Tips on How to Start Family Traditions when you travel & take vacations — with a free printable list for you!
Growing up, our family road trips where one of the highlights of my summers.
Every year, we would head off to see far-away family members or set out to explore a new destination together.
This was back before seat belt laws and car seats — when flying a family of 5 was ‘way out of the budget’.
My Dad would pack three pajama-clad kids along with all their pillows & blankets into the back of a station wagon and hit the road by 4 am.
“When you wake up, we’ll stop for breakfast” he’d tell us the night before.
Yes, there were squabbles, along with the frequent “are we there yet” comments every few hours but isn’t that what a road trip is really all about?
When we’d reach our destination, we would all pile out of the car, put our arms over our head and do one of those big s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-s that only come after being cooped up in a vehicle for hours.
Family would come out to greet us with smiles & hugs “You made it!”
“How was your trip?”
Even now, when we take our kids on road trips, there’s always someone that utters that question – how was your trip?
My husband will look at his watch to let you know if ‘we made good time’ or not.
Sometimes one of the kids will say ‘it was long!’ or ‘so much fun! We stopped and saw (insert crazy road side trip Mom made us go on here)’
For me, there’s really only one word that comes to mind when I hear that question – how was your trip?
It was memorable.
23 Family Traditions to Start When You Travel
We are thrilled to be working with our sponsor, Holiday Inn hotels & their #SmilesAhead campaign this year as we share how families can create travel traditions together!
Families take road trips for many reasons.
Sometimes a road trip is very purposeful – like when you move your kids into college and have to trek all of their stuff with you!
Other times, it’s for the pure joy of seeing all the sights along the way.
But the bottom line is that most families take road trips because they enjoy creating memories together!
They like being locked up in a small space together, playing crazy car games, talking about the sights and exploring new places along the way.
But you don’t always need a holiday to create traditions!
A road trip is an opportunity for families to create traditions & rituals together.
Heck, the trip itself is a tradition at our house.
Think about it, once you put your family into a car, close all the doors and head ‘on your way’ – what you’re really saying is ‘it’s all up to us now!’
Where you go, who you meet, what you decide to experience – together.
Now this might be a new concept to you – the idea that road trips exist to bond families and create traditions.
It was a very new idea to my husband when we first met – you see, he thought road trips were all about ‘getting there’.
Our first few road trips together weren’t so pretty.
I wanted to make stops along the way – he thought that would ‘take too much time’.
I wanted to sleep in. He wanted to hit the road early.
I spent hours as a kid in a car with my family whereas my husband’s family would vacation close to home. So when I first suggested we ‘drive’ for vacation, let me tell you there was a LOT of discussion around that point.
But as we packed the car this past week for a 4-day cross-country trip that took us 1800+ miles, first to Virginia and then Nashville, he actually said “You’ve won me over – even though it’s a lot of driving, I do like being with the family in the car and away from the craziness of life’.
And along the way, over the last 23 years, we’ve started a LOT of awesome family traditions while traveling.
Family Tradition: Experience Something NEW Together
Doing something new together is really one of the core reasons we travel as a family!
We were able to experience the Solar Eclipse together this August.
And we saw full totality — it really was quite a sight!
The Holiday Inn in Nashville had some awesome activities & a big event on the day of the eclipse — science crafts, eclipse glasses for guests and a prime viewing spot.
Although we love visiting family and favorite places from our childhood, it’s always an extra special trip when you get to experience something new with your family!
Family Tradition: Eat Breakfast Together!
There’s nothing like starting a day with a nice, relaxing breakfast as you plan out what you’ll do.
For us, breakfast is so rushed during the weekdays with getting out the door to school. And on the weekends, I do enjoy cooking a big breakfast but then there’s always the clean-up (not my favorite).
When you’re on vacation, it’s the one time that someone else is doing all the prep & clean-up — PLUS, when you find an amazing Breakfast Buffet like this, there’s something everyone will enjoy!
Family Tradition: Do Something You Can’t Do at Home
This is one of our unspoken rules when we vacation — try something you wouldn’t be able to do if you were home!
We’ve gone snorkeling and surfing, learned quite a bit of local history in various places, experienced wildlife we’d never see near home and visited some wonderful attractions by following this piece of advice on our trips.
My mythology-loving daughter was pleasantly surprised that she was able to see the Parthenon in Nashville, a full scale replica of the one built in Athens.
And be sure to try local foods!
For example, we had no idea that Moon Pies and Goo Goo cluster candy was made in Nashville! (I ease up on my ‘eat healthy’ mantra a little when we travel 😉
So when you head out on your next trip, seek out local factory tours, ask the concierge at your hotel for local food spots and be sure to make an effort to see an attraction or two that might be a little out of the ordinary.
Family Tradition: Enjoy the Little Things
This is where kids shine — noticing all the little touches on your trip!
There was this AWESOME book lending library at the front desk so you could read with your kids or, if you’re traveling for business, you could borrow a book to read to them via Skype/Facetime!
From towel animals to tiny shampoos & soaps in the bathroom.
And fun little touches like the Chocolate Milk Happy Hour with bendy straws that Holiday Inn hotels provided their guests this summer (as my daughter says — “You’re never too old to drink chocolate milk with a bendy straw!”)
These are the little things that thrill kids and really make the trip memorable.
Family Tradition: Add to a Collection
Another long-time tradition for us — on each vacation, we find a magnet that highlights something we saw or experienced during the trip.
And sometimes we even come home with more than one if we can’t decide 😉
Some families collect magnets or postcards — small, inexpensive items.
Years later, we can glance at our collection and say “Hey, remember when we … “
This is an easy tradition to start and one that can be continued even as your kids get older and travel on their own! My son studied abroad in Europe this past semester and magnets were a super affordable souvenir even on a college-student budget.
There are a LOT more super easy & fun travel rituals you can do with your kids too.
A few others that we think are fun for families:
- try to get the same hotel room number each time you travel
- create a Travel Wall (awesome idea from the Joy of Travel blog!)
- play car games together (we always play the license plate game!)
- go for a nighttime swim at the hotel (it always helps everyone sleep better 😉
Make those road trips part of your family’s annual traditions.
“Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.” ~ Dalai Lama
If you have young kids, start now!
They’ll grow up being seasoned travelers.
If you have older kids, they might be more on board with this idea than you think! So many kids have dreams of ‘seeing the world’.
And teens might even be able to help with the driving.
Your kids will learn to travel well & carry on those traditions as they grow up in the car 😉
My hope is that years from now, when a car pulls into my driveway, I’ll see my kids & grand-kids all pile out, stretching after a long trip.
And I relish in the thought of hearing about car games, crazy road side stops and other things that made the trip so memorable.
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Holiday Inn. The opinions and text are all mine.