Summer is here! It’s finally time for backyard barbecues, trips the beach and watching the sunset (#nofilter). This glorious season of warm weather is also the perfect opportunity for spontaneous road trips. My boys and I travel extensively throughout the year. I am an expert at schlepping an infant, then baby, now toddler through the airport and hotels. Our travels mostly consist of tagging along while my husband attends a meeting here or there or flying in to see family, but rarely do we pick a spot on the map, take a chance and just go.
Rule No. 1: Go & Do
A third of the way through our Memorial Day long weekend, our vagabond spirits got the better of us and we were in need of something – anything – fun to do. As Southerners living in the Northeast, we still consider ourselves tourists in our newly acquired homeland, so our Summer bucket list is quite extensive. Thankfully, we live in a state the size of a postage stamp so getting around New England isn’t the most time consuming task. After much debate, we settled on a trip to the quaint seaport of Mystic, Connecticut.
Rule No. 2: Always take the back roads
More than half the fun of a road trip is the journey there! Bag packed, we set off on the tree-lined back roads heading towards our destination. We loved passing through adorable little towns and even found a cool children’s museum to check out later. In less than two hours, we were rolling into town and ready to start our next adventure. Mystic is your quintessential New England seaside village and exactly what I envisioned when we were pondering a move to Connecticut. Full of tiny shops, restaurants and marinas – not to mention the cutest drawbridge you ever did see – we enjoyed just walking around and chasing our toddler from shop to shop and checking out all of the boats in the marina. After a belly full of Mystic Pizza and the biggest ice cream sundae, we headed back to the hotel to get a good night’s rest and prepare for another fun day.
Rule No. 3: Go Native
The following morning, we hit the road in search of breakfast. In New England, your best bet for a hearty first meal is your local diner and good ol’ Norm’s had it all. As you go along your road trip, ask the locals for their suggestions on dining. You know the old saying, “When in Rome…”. Maybe you’ll journey off the beaten path and have the most amazing meal of your life – or maybe not – but either way, going native just enhances the experience.
Rule No. 4: Plan something fun for every member of your family
During our impromptu road trip planning, we noticed that there was a vintage steam train trip not too far from Mystic. My not-quite-two year old, Porter, is obsessed with trains. Every other word is “choo-choo”, “train” or “tunnel”. I’m pretty sure he dreams about them, too, so taking a side trip to Essex on our way home was a no-brainer. He was beside himself with excitement! While we waited to board the train, there was an area for play with train tables and model trains. The perfect distraction for an inquisitive toddler. And once we boarded? Pure joy. Every time the train would blow it’s whistle, Porter would perk up and exclaim, “choo choo!”. It was awesome. Parker and I loved seeing our boy so blissed out and we enjoyed learning about the history of the Connecticut Railroad. Fun for all!
Rule No. 5: Unplug
I’m sure I’m not the only one who plays paparazzi and takes a million pictures of their kid. It’s a great to document life, but I realized that by trying to “capture the moment” perfectly, I was missing the joy in the actual experience. Seeing something through the lens of a camera (or smartphone) is inherently different than experiencing that same moment in the moment. Unplug. Put down the phone. Go off the grid. Whatever you want to call it, just be in the moment. Really look at your family and marvel at their pure amazing existence. Really listen to your child’s laughter and revel in their merriment. Take time to smell the fresh cut grass and feel the salt water on your skin and taste the ice cream cone. Observe! Explore! Adventure! Even if it’s only in your backyard. Enjoy this sweet season of Summer and experience life, sweet friends.
You can find Carlee online at http://carleesizemore.com and on Twitter as @CarleeSizemore.