How do you plan a trip across the country? A friend of mine, who has twin 4-year-old boys and an infant daughter, asked me this question not long ago. Most of her family is close by and she has not had occasion to drive two thousand or even a few hundred miles to any particular destination.
“But if we wanted to”–and I can hear behind Anne’s voice that she really wants to– “well, how could we make that work? How do you even start planning for a long trip?”
Inside her question I also detected the fear: Do we have to wait until we’re empty nesters to take to the road?
No, of course you don’t have to wait until the nest is empty. But before I tackle Anne’s questions head-on (that’s coming tomorrow), I’ll take a little side step and tell a story about how people used to plan car trips in the 1930s and 40s. Actually the story comes from my dad.
Last time I visited Mom and Dad, Dad pulled out a Conoco Touraide that his father had requested from Conoco in 1940. Back then, Conoco and some of the other auto petroleum companies also had travel divisions, where they’d put together maps and travel information customized for the destinations you wanted, sort of like AAA with their TripTiks.
The trip [Grandmother and Granddaddy] planned was a grand tour of the west. The route in the trip plan ran west from Ft. Worth [Texas, where they lived] to Los Angeles, up the coast to Seattle via San Francisco with a return through Yellowstone and Mt. Rushmore and along the Front Range and northern New Mexico.
This trip plan was made back in a day when not all of the roads were paved and those that were were just two lane affairs with non-existent shoulders. Cars were at best only marginally reliable and flat tires were frequent and leaky radiators expected. There were no motel chains or fast food restaurants and, of course, cell phones and the internet were the stuff of science fiction.
Credit cards existed but few places accepted them. Travelers checks were not universally understood, much less accepted, even by banks, and there was no point is asking any merchant, gas station, restaurant or motel to accept a personal check. One simply took along a lot of cash. Long distance phone calls (anything not in sight of the phone was “long distance”) were expensive so making motel reservations was commonly done either by Western Union telegram or US Mail.
The trip was, for your grandparents, more fantasy than realistic ambition–but Conoco helped them daydream in style. And yes, we finally saw most of those places in our various family vacations. It just took thirty years and several vacations to accomplish.
You can read more about Touraides here.
So, the thrust of my more practical “7 Tips for Traveling With Kids” post that I have planned for tomorrow is that you should have a grand vision. Have a grand vision, but be flexible with it. Maybe you can save up and make one amazing tour over the course of several weeks or months. Or, maybe it will be OK with you to see a little sliver this year, and another sliver the next.
Either way, start dreaming.