allow each person to decide on at least one thing they’d like to do along the way. Obviously, with smaller kids who can’t do the research, you can give them a few options of possible activities and let them do the choosing
Allow ample time for stops
You’ll want to avoid rushing from point-A to point-B. Aside from small bladders needing breaks, you may find some points of interest that are worth checking-out but weren’t on your initial plan. Take the advice of a local or get off the highway at an unplanned exit and see what is to be found around the corner. We try to plan our days on the road with no more than 50% of it actually driving, and the rest taking breaks to explore the areas we’re traveling. I especially enjoy historical markers, which can make the trip educational as well as fun!
Plan for on-the-road entertainment
Teens are likely to have their own entertainment with electronics (though you may wish to limit that and encourage reading a book or playing a game), but with younger children there are some fun ways to keep them occupied while the miles roll along. Choose age-appropriate items including crayons or markers, pads of paper, games, small toys, and a few treats. For all ages of kids you might want to try a travel allowance, which allows kids to shop in gift stores and tourist traps without begging for money at every stop.
Break the mold
Vacation time needs to differ from everyday life. For one thing, it’s a time to slow down the hectic pace of school-year living. Be intentional about taking your time, not rushing to get to the next thing. Avoid eating at the chain restaurants that you can visit in your hometown at any time, and instead explore the regional fare at some mom-and-pop places. Make a point of speaking with the locals while you’re there!
I’m sure you and your family have found some creative ways to enjoy your summer travels, and I’d love to hear them! What other tips would you add to this list? Please share in the comments below, and happy travels!