Weekly Column: On the road again

©Stephenie Freeman

Maybe it’s the economy. Maybe it’s the high cost of airline tickets. Maybe it’s nothing more than a good excuse not to spend a week with your mother-in-law. Whatever the reason, more and more families are choosing to forgo exotic summer vacations to places like Hawaii and Disneyworld for something called a “staycation.”

“Staycation” is the new phrase created to convince the masses that it is perfectly acceptable to vacation within the boundaries of your own city. It’s a nice idea; stay home, save money, and explore the local wonders.

But for those of us that stay at home on a regular basis, those of us for whom the word “stay” defines who we are and what we do, vacationing in our own backyard simply isn’t a vacation.

This summer my family of four has decided to take a road trip; the kind of traditional, wholesome, family vacation where the traveling is just as much a part of the vacation as is the destination itself.

So with the enthusiasm of Clark W. Griswold we are loading up the family truckster with plenty of Wet Wipes and Dramamine and are heading out to explore the country, determined to show our kids how much fun it is to see the world from a backseat car window.

I’m not sure why I am so determined, but whatever the reason I am convinced that this road trip will produce better vacation memories than any airplane-flying, resort-visiting vacation ever could. Ironically, the only memories that I have of family road trips are terrible ones. I have a strong memory of wetting my pants while traveling through the Grand Canyon and another memory of our family truckster’s air conditioning going out somewhere on I-40 in the middle of the Mojave Desert.

Why I would ever want to go on another road trip is anybody’s guess.

Not wanting to repeat history, I’ve tried my best to plan ahead. I’ve tried to anticipate every whine and complaint that the kids are sure to come up with during our drive. The DVD player is charged and some candy is stashed throughout the car in strategic locations. I even bought a new movie and a few coloring books that are waiting in their car seats as a road trip surprise.

And if all of that wasn’t enough, I have one more trick up my vacationing sleeve.

A friend of mine told me about a trick to get your children to behave while traveling. The idea is simple. Give each child a baggie filled with ten dollars worth of quarters. Every time that one of them acts up or misbehaves, they have to hand over one of their quarters. Whatever they have left over in their baggies they are allowed to spend on souvenirs during the trip.

Nothing like the promise of useless gift shop junk to bring out the best in your little traveler.
I’m willing to try anything, especially when it comes to avoiding disasters, and have already raided the Golfer’s pocket change. Now I can only pray that my children don’t beat each other to death with their bags of quarters in the backseat.

By the time you pay for snacks, gas, and entertainment for the road, by the time you lose all of your patience and your marbles, I’m not sure that taking a road trip is any cheaper than flying.

Maybe flying would get us there faster. Maybe paying extra for baggage would be worth it in the end. Maybe taking a road trip will produce more negative memories than positive ones.

But at least on a road trip when you have to turn around to yell at your kids for throwing ten dollars worth of quarters, there isn’t an airplane full of people staring at you.


  1. Dina

    Here's an idea we used to do: Before the trip, I'd buy little gifts for each child — usually something they could do on the road or in the hotel room, etc. I gift wrapped each gift, sometimes in just a small brown paper bag with a string— and every few miles or every town or every other town or whatever you decide, the child would get to open that gift. It gave my FOUR kids something to look forward to as they managed to say a little busy between each gift. Happy Trails!

  2. jjofar

    we just rolled in tonight from a rode trip WITH my mother-in-law and my 3 little boys (7,4,1). it was fabulous!! we began our trip at 4am, loading the kids while sleeping, in order to cut down on the 'are we there yets?'. we had a 10 hour drive and loved every minute of it!!!! on the way home we split the drive and stayed overnight half way. they thought that was fun. this may be cheating, but dvd's and nintentoDS helped 🙂 have a great time!

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