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Traveling With Grandchildren

Goyer: Family Vacation Challenge

Looking forward to a multigenerational family vacation this year, but not sure how you'll pull it off? Is your head spinning while you see your vacation savings account seemingly disappearing before your very eyes while you try to think of some different and affordable travel ideas to entertain your children, grandchildren, or nieces and nephews?

I offer you the Great Family Heritage Trail Vacation Challenge: take your family on a trail through history—your family's history. Visit the places of your childhood, which may not be on the National Register of Historic Places, but are, of course, of momentous importance to you and yours because of your family's association with them.

For instance, have your grandchildren ever seen the house where you grew up? Or the burger joint where you had your first job? What about the factory where your parents worked manufacturing cars or building machinery for World War II? And the town where your ancestors first disembarked when they immigrated to America? Maybe now is a good time to put those places on the map.

In the early 1960s, my great-aunt Mildred led my family along the Lincoln Heritage Trail, a route created in 1963 which travels through the places in Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois, that were significant in the life of former President Abraham Lincoln. Aunt Mildred was a teacher, so she knew how to bring the history to life for us. She combined fun anecdotes, historical facts, games, and quizzes with an actual place we could see and experience. It was a great American-heritage family road trip, and we tailgate-picnicked along the way. It was probably one of the least-expensive vacations our family ever took, but it was also one of the most memorable for us kids.

You may not be an Abraham Lincoln, but your life's trail is just as important and can be just as fun to trace across the generations.

You can make your family excursion a mini-vacation or a full-blown, pack-up-the-gear-and-hit-the road trip. I once took my niece around the college campus I attended, showing her the dorms and houses where I lived, the classrooms and practice rooms, the hot romantic spots, and more, telling her (toned down, of course) stories of my college days. We laughed and bonded that day, because she saw me as someone with whom she could identify. That was a mini-version.  Some other approaches might include:

  • Explore your hometown with the family in tow. See the house where you grew up, your favorite ice cream shop, the ball fields where you learned to play, your schools—the places that were the most important to you and your family.
  • Road trip! Take a road trip through all the states you've ever lived in. You won't have time to go into great depth in each, but you can hit the highlights and get a feel for the variety of experiences you've had in your life.
  • Become a farmer. Spend a week on the family farm—or one like it—experiencing the way of life so many Americans had at one time. There are farm vacations where kids can actually gather eggs, feed the animals and enjoy the outdoors in "the simple life." They'll learn that the simple life wasn't so simple after all!

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