Some of my greatest childhood memories are when my family and I took road trips in my parent’s station wagon. I remember how excited I was to think it was so cool to prop the seats down and make a “bed” in the back, while we embarked on the 13-hour journey to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, or the 7-hour ride to historic Williamsburg, Virginia.
Time always zipped by because for some reason, it was so much fun being confined in a car with my parents and younger brother. Despite the occasional sibling spats in the back seat, we kept it entertaining by playing games and stopping along the way (especially at the fireworks stores that seemed “exotic” to me and rest areas where we could indulge in Roy Rogers, etc.).
On a particular road trip between Phoenix to Las Vegas, I remember how cool it was to drive through the desert, see tumble weed “in action”, and even a dust devil tornado during a desert storm. I also remember tirelessly torturing my parents as my brother and I sang “99 bottles of beer on the wall” all the way to zero. Now as a parent, I feel like my karma is coming in due time…
Planning My Very Own Family Road Trip
A few months ago, I attended an event put together by Ford, inspiring young families to start taking road trips. Considering that road trips were some of my greatest travel memories, I was really motivated by the idea to hit the road with my two children soon after.
I decided the Poconos was a safe starting point for my first road trip with the kids, since it’s less than a 2-hour drive from where I am in New Jersey. Two hours is enough to feel like a journey, but not intimidating enough for me to start stressing about the kids being uncomfortable and confined in carseats for an long time.
Plus, I haven’t been to the Poconos in over 20 years (only once to ski, which ended up with me tangled in a pine tree, actually), and I wanted to see how the Poconos has evolved since my initial impressions. I’ll be honest, I’ve always associated the Poconos with: 1. Honeymooners in the 80s who opted for tacky heart and champagne-glass shaped Jacuzzis in their rooms, a winter destination for families to ski and snow tube, and 3. a cheap place for older people to retire on a lake.
I never had the impression that the Poconos was an affordable and nearby family-friendly escape for the summer, since we often just resort to hitting the crowded beaches of Jersey Shore. While I didn’t have a station wagon to keep my family-road trip tradition alive, Ford generously offered a loaner in a 2017 Explorer Platinum, which has three rows of seating – so family and belongings will fit comfortably!
While driving, I started thinking about how American road trips are evolving entirely. While it’s no surprise that travel by car is still a very popular mode of transportation, it’s interesting to see how the newer generations are road-tripping in general.
The New Generations of Road Trippers
Without argument, the millennial generation is the most “socially-connected” generation there is, and it’s not a shock to learn that a large portion of their motivation to travel is to create sharable content on their social channels. The millennials are moving away from acquiring “stuff” and moving towards investing in adventure and experiences as they go through life.Gen Xers still enjoy family road trips as well, but often like to squeeze in some time to work. In the same token, the purpose of their trips seem to be driven by the need for self-exploration, to connect with the family, and simultaneously escape from everyday life. It’s funny because while my birth year technically brands me as a millennial, I always have a hard time entirely relating to the millennial mindset, and I like to say I am a fusion between the two.
Technology and Road Trips
Another interesting observation is that instead of packing up the car, grabbing a paper road map, and singing 99 bottles of beer on the wall, Americans are now relying on connectivity (in and out of the car) to make their family road trips both entertaining (and sharable) on social media.
In today’s modern world, a car is more than just getting from point A to Point B… the new generations seem to be enjoying the journey (much like first-class flying) just as much as the destination with connectivity and entertainment. Some cars now have wifi, built-in entertainment systems, and all types of high-tech features. In my case, when driving in the fully-loaded 2017 Explorer, I thought it was funny (and freakishly-cool) that as I was starting to feel sleepy and tired during my drive, an alert popped up in the car advising me to stop and get some rest!
Roadtrips will continue to hold a special place in the hearts of travelers and will continue to evolve at the same fast pace as the world around us. The infamous “are we there yet” question is now replaced with a GPS estimated-arrival time. Post cards are replaced with and live Instagram stories for all to see. In my youth, we didn’t stop along the way to take extreme selfies – all we had were windows and our imaginations, and to be honest, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Is it still possibly to to ignite nostalgic road trip memories in today’s digital world? How do you create family memories in today’s modern world?
I can’t wait until my kids are a bit older so we can play the “airport-codes-within-license-plates” game…
Full Disclosure: I was NOT compensated in any way by Ford. All attendees of the “Great American Road Trip” event presented by Ford in NYC were given the option to borrow a Ford vehicle if they wished to do so if inclined to take a road trip with their families this summer. All opinions and stories are my own.