As gas prices continue their downward turn nationwide, this summer is a great time to plan a family road trip.
I know a road trip can be stressful for some people—especially with young children who can't sit in a car—but we love them. My daughters are 12 and seven—a great age for car travel. And I find staring out the window watching the scenery nearly as relaxing as a massage. (I know, I know, what's wrong with me?)
My kids love that they're allowed to pick out junk food, games and music for the ride. While they might spend some time with their ears plugged to devices, we don't allow it for too long. To me, the whole point of the family road trip is to spend time with the family. So we'll listen to music, talk and play silly games.
We also like to stop a lot. I know I sound like a contestant on the bachelor, but the best part of the trip is the journey.
Two years ago, we took a family road trip from Los Angeles to the Grand Canyon. This 500-mile trek is about a ten hour drive, which would have seemed impossible a few years earlier. (When Jackie was a toddler, she hated being in the car for more than five minutes and once proclaimed that the 101 Freeway gave her headaches).
Before we had children, my husband and I probably would just driven aimlessly to our destination, stopping when something looked interesting. But with kids, you really can't be as serendipitous. So we researched and mapped out a bunch of stops before we left. We spent the night in Needles, a small city in the Mojave Desert on the western banks of the Colorado River. The kids still talk about driving into the middle of the desert at night, standing by the car and watching shooting stars, planets and some unidentified flying objects.
The next day we drove along Route 66 and stopped in every town possible. We talked to shop owners who swore they had alien encounters. We took photos next to UFOs. We stopped in Seligman, Arizona, and ate at the Delgadillo's Snow Cap Drive-in, where the waitress who took our order of burgers and shakes, squirted the girls with fake mustard (it was actually just a long yellow string that came out of the bottled). We discovered later on that John Lasseter, the director of the Pixar film, Cars, loosely based Radiator Springs on Seligman.
In the early evening, we arrived at our destination, the Grand Canyon.
Two years later, the girls still talk about that vacation. But the funny thing is, they rarely mention the natural wonder that is the Grand Canyon, instead the talk about the alien abductions and delicious milk shakes and the lady who squirted them with mustard.