Making It A Journey To Remember
Memories That Linger On
Every summer of my childhood, virtually without fail, there was a family vacation. Typically, they were extended family vacations – not just my parents and my brother and me, but also a grandmother, an aunt, and sometimes a niece as well. We loaded up the car and headed to the Great Smoky Mountains. The next week was spent laughing, hiking, shopping, swimming, and eating. These family vacations were a highlight of our year, and they still leave me with some of my fondest memories of childhood.
Naturally, when I got married and started my own family, we had discussions about our ideas of a nice family vacation. We ended up doing something very reminiscent of my childhood: loading up in a big van, and heading out to the same destination every year. We laughed and hiked, read and talked, and spent a week together, bonding and growing as a family. Even though my kids are all still fairly young, some of my dearest memories are from those days of vacationing together.
I learned a lot on my vacations, both as an eldest son and as a father.
Something a Little Different
When we think of “traditional” summer vacations, what comes to mind? For many of us, we immediately think of the destination. We remember laughing and splashing in the pool, walks on the beach at sundown, or some other thing we did after we’d reached the place we’d chosen to spend our vacation time with the family. We remember those postcard moments that we capture on film, for posterity’s sake.
As we prepare for our vacations this summer, I have another thought to throw into the mix of possibilities — traveling with our children. Of course, we love having fun together once we’re on the beach, but how often do we actually consider the journey to be part of the fun?
Typically, we have no choice; we are in a car together for some number of hours, traveling to that magical place we’ve been preparing for all year. Once we get there, most of us will spend our time busy. We’ll spend time together, and we’ll have a wonderful time. But that time we spend traveling, if we can make the most of it, can be some of the most precious time of the summer.
How? I remember the peals of laughter as we joined together as a family to tease my mother about her propensity to hurry through red lights. People have invented dozens of games for playing in the car, from the classics “I Spy” and “License Plate Game” to newer games like “Road Trip Bingo.” Stop at random places, eat new foods, or buy cheap souvenirs for a family vacation scrapbook. Be silly together. Letting our kids relate to us as enjoyable human beings is wonderful for our relationship with them. We’re always the adult and the parent, but we don’t always have to remind them of that!
When we’re in the car, headed toward that marvelous vacation destination, let’s try to remember that the trip can also be part of the fun.
Mini Vacations for Everyone
As a last note for making the most of our vacationing time as a family, a few thoughts: Not every vacation has to be in the summer, and not every vacation has to be a giant production. When we can’t make that summer dream vacation a reality, for whatever reason, we don’t have to give up hope!
Summer immediately comes to mind when we think of “vacation,” but not all vacations need be in the summer. There is always a trip to the mountains for snow, or an off-season visit to some other major attraction. Some of the best vacations I’ve had with my kids involved driving a little north in the fall, enjoying the beauty of the changing leaves, and exploring a place together that none of us really know.
Another vacationing idea involves scale — not everything has to be big to make a big impact. There are a lot of great things to do in and around Mississippi that make for a great weekend getaway for the family. Our beaches are lovely in the summer; a day trip to Ship Island is an amazing ocean/island adventure for adults and kids alike. Towns like Vicksburg, Natchez, and Ocean Springs offer history and beauty for everyone; every small town has a fair, and all is just a short drive away. These types of mini-vacations are quick to plan, easy on the pocket, and can be brought out like a present of surprise fun for everyone.
Most of All, Enjoy Your Loved Ones
No matter what type of vacation you have in mind for this summer, remember how precious this time with your family is. Transform travel into quality bonding time — kick back, relax, and fill your days with wonderful memories that will stay with your children the rest of their lives.
Matthew E. Jackson is an author, an avid reader, and the father of five children. He also works in advertising, loves to travel, and maintains a blog of book reviews.