When my husband first suggested we make our summer trip to my in laws lake house in Michigan by car, I thought he had lost his mind. 21 hours on the road with twin two year olds and a seven year old didn’t sound like much of a vacation. He kept talking about how much fun it would be and, at first, I just couldn’t see it.
We began our research and although a plane ride would have actually been a little cheaper (no hotels, gas, endless stops for food/snacks), when I started to think about the sheer amount of stuff it takes us to go anywhere, the car ride started to seem more appealing then lugging all the things we need to be away for a two week trip. We also had a family wedding in Illinois so we decided to make the two trips work together by combing them into the same trip.
Once I agreed, my husband got to work on planning the trip and mapping out all of our stops along the way. We agreed on two hotel stops on our way up and two on our way back but we kept it flexible and planned on staying a third night each way there and back if we needed it, which we didn’t end up needing either time. As the trip grew closer, his excitement and the excitement from our seven year old rubbed off on me and I was ready for the adventure too.
I made check lists of all we needed, cleaned the house like crazy and packed everyone’s bags. I packed additional backpacks for each of the kids filled with books, toys and activities to keep them busy. I stuffed some extras in my own bag for when they needed something new and packed movies for the DVD player in the van (this trip solidified my immense love for my Honda Odyssey but that’s a whole other post on it’s own) and we hit the road on a trip I know for sure my husband and I and our oldest daughter will always remember.
It was a long trip but the stops we planned kept us busy and we stopped any time we needed to along the way for meals, snacks and just to get out and stretch. My husband and I had low expectations in terms of arriving at certain times or how many stops we would need and that kept us for getting frustrated. The kids did incredibly well and I was honestly surprised by what troopers they were. Where there tears at some points? Of course. Did our oldest ask us if we were there yet? Absolutely. But overall being on the road wasn’t as bad as I had imagined. We sung a lot of songs (The Greatest Showman a clear winner), talked a lot and I was able to read three books on the trip. As a total book nerd, that alone was enough to make me enjoy the long stretches on the road.
What I think I loved the most about this trip is that it felt like old fashion family fun in so many ways. Sure the kids watched some movies in the van which is a luxury we didn’t have growing up, but beyond that, technology wasn’t a part of our vacation. Our stop at Cumberland Falls State Park in Kentucky will always be one of my fondest memories from this road trip because it felt the vacations I took as a kid myself. We enjoyed being outside and caught lightning bugs, we stayed in the lodge that was no frills and rustic but the sights were beautiful and the kids were so happy there. As we ate breakfast we were on the hilltop overlooking the Cumberland River and the kids saw a beaver, which to them was like hitting the jackpot. It was simple, nothing fancy, and I think they had the most fun at that stop because it allowed them to just be kids and appreciate nature in a way we sometimes forget to do back home.
We live in a time when we are all so used to instant gratification and a road trip certainly is a practice of waiting and patience, not just for the kids but for the adults too. There were times my husband and I were ready to be off the road but we truly did make the best of it. Having the kids look out the window for animals was a surprisingly easy activity they enjoyed. Our son somehow saw zebras everywhere we went which kept us all laughing! Without a doubt I am happy my husband encouraged me to take the road trip because it connected us as a family and allowed for us to have time with our kids that was truly focused solely on us enjoying each other as a family unit. So if you are contemplating a summer road trip this year, I say go for it. Load up the car with all the snacks, books and activities you can fit and hit the road. Keep your expectations low and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at just how much fun you’ll have along the way.