Why Family Road Trips Are Worth It

As you know, our family took another cross country road trip this summer. If you have little ones and have taken an extended road trip, you know what a big endeavor a road trip can be. I’m so eager to share more about the meet and greet pop up shoppes, and the special people we’ve made memories with along the way. We’re still on the road (and grateful for my team holding down the fort at GraceLaced Shoppe), but hope to share some pics soon. 

Today, at The Better Mom, I’m sharing about why we choose to take long road trips with our six children, what unexpected blessings can come as a result, and why it’s really quite worth it.  Join me there today

The Spectacle of Traveling with A Large Family and What I Learned From My Boys On Our Road Trip

Sometimes folks are subtle, and whisper across the table. And sometimes they unabashedly stare and point at what seems perfectly normal to me, but outrageous to so many onlookers: a family with six young boys. Throw in the novelty, I suppose, of us being a mixed race couple (with super cute hapa babies!) and the comments and questions seem endless. 

And while this is a natural daily occurrence at the grocery store, the playground, the mall, or pretty much anywhere we go as a family, nothing compared to the amount of curiosity we experienced while on vacation these last two weeks.

It was as if many of the couples and families on vacation in Orlando, New Orleans, and all the other cities we passed through all had the same (sometimes unspoken) questions for us:

Are all those boys yours? And if so, did you really choose to take a vacation with all of them?

My favorite of all the questions asked of us was when one older gentleman in an elevator with Troy and the boys, tried to make sense of the number of kids and the ethnicity, and stepped out of the elevator asking,

“Are you all a Christian organization?”

It really never bothers me when people ask in disbelief, because to be honest, I’m just as shocked as they are. I’m the most unlikely mother I know. I planned on having 2 kids, tops. And I only imagined having girls. So, yes. I empathize with folks who simply can’t get over why we have six boys, and why we’d travel 4000 miles in a car with them. And not go to DisneyWorld. 

Sometimes I think we make vacations far too complicated. I know I did, prior to journeying 2 weeks with my tribe from New Mexico to Florida, and back again. We imagine all the daily challenges of raising young people– the bickering, the whining, the logistics, the fussing, and the noise…and all the daily challenges of being an impatient and weary mom— and we cannot help but fear endless hours together in a car, sharing the same space, doing the same things for days and days. So, we might avoid the opportunity altogether (which I almost did) or fill the time on vacation with a busy agenda (which I was tempted to do). No, traveling with six young boys isn’t easy. But, neither is raising them. We don’t do it because it’s easy, or because we are naturally good at it. No, we’re not a Christian organization; we’re a perfectly chaotic group of people who long to reflect Christ.

And while there are seasons and years where vacationing with littles is simply un-relaxing, I’ve been discovering that sometimes the most un-relaxing part of spending time with all my kids, is me. 

Because this is what I learned from my boys on our summer road trip: What kids really want more than anything…more than souvenirs, more than ice cream, more than movies, and more than roller coasters…are parents who are having a blast being with them doing whatever they do.

That’s it.

If I was having fun…at the pool, on the road, listening to audio books, at the beach, or cleaning out the car…they were having fun too. It really didn’t matter what we were doing, as long as we were enjoying each other in the process.

The boys looked for my smile, more than they looked for the next exciting thing on the itinerary.

Of course we had family meetings, arguments, bad attitudes, and repentance and forgiveness with one another. That’s what family does. At home or 2000 miles away. But that’s all part of the package. You don’t take a vacation from being family. You go on vacation to experience it more fully.

And to my surprise, our family is closer and richer for the miles we’ve traveled together. 


*For more behind the scenes photos of our trip, visit me on Instagram #simonsroadtriptoflorida.

Shaping Family Culture on a Road Trip

I can’t remember the last time I took two weeks off from writing here at the blog. It was an unplanned, but lovely break, but I am eager to give a quick update on what we’ve been up to. 

