Driving has helped our family make lifelong memories that you just can’t get when you fly

When I was a kid, my parents bought me a tiny red suitcase with the words ‘Getting There is Half the Fun’ written on the front. We recently found the suitcase in my mom’s basement and passed it down to my own children for them to use when we travel. They’ll likely fill it with books, toys, snacks, and anything else they may need for a long day in the car because when we travel, we prefer to take the long way.

Seeing Cadillac Ranch while driving felt like becoming a part of history.

Seeing Cadillac Ranch felt like becoming a part of history. Photo courtesy of Tarah Chieffi

We could fly or find a quicker route to get to our destination, but those extra hours in the car also mean extra family memories. Whether it’s dining at a quirky local restaurant or visiting a roadside attraction, we’re always on the lookout for ways to make each road trip special.

While driving to Colorado to visit family for the holidays, we took our three kids to see Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas. Those 10 Cadillacs have been in the ground since 1974 and countless visitors have contributed to the layers of graffiti now covering the installation. Now, my own family will forever be a part of that.

Living in the Midwest, we often travel through St. Louis, Missouri on road trips. As we near the “Gateway to the West,” I’ll start searching for local restaurants where we can enjoy a good meal. We’ve found some of our favorite restaurants this way; restaurants with local flair that we return to almost every time we pass through. It tacks on an hour or so to our travel time, but a decent meal, and supporting a local business, is always worth it.

Also in Missouri, just a few miles off the highway, is Grand Falls in Joplin. My husband and I stopped here on a whim years ago (before we added three kids to the mix) and had a picnic lunch on our return from a Western road trip. Today, we always make it a point to stop there so our children can enjoy splashing around and climbing across the rocks near the falls. Instead of rushing to our destination, it gives us something to look forward to. It’s also a welcome break from the miles of highway staring back at us the rest of the day.

I hope that as they grow older, my children have fond memories of our road trips and our happy little detours. So much of our life is about rushing from place to place, shouldn’t vacation be about doing just the opposite of that? I see road trips as a chance to slow down, be spontaneous, and embrace what comes our way. I have yet to regret any detour we’ve taken. Give me a shout if you need help finding the best local coffee shop in almost every city I’ve visited!

Tarah Chieffi

Tarah Chieffi

Tarah Chieffi is a theme park and family travel journalist who discovered her words were best used to help travelers plan fun-filled family vacations. When she isn’t eating theme park food and riding roller coasters, she can be found riding her bike, tucked under the covers with a book, or planning her next family adventure.