We, like many people, live close to one family and far from all the rest.  So my children know my husband’s family very well, even his cousins’ children.  But my family lives ALL the way across they country.  So my kids rarely see my parents, siblings and their cousins.  I have two sets of parents and one set live in New York City and the other live in New Mexico, so one is cost prohibitive while the other is geographically challenging since we are based in Pittsburgh!  We decided after our third child was born we needed to make the trip to New Mexico, so I hopped on the internet and called up flights to New Mexico and realized that 5 tickets was gonna be a doozy cost wise.  Plus now there are 5 of us and New Mexico is really a driving state, so that meant lugging carseats and a larger car rental.  And now they don’t want you to check car seats because luggage handling damages them.  So I was already depressed and I hadn’t even made it to TSA or security lines and snacks.  I realized that driving could solve so many problems, AND for the cost of airfare we could do some pretty memorable things.

I decided that the absolute key would be stopping every 3 hours allowing the children to stretch their legs and the baby to nurse.  As I plotted our route I looked for things to stop and see.  My sister had mentioned a great roadside attraction in Kentucky and I looked for it but instead found Mammoth Caves National Park.  Growing up near Carlsbad Caverns National Park I was pretty excited for the LONGEST CAVE SYSTEM IN THE WORLD. So I scheduled that as our first stop and discovered there was a Junior Ranger Program and they could get a badge by learning about a park and completing a booklet.  I thought that was amazing.  I had already printed out worksheets for each state and maps to color because I home school, so the idea of other EDUCATIONAL WORK that did not involve me planning seemed great.   As I continued planning I realized we could take our daily stop at a different National Park every day, even if they didn’t like the badges they would stretch their legs and eat food.  (Spoiler: Badges were in fact a HUGE hit.)

As I worked on planning it became clear that driving could a great thing for our family.  We have time, because home school we can take three days to drive somewhere and not need to be home 4 days later.  We would see so much country.  There is something to be said for not “flying over” fly over country.  Experiencing regional food, seeing regional landscape differences and honestly, spending a chunk of money on a journey rather than spending it on being transported like a parcel.

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