Take That Trip You “Can’t Afford”

I got this unexpected tweet the other day: “Just found your twitter account! Back when you were going thru Cali in on 7/5/10! #inspiration” Attached was this picture:

road trip

My kids and I chuckled at what looks like a paparazzi photo of my daughter Hannah outside of a grocery store during our family’s monumental one month, 6200-mile road trip the Summer of 2010.

Our chuckling eventually led to reminiscing over the many sights we saw and memories we made together. That summer changed all of us in a dozen tiny ways and brought us closer as a family. It’s a time we each treasure and something we will have between us forever and ever.

And to think it’s a trip we almost didn’t take.

Having five kids means travel is never cheap. Even if we’re not springing for air fare, we’re still paying for enough gas to fill a van, two rooms at a hotel, and lot and lots of meals. We’ve had many “if only” conversations with the kids, wistfully sighing over dream destinations (top on our list? New York City!). But reality often overrules, and we stay home because money is tight.

Except for this one time? We just went for it. I often joke that if I had known ahead of time exactly how much that road trip was going to cost, we would have never gone. In fact, I never did tally the final investment. It was ONE TIME that we just bit the bullet and made it happen.

What’s funny to me now is that I’m sure we had to buckle down in the weeks following our trip (having depleted much of our financial resources). But now years later, I don’t even remember that, and we’re none the worse for wear. Those worries were small and utterly impermanent compared to the riches we gained by going.

Truly, I am not advocating that people be unwise or foolish with their money. Everyone’s situation is different, and there have been many times (as I mentioned) when our “dream vacations” have remained just that – dreams. But I do think there are times when you just have to brave the investment it will take to make these priceless memories a part of your family’s life forever.



  • Heather

    First of all: That back window? GENIUS. Love it. 

    I love this post. I have been dying to go on some sort of vacation this summer. We haven’t been on one since 2007. But, alas, the money wants to rule….

    • I totally get it, Heather. Hopefully you get to take a vacation soon! And about the back window – the kids were wildly excited when it was their turn to cross off another box on our list of states. 🙂 We had the side windows painted, too. And people totally tweeted at us during our drive (ie: “Hey, we just passed you outside of Flagstaff. Awesome!”). 🙂

  • {Melinda} Love, love, love this! A few summers ago, my family and I did exactly what you did. We took a roadtrip through Atlanta, Chicago and Minnesota, hitting a theme park and a couple of ball parks along the way. It WAS expensive — far more than I thought. But it also came at a time where we were really struggling to bond as a family (my daughter had hit the teen years). 

    My favorite memory of the trip is when my daughter and I went to the American Girl store in Chicago. It was like going back in time in her childhood (for both of us) and it rekindled some sweet aspects of our relationship that had been buried by teen angst.

    I agree with you. Sometimes you just have to do it. I do NOT regret the money spent. We’ll have those memories and the closeness they brought forever. 

    • What an awesome experience! I can totally identify with the teen daughter thing, because my oldest is headed off to college this summer, and I love that we made these memories before she left.

  • Stephanie Click

    I can’t tell you how much I agree with this! My family never traveled or vacationed. As an only child, I spent much of my time dreaming of the places that I would want to see, beaches I would lay on … Disney World! 🙂 I make it happen for my family. Is it always the wisest way to spend our money? Definitely not. But the memories are priceless and forever and worth every single penny spent!

    • Stephanie, I so admire what you’ve done for and with your kids in terms of trips and vacations. I think you’re an inspiration!

  • Jenn

    Oh I remember this! I love making family memories like these. I’m just dying to throw our stuff in the car and go! Thinking this summer, it must be done. Even for a short three or four day road trip. 

  • I remember that trip… I was lucky enough to get a visit while working at Sprig. I miss you!

    • I miss you, too!! Definitely wish there were more life opportunities for our paths to cross. Thinking of you and your family.

  • We tend to take a lot of vacations as a family.  It’s why we have a crappy tv, cheaper furniture, and don’t have the latest gadgets.  And while we can’t hold on to the physicalness (yes, I made that up) of a vacation like we could an iPad or new kitchen table, the memories and experiences we have are worth a million times more.  

  • Suzanne

    I just love the idea of the hashtag and the tweet aspects of your epic road trip.  Our family of 5 is down to 3 now (two have flown the nest) but this might be a fun thing to do on a future road trip from Austin to Phoenix this coming Christmas.  If only my husband could “appreciate” the Tweeting.  He barely texts – such a Luddite!