One of our favorite parts about traveling is being flexible and spontaneous enough to seize the opportunities that present themselves. These come in different forms:
Location-Specific Opportunities – When we are on a road trip, we scour the map for stops to make along the way. We always try to put a little buffer time into our travels to allow for fun excursions along the way. Of course, for us that usually means a National Park – they are inexpensive (if not totally free), fun, and educational.
On our road trip this summer, one leg of our route took us east through Mississippi and another took us up through Alabama. By building in extra time, we were able to stop at Vicksburg National Military Park and the National Parks in Tuskegee without cutting into our plans.
Not only are these stops fun, it is much more enjoyable to stretch our legs at a place where we are seeing, learning and doing, as opposed to a simple rest stop along the highway.
Have you ever built in time to stop along the way?
Educational Opportunities – Although I try to infuse all of our trips with an educational element, sometimes serendipity intervenes and makes our experience even better than I planned. We have arrived at National Parks just as tours were beginning (Alibates Flint Quarries National Park) and asked the right person the right questions and ended up with insights perfectly tailored to the children (Civil Rights Institute).
However, our favorite education experience has to be the one we had at Hampton Court Palace. Ellie’s favorite historical character is Henry VIII. She loves everything about his story – his six wives, his larger than life personality, and his heirs to the throne. So, when we planned a trip to England, we knew we needed to take her to the place where he lived.
We had no idea, however, that throughout the day, actors in character would come out and talk with the visitors. These interactive history lessons had the kids on the edge of their seats, waiting anxiously for the next time to be in the presence of “the king” and his court.
Spur of the Moment Opportunities – On our first major road trip as a family, we found ourselves driving south from Mount Rushmore to Texas. Much to my disappointment, there were no obvious places to stop and explore along our route through the middle of nowhere. All this changed, though, as we approached Bridgeport, Nebraska.
As the speed limit slowed and the small town loomed larger, we started to notice several cars parked along side streets. Then, we saw the boy scout troop, standing at attention, flags held high, in formation in the middle of a street we passed. We arrived in town right before they closed the street off for their annual Founder’s Day Parade! Quickly, we found a place to park and lined up with the other citizens to watch the procession. Bands played, floats threw candy, and our family had a fantastic time on Main Street, Bridgeport.
Often, unplanned opportunities are the moments we remember most. Whether you end up taking a tour, meeting interesting people, or watching a parade – be sure to seize the opportunities that present themselves as you travel.