Spontaneity and Road Trips

I’m not remotedly a spontaneous person. I don’t like to be surprised by changes of plans; I don’t like to have dinner plans switched on me; I rarely veer away from my basic planned lunches all week.

So it was with a bit of hesitancy that I swapped out the Redwoods vacation I’d been looking forward to this year with, instead, a road trip to Montana.

We always save up a little vacation money and take one 1-week vacation per year as a family. But it’s not a lot of money. I have to be creative. We usually opt for drivable places like Lake Tahoe or Yosemite (our two favorites), but we’ve done the Grand Canyon, San Diego, Carmel/Monterey, and some other really fun trips. I’m partial to state and national parks, and have a long list of ones I want to see. I plan these out like a travel agent on speed, and make sure every detail is covered. And I’ve had my Redwoods maps spread out across my den for some time, mapping the drive, looking for kid-friendly hotels, and pegging some Bigfoot museums for Nathan.

But ever since Ricky’s decision to become a University of Montana Grizzly (around May), I realized I might have to change things around. We would want to make a trip to see it anyway (and let all five of us see it, including the younger kids, so they could picture where their brother was going to be living). Plus Ricky needed to get to an orientation. Plus … ugh, they don’t have a lot of discount airfare there. And flying five people there is rather expensive. So — with some hestitancy — I decided to use our vacation money and make it part of our vacation.

I didn’t know if this was a good idea. I didn’t really know what to expect. I didn’t know if it would be a good vacation for the younger kids. We’d never taken that drive (Highway 15) past Vegas. I’d seen Utah once as a child, but I didn’t remember much about it. And, although Chris was actually born in Montana — along with his two older brothers — his dad was stationed elsewhere quickly after he was born, and he has no recollection of the region.

But — despite my feet-dragging, and despite my deep sighs at putting away my Redwoods maps — this “last minute” vacation turned out to be perfect.

Road trips are always fun and, from my experience, the more “spontaneous” ones always turn out to be the best, although I’m always slow to learn that). We tucked in a few side-trips to let everyone see something new: We we made a quick stop in Vegas because I thought the kids would get a kick out of that; we planned fun things for the younger kids to do while Ricky was busy at orientation (seeing some caverns, selecting a hotel with a water slide, etc.); I arranged a rendezvous with a friend (my former college roommate from Southern California!) who lives there now (because visiting with people on vacation is always a big part of good memories — have you noticed that?); and all-around we just kept an open mind. (Even me, Miss Not-Spontaneous.)

I realize that what it all comes down to is focusing on what your vacation is for. Some people might have the goal of total relaxation (beach, mai-tais, the whole deal); some might focus on learning (tours, museums, sight-seeing); some might simply need to be in a different environment from the every day. But for me, I realize the my main objective is to bring my family closer. All of our strongest memories are of pillow fights in hotels, strange restaurants in strange locations, laughter about something someone said in a sleepy haze as we all shared one vacation room, meeting up with friends and family in other states; and inside jokes that come from spending so much time together. It’s about the time spent so close, not so much the land around us.

So, despite the fact it wasn’t the vacation I’d originally planned, it turned out to be a terrific vacation. I’m sure it’ll last in all of our memories. …

(More on Montana in the next post.)

How about you? Have you ever turned a necessary trip into a spontaneous vacation with huge success?

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2 thoughts on “Spontaneity and Road Trips

  1. I love that you were able to “kill two birds with one stone”! I think it is great that you do one family vacation a year. It is so expensive to get 5 people somewhere, as you said, so your road trip plans are perfect! We used to go to Eastern Washington to play in the sun, camp, etc. just about every other weekend when the kids were younger – no big family vacations, but just getting away and having fun being silly, living in close quarters, playing on the water…that was great for us. Unfortunately, the kids stopped having time as they got older, jobs and plans with friends took over. I miss doing that, but those memories are priceless!

  2. Some of our best vacation were roadtrips. These were the days before the infamous christmas card, unfortunately :-). And I’m known for finding ‘fun’ in a business trip. When I was on the road all the time for work I would make a point at places that interested me of finding some ‘tourist’ thing to do, even if on occassion it meant staying an extra night. Granted they would’ve been more fun with Mark there, but the trips would’ve also been far less enjoyable if they were just about work. Good for you and your change in vacation plans!

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