We’re hitting the road this week. The dad of the family has a conference in Indiana, and we’ve decided to road-trip along with him. We’ve made the trek into a family history/U.S. history research trip, and we are so excited to be off-schedule for a while and visit new places in late spring while the weather is nice. (It has already hit the triple-digits here in Arizona. Ugh, already.)
Two years ago we made our first cross-country trip in a minivan with three kids (then 7, 3, and almost-2), traveling from Phoenix to St. Petersburg, Florida. Other than the dearth of excitement in West Texas, it was a great trip. We listened to our bodies and to the kids to know when we needed a break, and made good use of refueling and lunch stops. We ate from our “food box,” so at least one meal per day was a picnic at a local or national park. (We take our National Parks seriously.) As we traveled, if the kids needed to stop and wiggle, we stopped. If we saw an interesting roadside attraction, we visited it. We played with cousins in Houston, ate beignets in New Orleans, swam in the Gulf of Mexico on a stunningly beautiful beach in Destin, and visited Winter the dolphin in Clearwater.
We kept a map of our route and traced each day’s progress with the kids. Our destination was St.Pete, but we had little plans to do other things along the way so each day had something to look forward to.
In high school I made a goal of visiting all 50 states. It’s not an easy concept out here in the West. I can drive for four or five hours and not make it out of Arizona. (Don’t even get me started on Texas.) When I moved to the Washington, D.C. area after college the goal suddenly seemed feasible. I could go north from Arlington, Virginia, where I lived, and knock out four states, not including Virginia or the District, in that amount of time. My husband’s family is from Florida, so we took the I-95 trip south from D.C. several times in the 9 years we lived there, including delightful stays in Charleston, Savannah, and North Carolina’s Outer Banks.
So as I’ve continued to check visits to different states off my list, I’ve started recording our travel for my kids, too, hoping that they’ll have the same goal eventually. Before we set off for trips to Colorado and Florida in 2013, I created a “passport” for each of my kids.
Each page has the name of a state at the top. (They’re in alphabetical order for ease in finding them when traveling.) I put each kid’s photo inside the front cover and had them each sign their name. (Super legible when you’re not yet 2.) Whenever we stopped and got out of the car, we grabbed the bag of passports and carried it with us. When we had a moment — waiting for our food at a restuarant, playing in a park, whatever — we got the passports out and wrote down the city we were in and the date, and then the kids stamped that page of their book.
Another awesome benefit to this that I didn’t even anticipate is that the National Parks Service (serious nerds over here, folks) has put out their own National Parks Passport, so as we visit those, they have their own stamp we can log in our passports. Of course we also bought one of their passports, so there’s just hours of stamping fun whenever we get out of the car.
This year I found these great printable stickers we can use. Super nice because they’re the perfect size to use with a 1″ hole punch. Each kid will get a set that we’ll keep with their passports, for this trip and future trips.
The kids love all the stamping and stickering, of course, but I hope that they will be glad to have this record of the places they’ve been and the things they’ve seen. We have our family photo albums, but this is a fun way for the kids to record their travel and when they visited each place.
And hopefully someday they’ll each have an international passport, too, and I’ll get to watch as they explore the world and fill their books with even more stamps.