One of the blessings of military life is that, after eight addresses and six duty stations in 12 years, we’ve gotten the privilege of living in almost every region of the country. Which means we’ve had the privilege of EXPLORING almost every region of the country. (Northeast, we promise to visit you someday!)
And now that we’re stationed in the South, we have wasted no time tasting the sweet tea in every county and taking day trips to the beach, the mountains and every cute li’l town in between (because here in the South, besides embracing summer temperatures that rival H-E-double hockey sticks, we shorten words like “little” and turn one syllable words into seven) as we enjoy everything this area has to offer.
Why we love day trips:
1. They provide opportunities for spontaneity. Spontaneity actually gives me a heart attack (unless I post “time for spontaneity” on my color-coded calendar), but the superheroes in this league somehow find it fun. And since day trips don’t require much planning, packing or plotting (or most times, reservations), they can be the kind of wake-up-in-the-morning-and-run-out-the-door adventures that every kid loves.
2. They’re inexpensive. We use Supersoldier’s Prius like a clown car and squeeze the entire team and all their carseats into a space the size of a groundhog hole. And then, instead of paying to fill the tank in a vehicle that gets 24 miles to the gallon (mine), we spend $16 on the gas for the entire day. We pack our lunches, bring water bottles from home and almost always head to a destination that is free of charge. (If it’s not free, we always check the post ITR or travel office first to see if we can utilize our military discount. We have no shame when it comes to taking advantage of Supersoldier’s active duty status to save a few bucks. He’s paid for those coupons in deployments. We’ll exploit on.) This brings the total for an entire day of family fun to exactly $16 in gas (possibly $21 after adding in the $5 for the bottle of Motrin that may be required after listening to superheroes fight over who is breathing whose air in the back seat of a car where they can’t help but all touch).
3. They provide time for important musical introductions. As we road trip, we simultaneously take trips down music memory lane. We force our backseat superheroes to jive and pretend to love the music from our formative years. And when they don’t tell us that Boyz II Men is the coolest band they’ve ever heard, we just play that music louder. (Sidenote: Don’t be shocked if those songs you memorized to look cool when on the dance floor of all those middle school mixers actually include very inappropriate lyrics that you would never allow YOUR children to hear. Also, “MMMBop” is spelled just like it sounds.)
4. They offer flexibility. So when we drive down the Alcan Highway in Alaska and in the same day experience a near-avalanche and a cattle drive right down the middle of the road, we can stop, take pictures and awe at the things that only Alaskans consider normal. Sometimes, the journey IS the destination.
5. They build the memory bank. We get 940 Saturdays with these superheroes from the time they’re born until the time they’re 18. Supersoldier, with his military schedule, may get about half of that. Although not every Saturday will be a party (and because we don’t want to set these kids up for failure, we don’t WANT it to be!), we also don’t want to waste a moment laughing with, investing in and building relationship with these little people God has entrusted to our care for such a limited time. And one of our favorite ways to do that so far has been in stealing them away from the distractions of life — from THEIR distractions, from OUR distractions — unplugging, and spending a day experiencing something new TOGETHER.
These are the memories that build the relationships that serve as the bridges for future hard conversations. And if it takes a few non-Brady-Bunch hours in the car and some salty eyes at the beach, these days trips are worth their weight in gold for the investment they make in the “family” bank.
Want to make prepping for road trips faster and easier for your superhero league?
Download this free day trip packing list, a gift from your overly scheduled, completely list-ified, non-spontaneous, road-tripping mama friend!
FYI: When you keep this bag packed and ready to go on any given Saturday, spontaneity becomes less scary.