By now, we have the planning down to a science. I start in January at the public library, where I check out every book I can find about the states we'll visit that year. After taking notes on sights to see and things to do, I request information online from various cities, states, and tourist attractions. By March, our mailbox is brimming with maps, brochures, and travel guides. We pore over them together, noting everything that piques our interest. Using MapQuest, I calculate the distances among our top picks. We discuss the options and settle on a plan. Then I come up with a day-by-day itinerary, and we arrange flights, hotels, and a rental car.
Before we leave, we may watch movies set in the places where we're headed. We saw North by Northwest before our Mount Rushmore trip, for example, and Rocky before traveling to Philadelphia. When the boys were younger, I used to put together educational materials to entertain them on the road -- everything from a kid-friendly map of our route, to word-search puzzles, to state-themed activity books. Now that they're older (and wiser from years of history classes), we take turns as we travel sharing tidbits about the places we're visiting.
Nick and I are thrilled with the memories we've created for our sons. Yes, it has cost some money, but we are rewarded many times over when our boys watch a documentary on Old Faithful and excitedly recall racing from the Yellowstone parking lot to catch their first glimpse of the geyser, or when their teachers compliment their grasp of American history, gained on a trip to Gettysburg, Boston, or the Space Center in Houston.
Best of all is how enthusiastic they have become about exploring the world around them. With the United States nearly conquered, they're already asking about Italy, Ireland, and England. But first, there's a Hawaiian beach calling our names.
Meet the Family: The Keserics live in Hinsdale, Illinois, just outside Chicago. Pam is a retired high school English teacher.
Originally published in the March 2013 issue of FamilyFun