We spent the last month working diligently around the clock to get our house back on the market…this time, more intentionally, and listed with an agent. It is such a difficult decision to finally take the plunge and commit to moving from your home of 10 years, a home that you have loved and grown from a family of 3 to a family of 8. 

And so, to give our best effort in staging and presenting a home for sale, we moved our boys out of the master bedroom boys bunk room, remodeled the master bathroom, and moved no less than half of our belongings and furnishings out of the house. (You may remember the Christmas home tour here, as well, for reference.) 

And that’s where we’ve been for the last month. 

On Father’s Day weekend, we touched up the last of the paint, packed up all the kids, and headed out on a three day drive + 2 week road trip to Orlando, Florida for an ACCS conference for our school board. 

A ton of you, who follow me on Instagram, gave me amazing travel tips and game ideas for a cross-country road trip with kids. I had great intentions to use all the ideas and to even blog about them….and with the chaos of preparing to travel and to list the house, I didn’t implement even one. 

But amazingly, we not only survived the three day road trip…we loved it.

Enjoying the hospitality of friends and meeting each other’s families was definitely the highlight. I love that the boys longed to spend more time with both families we stayed with. They spoke so highly of our new friends and cherished the memories made with them both…

The conference proved to be a blessing, and while I missed that continuing education I usually enjoy for myself, I was grateful for extended time alone with the boys by the pool. Half of my boys are non-swimmers, so that time by the pool each day was a little less than relaxing…but even so, I knew to soak up the blessing of vacation and time away.

Any family of any size in the same room, vehicle or space for days…is a perfect context for learning humility, patience, service, and forebearance. We never set out to purposely learn these things as reason for a trip, but somehow, the blessing of sanctification and growing as a family always comes as a byproduct, whether we’ve asked for it or not. And, I’m always grateful that the Lord knows what I need without my asking…

And from Orlando, we headed to Cocoa Beach, where our friends invited us to stay with their family at their home along the Banana River. I’m looking out on to the water right now, as I write, and recognize, this is just what our family needed. We chose simple pleasures for this trip. There’s no shortage of amazing, entertaining, wonderful things to do in the Orlando area; but for us, this time–with our family culture goals in mind– decided to draw the kids’ affections toward things of nature of wildlife, of family and friends…of slowness and simplicity.

When 8 imperfect, sinful, broken human beings make up a family…and go on vacation…you realize that family vacations are less about experiencing culture around one another; but rather, it’s forming your very own family culture together with purpose. 

The home we are staying in belongs to the parents of my friend, Leah. (It’s a wonderful 3 bedroom home with a pool and a private dock…And, it’s one of the few of it’s kind available for rent in Cocoa Beach on VRBO!) While the home and the environment has been idyllic, the most significant part of our stay has been the deliberate investment Leah’s dad has made to teach my children (and Troy and me!) everything he knows about this area, the history, about kayaking, fishing, wildlife, and of enjoying the Lord’s presence in nature. I think Troy and I have felt that the relationships and the memories made through special people in our lives truly make a trip like this more than a vacation, but a shaping of our family culture.

Shaping of our family is our ultimate goal for any and every opportunity to travel and step outside of our everyday lives.

No amount of fun, entertainment, luxury, or time away can “fix” messy circumstances, mend broken hearts, or change an outlook…unless it is a change of heart. I’m grateful that there has been some true rest of heart and a fulfilling of goals in our family culture and values on this trip. I’m grateful that we have been more than able to reflect and receive the wonder of God’s glory as we gaze upon his creation and enjoy the fellowship that He has provided. For these, I am forever grateful…as they have given our weary bodies and minds fuel for the road ahead.

I invite you to follow me on Instagram and/or Facebook for all the behind the scenes photos and posts of our trip. Thank you for joining me here. I’m honored to be a part of your life…

Because of grace,

I’m so honored that you are here. If you enjoy this blog and would like new posts to come directly to your inbox, I invite you to subscribe to GraceLaced by email.


