For weeks now, you have scrolled through your social media feed of summer vacation photos at their annual beach trip or on the long-awaited Disney excursion. Maybe for you, a well-planned, far away vacation wasn’t in the cards this year. Instead of planning trips, you have been trying to beat the heat at home in north Texas, looking for ways in our metroplex to entertain and educate the kiddos.
It may be that you are in a different season of life this summer and not able to get away from your daily routine. You may have a newborn or young child(ren) who make travel more complicated and cumbersome. You or your loved ones may have health challenges that make getting away difficult. Maybe this summer it is hard to afford a little time away — in vacation days from work, not to mention from a financial perspective. And, planning a vacation can be overwhelming: Where to go and how to budget and what to do to keep everyone happy is exhausting. Or, if you have a large family or busy children or blended families, planning a vacation takes a lot of effort to get off the ground. Sometimes, it is easier to stay home.
And yet, getting away from home, even for a day, can offer new perspective and build lasting memories. Finding a new place to discover as a family can be fun and rewarding, and it does not have to take months of planning or spending hundreds of dollars to step out and explore a new place. Adventure is a space of curiosity and flexibility more than being in a particular destination or on an elaborate trip.
Plus, children of all ages enjoy a change of scenery. Articles abound on the Internet about how childhood vacations foster happiness as children recall the togetherness of a family trip and the memories associated with the time away. Some of my favorite childhood memories were simple day trips to Waco or across the Texas border to neighboring Oklahoma or Arkansas for a weekend.
My childhood memories must have inspired a spontaneous trip with my own family about a year ago. Our lives are fairly calendared most of the time (admittedly, including our vacations), and we came across an unexpected weekend of no scheduled activities. We decided that day to jump in the car and drive to Oklahoma City, a place none of us had ever visited. We had a very affordable weekend getaway: a free state capitol tour, a visit to the outdoor part of the Federal Building bombing, a walk on the riverfront, and a stroll through botanical gardens. The hotel stay alone excited my kids (kids love hotels, don’t they?!), and they enjoyed the hotel continental breakfast way more than if I had made them breakfast from scratch at home.
On our way back, we saw a billboard that advertised a toy museum in a super small town that we might have missed if we were sticking to the plan. To this day, we reminisce about that trip and the memories we have from it (including how we had to go shoe shopping once we got there because we left in such a hurry my son forgot his shoes!).
Don’t wait for an elaborate adventure this summer — every place and any place can be an adventure! Find a fun ice cream store in a nearby Texas town and drive there. Look for a farmer’s market where you can buy your produce for the next week. Your photos may not have the iconic background of the Cinderella castle or the ocean waves, but they will have the smiles and the shared recollection of time spent together, no matter where you are.
Of course, the advantage of spontaneous travel today is that dozens of apps make it easier to do a little last-minute travel, whether you want to search for cheap airline deals or discounted same-day hotel reservations. If you are driving, you can find attractions off the beaten path or hikes and walks you may have not considered. For example, I found the Oklahoma City Moms Blog and posted there for suggestions of things to do with kids. Get creative and surrender the need to schedule everything. Let go of unrealistic expectations for the “perfect trip” or unrealized dreams for what you imagined your summer would be. Enjoy the gift of spontaneous travel and the treasure of memories that will far outlive the trip. Bon voyage!