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Look out! It's a Family Road Trip!!

June 4th, 2012

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Garry says:

We took two flights yesterday and I did a check on take-off to see if anyone was looking out their window. As usual these days, there was no one.

Some passengers were napping, lots reading, others fiddling with the TV screen on the back of the seat in front of them. No one was checking out the runways, taxiing aircraft, the countryside on climb-out, those surrealistic cloud bands or ANYTHING outside the aircraft.

Whatever has happened in aircraft to our sense of curiosity about the surroundings is going on in our cars, too. There seems to be a generation growing up who measure the distance of a road trip by the number of movies on the vehicle’s entertainment system it takes to get there. It’s all about being somewhere else and some parents now see onboard entertainment as a form of babysitting. Just plug the kids into a movie, iPad, iPod or whatever and they are quiet, engaged and not there.

How can a trip to the cottage compare to a Hollywood blockbuster or texting your friends about that fabulous new tank top or a pending sleepover?

Then there is the GPS unit that tells how to get anywhere from the local Walmart to Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. There are even voice-prompted directions so the driver or passenger never really knows where they are in the big picture.

We bought a Garmin GPS unit last year and when using it, I’ve been out of the loop on natural landmarks or road signage. Even though I’ve spent decades finding my way around with visual reference and paper maps, the GPS makes me lazy and out of touch with my surroundings.

So what will happen to the young drivers that watched movies and played video games in the back seat then grow up dependent on a GPS navigation system to get anywhere?

Perhaps in a few years it won’t matter because cars will be driving themselves and the insular generations will be able to see cattle grazing in the zoo.

“Look, Ma. They have horns.”

Lisa says:

With summer road trip season about to start, I've been thinking about how in-car entertainment options have changed over the past thirty or so years.

Despite some adults ranting that 'kids today' no longer look out the windows when traveling, when I did a search online for suggestions of road trip car games, good old ‘look-out-the-window’ games were definitely in the majority.

I still believe that any parent undertaking a road trip with ‘kids today’ would want to make the experience as fun but also as educational as possible. Sure there are plenty of digital and electronic entertainment options out there that are educational. But there are lots that are a waste of time, too.

There's nothing like a good game of Red Car Blue Car to get the gang looking out the window and involved in something together.

Our kids were raised on the cusp of the real electronic age. Personal cellphones hadn't quite entered the picture in their early teens. The suggestion of a family road trip with our kids during those years would elicit moans, groans and whines.

One road trip that stands out was when two of our girls were about 10 and 13. We had business in Newfoundland and brought them with us during a school break.

Dad (Garry) said: "We will keep a logbook of the experience!"
Natalie and Layla said: “ Oh, Dad. That’s so nerdy.”

Armed with an instant camera (yes, they still existed then and not that long ago!) and a good bit of encouragement from us, the girls recorded the trip including odometer readings and interesting things spotted along the way. People we met along the way had to sign and write comments in the logbook. Photos were trimmed and glued into the book. Captions were added to describe the action.

Much silliness ensued.

We still have that book today. And it's priceless. Today there is Facebook and digital cameras that are perhaps more convenient and allow you to share your vacation with essentially the world.

The girls now in their early and mid-twenties (yikes!) still get a kick out of flipping through that scrapbook that their parents 'forced' them to make.

So here's to summer road trips with scavenger hunts and games of I Spy, not plugging in the DVD, giving the kids a road atlas and getting them to figure out how to get to tonight's destination. Maybe use the iPad or iPhone to research intriguing tidbits about the areas they're driving through. But then look out the windows and talk about what you’re all seeing and sharing.

Building memories together is what summer family road trips should be all about.

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