P.S. Friends, thank you for your orders from the shoppe! I look forward to completing your custom orders and fulfilling your print orders as soon as we return back home! Thank you!

In Praise of the Road Trip

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When I was a kid, my parents would take my brother and me on long road trips. It was the 80s, minivans were hot, and seat belt laws were not. My little brother and I would roll around in blankets on the floor of the car, eating snacks, taking naps, and passing the hours with our imagination, since no portable DVDs or iPads were conceived of yet. We loved the Disney trip, we loved the national park — but if you asked either of us today, we’d cite the silly songs sung, the favorite stories told, and the seemingly endless hours spent bonding on our way somewhere, as the best memories of road-tripping.

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Fast forward 30 years, and I now have five young boys (plus one due in April!) Though we used to take one or two children frequently on planes — even overseas — we simply have no other option but to road trip now that we have a large family of seven. Our road trips have, by necessity, focused our resources and our energies on our greatest priorities: trips that maximize memories and minimize cost. For our family, some of those road trip destinations have been fishing holes, off-roading trails, and the most beautiful mountains in Western Colorado. We spend money eating some special meals out, hitting some relaxing hot springs, and sometimes touring a museum or enjoying a day alpine sliding, but one of our favorite things to do in Colorado costs nothing but gas and time.

In Praise of the Road Trip | gracelaced.com

We love to listen to audio books, especially the dramatic production of C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, on disc while exploring the roads of the the Rocky Mountains. The jeeping trails in that part of the country take you to places most uf us rarely see: waterfalls, streams, and fields of wildflowers. It’s a beauty that often leaves a trip to the movie theater feeling dull and unexciting. We listen and laugh, and sometimes tear up, as we listen to meaningful stories told to us in the context of God’s creation, so effortlessly maintained. At the end of the day, we go on trips as families because we truly desire to experience something out of the ordinary. We want to be with the ones we love outside the normal context, against the backdrop of something extraordinary.

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But regardless of how well you schedule your itinerary, plan out your snacks, or organize your activities, there will inevitably be the drama of family. I’ve learned to consider that a good thing. When we look back 30 years from now, my kids may or may not remember that exciting water park we went to, or the amazing funnel cake we ate. They will, however, remember the collective effort of a family that loved one another enough to spend time, cramped in a car, doing what they do best: Enjoying the journey of being a family unit.

 

A Big Family’s Guide To Managing A Road Trip

    • Make a snack schedule, i.e., pretzels and apples at 1p.m., fruit leathers at 2 p.m., etc.
    • Don’t offer unlimited drinks unless you want to have to stop on the side of the road
    • Purchase inexpensive disposable plastic cups for passing out bulk snacks
    • Make a schedule for general activities, i.e.. 9-11 a.m.: books, quiet reading, workbooks; 2-4 p.m.: movie, etc.
    • Get headsets for DVD system or for personal music/movie devices
    • Schedule video games and electronic entertainment for later in the day when kids are wearing thin
    • Give each child a small bin or backpack for his/her personal activities
    • Hang a tote from the back of the passenger seat with wet wipes, paper towels, tissues, and plastic bags for trash and potential carsickness episodes.
    • Rather than taking out all bags for each family member for each night/leg of the trip, consider packing all members of the family in one bag, per night/leg of the trip. That way, when you arrive at the cabin, rental, hotel, or campground, you can take out one large bag for that particular location, and repack dirty clothes in the same bag once that destination is over.
    • Pack toiletries, contacts/glasses, medications, and first aid for the family in one large carryall bag, so that it is always available and ready in any emergency situation.
    • If you plan to swim on your trip, consider packing a specific swim bag.
    • Give specific jobs to each child on a road trip: cleaning out trash in the car, checking lodging for left items before checkout, packing up dirty clothes, music DJ, snacks, etc.

 

What other ideas do you have? We’d love to hear them!

This post is part of BlogHer’s Family Fun on Four Wheels editorial series, made possible by Mazda CX-9.