Me and my adventurous sibs, Smokey Mountains, 1971.
I remember family road trips when I was a kid with vivid detail. My parents, two siblings and I would jam into our dark cherry red Oldsmobile F85 (lovingly nicknamed, “the Bomb”) and drive the three-point-five hours from Indianapolis to grandma’s house in southern Indiana about once a month and always on holidays. Visiting family was important to my parents and we loved (still love!) all our grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins there.
I recall carefully packing a little kid trip-bag with a book, some crafts, coloring pages and my Baby Alive doll (complete with diapers, fake milk and juice bottles, and extra clothes for her voyage). There were no seat-belt laws then – I am not even sure our car had seat-belts at all. So I slipped down on the vinyl floor of the back seat and turned around facing backwards, using my seat as a craft/reading/doll changing table. My brother, sister and I took turns laying full-length across the hot, dusty back storage area above the seats. We got creative with our space.
Visiting family in St. Louis in the Bomb.
We were used to taking family road trips in Indiana. We went to the Smokey Mountains, Brown County for hiking, Six Flags, St. Louis, and of course, we drove all over southern Indiana for family visits, un-paralleled farmland and open-space beauty. One year, in the late 70’s, we flew to Los Angeles and drove up the coast to San Francisco – an epic trip for us and one I will never forget!
Playing with cousins – the reward after a long drive.
Tony and I laugh over similar 70’s and ’80’s roadside memories and near identical dad-jokes we learned on those trips – his in New York and mine in the midwest. We were each blessed with fun and wonderful parents and siblings.
Fast forward to our current homeschool and traveling life; while the dad jokes are the same level, our Rey family road-trips look a little different.
Jammed in the Tundra after months of studying US history, then visiting each of the original 13 colonies.
Since we started homeschooling, our trips are almost always educationally-oriented. Our outlook has changed on how and why we go where we go, but our travels are based on the model our parents showed us when we were littles ourselves. We pack lunches and have road-side picnics, we go to museums, parks and movies. We stay in hotels, AirBnB’s, condos, apartments- in cities, tucked away in the hills, or cruising the waterways on our Huckins. Though we are currently grounded like everyone else, our normal schedule is most always on the go.
This past January, after a few months living onboard TIMBALERO, we took note of a “potential” flu outbreak and decided not to fly home to Newport from Miami. Instead, we drove! We took two weeks and made a great road-trip out of it. We stopped for days in places we liked. Our rambling, semi-planned drive took us up the east coast from Miami, FL to Newport, RI.
Studying history, politics and separation of powers in Washington DC
We had all our Florida warm-weather belongings, including a deflated SUP in the covered bed of our ’03 Toyota Tundra. We layered on clothing, as each day was increasingly colder and we had zero winter garments along. Our giant teens folded into the back seat/cab of the truck, while Tony and I clicked the front seats forward as much as we could to provide extra inches for them. We were unprepared for this impromptu trip, but it didn’t matter; we listened to podcasts, sang, snacked, talked, learned new things… we had SO MUCH FUN.
In past years, we have road-tripped through nearly all of Spain, France and Italy; from Istanbul to Bodrum; New Zealand top to bottom; through Yosemite to San Francisco; all over New England and the mid-west. But this road trip was one of the best, most fun road trips we have ever had. Was it the city tours? Or the coastal College visits? The day we spent at Mt. Vernon after studying George Washington’s life?
Perhaps in part, it was that the kids are so much older now. Since we clearly made the 1,444 mile trip in the smallest, least full-family-friendly vehicle we own, we ultimately decided it was the togetherness. It was the simple, unplanned adventure of it all. The learning and family discussions were un-paralleled. The breakfasts, lunches and dinners in new places; the hotels, tours, museums and meeting new people in every town, all combined to give our trip great energy.
Field studies are a big and important part of homeschool learning and likewise, road-tripping is a valuable activity for every family as we all look for more and meaningful ways to connect with our toddlers, kiddos and growing teens.
Our take-away from years of family travel, is that it is a MUST do. Traveling with our kids at every age from infants to teens – whether flying, driving, sailing, cruising, walking, hiking, biking, swimming – sharing the adventure of life together as a family/learning as we go, is the absolute golden fruit of homeschool life. There is no well-planned vacation that can compare to the artful meander of a good family road-trip.
Once the pandemic coast is clear, if you have any thoughts of road tripping with your family, I have a piece of gold-standard, homeschool mom advice: pack those coloring pages, a good book or two and your doll or whatever. Make a loose plan to learn along the way, grab a few snacks and GO!
Pack your car or boat, no matter the size and explore together.
For a full list of our family travel locations, see “Locations of Study” in the top bar menu under, “Adventure School.” Field studies and road trips are listed for each school year, going back to the fall of 2014.