Travel is expensive. With a family, it can be even more expensive. Vacations should be relaxing, a time to get away from the stress of day-to-day life and enjoy your travel companions. The best vacation is the one you enjoy. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive, just well-thought-out and fun.
My favorite way to travel is by car. I loathe the stress of airports. The security checks, the relentless noise, the horrible food and being at the mercy of flight delays drives me insane. Whatever relaxation I gain from the vacation is decimated by the return trip. I love to fly, but airline scheduling and the TSA make driving much more attractive.
The great American road trip is a classic for a reason. A long car ride fosters a camaraderie that we often lack in our technologically dependent, disconnected world. There is time to chat, time to be silly, time to bond. The freedom of the open road gives you the opportunity to find hidden gems such as farm fresh roadside stands and unique local cafes.
Years ago while chatting with a woman from London, she commented on how “vast” America is. I’d never really thought about it in that context, but she was right. We have a beautiful and diverse nation that is best seen and experienced on our amazing interstates and back roads.
Some of my fondest childhood memories are from family car trips: stopping at a roadside stand for boiled peanuts in Mississippi; fresh clams in Massachusetts; seeing rockets in Alabama and black bears in the Smokey Mountains. I can’t wait to share these things with my children. I’m looking forward to expanding our car games from “I spy” to various varieties of road trip “bingo.” I fully expect a chorus of “are we there yet?” and “I’m bored,” but I hope they’ll appreciate the simple joy of a road trip.
Besides the social and psychological benefits, road trips can be very affordable. In your own car, you are in charge. You can explore close to home or cross country. You are on your own schedule. You can stop at mom and pop restaurants along the way or save time and money and pack a cooler of snacks. You can stay in kitschy roadside motels, camp out or stay in a high-end chain hotel. All of those options have their charms, but when we arrive at our destination, I prefer to rent an apartment or house.
I like having the comforts of a home while traveling. It costs much less than a hotel and there is a living area for spending time together and a real kitchen for cooking together. I know some people can’t bear the thought of cooking while on vacation, but I enjoy it. Cooking with my family is fun. The daily deluge of go, go, go, leaves me hungry for leisurely meal preparation. Cooking with local delicacies is one more way to experience the local. French toast made with the bread in New Orleans can’t be beat. Cooking the clams my family gathered in the Outer Banks was unforgettable. Both were also very cost efficient.
Saving while traveling takes some thought, but it can improve a trip instead of taking away from it. Just by cooking breakfast instead of ordering room service or going out to a restaurant, you can save a considerable amount over the course of a few days. Bringing a cooler with drinks can save a ridiculous amount. A case of bottled water can cost $4 while at a gas station or airport a single bottle can cost $3-4.
A road trip may not be your first thought when planning a vacation, but it is an affordable and fun way to spend real quality time with your family. There are dozens of websites, apps and books dedicated to road trips and vacation home rentals. Revive the road trip and have an unforgettable, affordable family vacation.