Thinking of taking a family vacation by car this year so you can go antiquing along the way? Getting there is half the fun — or at least half the story you and the kids remember (complain about?) years later. Below are 10 tips for creating a great family road trip — with a heavy emphasis on journaling or scrapbooking to preserve your memories.
A quick word about my emphasis on actively collecting souvenirs and journaling (or blogging) during the trip: It’s an excellent way to provide each member of the family with some much-needed “down time” and individual attention. It slows things down, allows events to be savored more “in the moment, “which makes for much better memory building and sharing later.
1. If you have a destination in mind, a place where you’ll be spending some time, call ahead. Not only for a guaranteed hotel or motel reservation, but for antiquing too. Search online and through your saved booklets, fliers, and antiquing publications for antique shops and malls in the area you’ll be visiting. Call to snailmail to verify hours and dates open (some smaller shops may be closed for their own vacation time) and ask them for a list of other shops in the area. (This can be done with any attraction or shopping plans.)
2. Road trip music. Yes, each kid over the age of four will have his and her own individual Mp3 player or other gadget, but I’m talking about shared music for sing-a-longs. Make a “family mixed tape” with each member of the family suggesting a handful of songs to be burned or downloaded to the compilation audio. (I heartily recommend including some Three Dog Night and folk music!)
3. Along with your usual antiquing gear, make sure you have all chargers, cords, memory cards, etc. for your cell phones, digital cameras, laptops, audio players, etc. packed.
4. But don’t only count on your gadgets. You’ll hit places without cell phone service to upload photos, no WiFi spots for travel blogging from the road, etc. So bring along pads of paper or — even better — a few of those blank journals for the family to write diary entries in. Not only is this a way to record in the moment, but you’ll have paper pages for scrapbooking — and nothing beats the feeling of sitting down together and turning the pages to share the memories. Plus you’ll have another family project for when you return home.
5. You’ll want to take photos — lots of photos. Having a few of those disposable film cameras is also nice. Not only as a backup for technology issues, but waiting for the film to be developed and gathering to share the photos is fun too. Plus, younger children you don’t wish to entrust with the care of expensive gadgets can still carry around a camera to take pictures with.
6. Don’t only rely only on GPS; bring actual maps. You can more readily see your options, your spouse or navigator in the shotgun seat can more easily assist you, and paper never hits zones without service bars *wink* Plus, you can mark maps with your own notes and include those pages or panels in your scrapbook. (Including an angrily circled “got lost here!” lol) And isn’t the whole point of vacation to take those roads not traveled?
But Keep It Flexible:
7. Include plenty of time for spontaneous stops. When kids have had enough of each other and the close quarters, take a pit stop to stretch your legs, get some fresh air, or enjoy a roadside treat. Keep whiny and sullen kids entertained by looking ahead on the map to help make decisions or rock picking (especially if you have a rock polisher!).
Even if this means you end up with a destination much closer to home, you’ll all have more fun if your pace and agenda is more relaxed.
8. Speaking of spontaneous souvenir hunts… Challenge or inspire the whole family to collect souvenirs for your travel scrapbook. Along with taking photos, have family members snap-up promotional pieces like brochures and place mats from the places you visited. (Multiple copies are a good idea.)
Other souvenir possibilities can be handmade, such as doodling the huge roadside Paul Bunyan statue, sketching every breakfast, or handwriting a diary page of the silliest things said that day.
9. Take as many of the smaller roads as you can, go through as many smaller cities as you can. Not only is the scenery more beautiful, the speed limits lower (resulting in better gas millage and increased safety), but here’s where you’ll find all the fun — and old — roadside attractions. Don’t fear that this will limit your antique shopping; many of the smaller towns do have antique shops. Heck, you’ll even be able to find local flea markets, farmers markets and even rummage sales this way!
As history-loving’ geeks, we find winding your way through smaller towns also means quaint and interesting local historical societies often many of these are free to visit or have a very small suggested donation. (Note: Purchasing postcards from historical society museums and small attractions helps support them — and your family’s journal of your trip!)
10. Always bring swimsuits. Even if you don’t plan on swimming, it never fails that there will be swimming or some water attraction along the way. Don’t dampen the fun; make sure everyone brings a swimsuit along. And mom, remember those towels!
Scan from a page in one of my vintage scrapbooks (crayon and ephemera glued in).
Map image via Antiquips.
Photo of travel ephemera, also courtesy of Antiquips.
Another scan of hand-drawn colored page from a vintage scrapbook I’ve collected.
PS I was going to write about this all in spring, when travel is more likely on the horizon, but then I read this travel tip discussion (and contest) at TwitterMoms.