Day trips are a fantastic way to introduce your family to a travelling mindset. There’s not much to lose when you are only an hour or two from home, but there is much to be gained.
Importantly for me and my family, small journeys are a way to develop an understanding of our surroundings and an appreciation for our environment. They encourage us all to remain curious and observant, and we all learn new things when we are out and about. In a nutshell, short trips help us learn to open our eyes and minds in the way that grander travel does.
Learn About the World Around You
It’s all very well to sing about Old MacDonald with your toddlers, but what on earth is a farm anyway? Or a bridge, ship, petrol tanker, mountain…? It’s so exciting for children to gain first-hand knowledge about the things they see in books, and they can also gather understanding by seeing things in context and discussing them. Seeing and talking about new objects in the real world also seems to help their language develop. Experiential learning is certainly very fun.
Bond as a Family
We continue to talk about our experiences afterwards, we look at photos and recall the moment, including our feelings. (One of our kids regularly refers to a “scary” incident with a person dressed up in a gorilla suit that gave him a fright, and the other talks about his happiness at seeing a bubble-blowing stilt-walker at a festival). We are gathering a collection of shared family memories.
Practice Your Travel Preparations
Short jaunts are a great way to rehearse for your future family adventures, on smaller scale. I recall being child-free and leaving all my packing until the last minute; on one occasion I packed after a big party (I threw a bunch of clothes into my backpack and sang Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now! all the way to the airport before a month-long trip). Sadly, I cannot be so blasé these days and I need to write lists, gather supplies and consider contingencies for the whole family. These things did not come to me naturally, so I appreciate the opportunity to make my mistakes when we are not far from home.
Plan For Future Outings
You can’t see or do everything when you are taking small trips. There are always signposts hinting at interesting diversions and antique shops spilling onto the footpath, calling your name (perhaps that’s just me). Rather than worry about what you’re missing this time, make notes of intriguing detours that you notice, and make plans to revisit at a later date.
If no particular destination seems immediately obvious for a day trip, just start small and see where you end up. Drive for an hour and see what catches your attention. Talk about what you notice while driving, point out new things, sing together. With kids in the car, it always helps to end up at a playground, field or public garden. Run off steam, have a picnic and then head home. There, you’ve had a mini adventure!
Small trips in your region are all it takes to start developing the spirit of exploration within your family. There’s a lot to gain, even if you get lost.