EUCLID, Ohio – To travel or not to travel, was a question my husband and I pondered every summer when our three girls, now teenagers and young adults, were little.
It was no surprise. As for many parents of young children, packing car seats, strollers, pack-n-plays, and enough entertainment to occupy the most active youngsters — on long car rides or cramped flights — was enough for us. To question the wisdom of going on vacation versus staying at home.
Looking back, I’m glad we never shied away from the risks and frustrations of traveling with kids. Yes, sometimes, our journeys to reconnect with family or explore new horizons can be hectic and stressful, but now I can look back with misty-eyed nostalgia, in the abundance of family memories with distant images in our backyard. Aina, our girls have grown up.
Early on, we discover the magic of Cheerios and ice cream, and their power to calm people down too. Together we savored the salty sea air and relaxed on chain hotel mattresses, happy to escape from home. We enthusiastically explored our share of zoos and aquariums, and drove countless miles in our minivan, our pseudo living room on wheels.
While our early family trips were often driven by our love of beaches, we turned to trips shaped by our curiosity. A trip to New York City was inspired by Mary Beach’s daughter’s desire to visit Madagascar, the backdrop for the animated movies, the Statue of Liberty and the Central Park Zoo. The trip to Washington, DC, was conceived out of another daughter’s desire to see the White House.
Our last fourth grade teacher inspired a day trip to Bar Harbor, Maine, where we went lobster fishing, and to explore the Everglades after our family trip to Disney World.
We visited family in Puerto Rico and Omaha, Nebraska, and enjoyed my husband’s childhood vacation at the Jersey Shore. Some of our trips to Hilton Head include spending a weekend in Savannah, Georgia, and Charleston, South Carolina. One of our summer road trips started in Niagara Falls, weaved through New York’s Finger Lakes, and ended after spending two days in Boston and Cape Cod.
This year, gas prices didn’t stop us from driving to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where we took a boat cruise to see Picture Rocks, hiked around Tahquamenon Falls and rode road bikes around Mackinac Island. Driving up the west coast of Michigan, we stopped in several quaint and inviting towns, before spending time in Traverse City, and seeing the impressive Sleeping Bear Dunes.
Over the years, we’ve learned that any destination, big or small, is what creates the most memorable vacation memories we’ve ever spent enjoying the change from our daily routines and sharing the wonder of new surroundings. .
Summer trips weren’t always a given, but memories of days of sunny weather and outdoor activities give yesterday’s summer a mystical glow. More than travel, I remember ice cream and picnics along the shores of Lake Erie, hikes in Cuyahoga Valley National Park, and walks in our favorite metroparks.
One of my favorite summers is when my sister and I ran “Camp Rock,” with my girls and my brother’s son and daughter, with t-shirts, crafts, snacks, and daily outings to local beaches, museums, and parks.
Now that my girls are juggling jobs, college classes and sports conditioning, the little things of summer, are now the things I cherish the most. It’s a reminder that it’s up to all of us to make memories, big and small, while we still can.
Raquel Santiago is a freelance writer who lives in Euclid with her husband and three daughters. This summer, in addition to a family trip to Michigan, she is working as a fellow with Literary Cleveland.
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