All across America, parents are hearing a familiar refrain: “Are we there yet?” The summer vacation season is in full swing, and many families are heading off for a road trip in the family car. Whether it’s a short day excursion, an extended vacation, or a cross-country trek, summer trips create lasting memories. Take a “trip” down memory lane with your group and revisit some adventures in the family car. Hit the highway and enjoy some fun along the scenic routes.

  • Reminisce: Display props such as the following: photos of road trip vehicles (station wagon, house or travel trailer, minivan, SUV, motor home), replicas of road signs, state road maps, travel postcards, souvenirs. Ask: What kinds of vacations and road trips did you take with your family? What kind of vehicle did you drive? Talk about your most memorable trip. Share recollections of old gas stations, motor courts/motels, and diners along the way.
  • Reminisce: Ask group members to share their experiences with family-friendly trip destinations (ex: theme park, national or state park, dude ranch, campground resort, mountain lodge, seashore/beach, historical site, landmark, state capital).
  • Reminisce: Share recollections of vacation “misadventures” – cranky kids, no gas, flat tire, bad weather, no vacancy sign, car sickness. Give advice on traveling with children, grandchildren, or close relatives/friends.
  • Reminisce: Plan a scenic driving route for a cross-country road trip from East to West. (Be sure to include “must-see” sights along the way.) Ask: Did you ever travel from coast to coast? How long did the trip take? Would you recommend it as an experience for families? Did you use two-lane highways and back roads or the interstate highways? Tell us about some of the small towns you visited.
  • Activity: Display a map of the United States. Sing “This Land Is Your Land.” Ask: Do you enjoy traveling by car – or would you rather fly or travel by train or bus? What was your longest car trip? How much of the United States have you seen by car? Take a poll of favorite states to visit and why each is special.
  • Activity: Enlist a volunteer to demonstrate how to pack a suitcase correctly and to share his/her best advice for packing for an extended vacation. Or, hold a suitcase-packing competition. Assemble two piles of clothing (similar items in each pile) and two or more similar-sized suitcases. Divide the group into teams of two to four people. Have a race to see which team can get the most folded or rolled items into their suitcase and get it closed. Set a time limit of two minutes.
  • Activity: Talk about classic “car” games for kids that parents use to fight boredom – I Spy, license plates, counting games. Engage your group in some state-related games:  Go through the letters of the alphabet, and ask participants if they can name a state or states that begin with that letter. Or identify states by their nicknames or state capitals.
  • Activity: Learn the history of a legendary highway like Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles. Listen to “(Get Your Kicks On) Route 66,” recorded by Nat King Cole in 1946. Or enjoy some episodes from the 1960s TV show Route 66, starring Martin Milner and George Maharis. Work a jigsaw puzzle with an image of old U.S. Highway 66.
  • Food: Enjoy a Southern-style roadside picnic with cold fried chicken, potato salad, deviled eggs, fruit salad, and lemonade. Talk about favorite picnic spots.
  • Discussion: Talk about the meaning of the following travel expressions: back seat driver, travel light, road hog, hit the road, pedal to the metal, on the home stretch, pit stop, off the beaten path, fender bender, in the middle of nowhere, heavy foot, a country mile, at a good clip.
  • Discussion: Watch episodes of On the Road with Charles Kuralt on DVD or listen to portions of the audio book. (The CBS correspondent explored America in a motor home.) Ask participants to describe some interesting people they’ve met while traveling.
  • Music: Listen to road trip songs: “King of the Road,” “On the Road Again,” “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” “Theme Song from Route 66,” “Hit the Road, Jack.”
  • Humor: Share memories of the Burma Shave advertising signs placed along the highways from the 1930s-1950s. Read some of the witty jingles on the signs. (Example: My cheek/ Says she/ Feels smooth as satin/ Ha! Ha! Says he/ That’s mine you’re pattin’/ Burma-Shave) More available on the Internet.
  • Humor: Read some light-hearted travel humor by Dave Barry or Erma Bombeck.
  • Humor: Show photos of odd and funny roadside tourist attractions (ex: Blue Whale of Catoosa, Oklahoma, along Route 66), billboards, or neon signs. Ask: What is a “tourist trap”? What corny roadside oddities have captured your attention as you traveled along the highway?


Challenge your group to name the state in which each of the following vacation destinations is located.

  1. Hot Springs National Park – Arkansas
  2. The Alamo – Texas
  3. St. Augustine – Florida
  4. Plymouth Rock – Massachusetts
  5. Grand Ole Opry – Tennessee
  6. Gateway Arch – Missouri
  7. Sears Tower – Illinois
  8. Mount Rushmore – South Dakota
  9. Carlsbad Caverns – New Mexico
  10. Golden Gate Bridge – California
  11. Mormon Temple – Utah
  12. Acadia National Park – Maine
  13. Monticello – Virginia
  14. Ellis Island/Statue of Liberty – New York
  15. The Great Smoky Mountains – Tennessee/North Carolina
  16. Myrtle Beach – South Carolina
  17. Grand Canyon – Arizona
  18. The Las Vegas Strip – Nevada
  19. Space Needle Tower – Washington (State)
  20. Gettysburg Battlefield – Pennsylvania
  21. Graceland – Tennessee
  22. Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village – Michigan
  23. Pikes Peak – Colorado
  24. Yellowstone National Park – Wyoming
  25. Walt Disney World Resort – Florida


“Laughter is an instant vacation.” ~ Milton Berle

“ROAD TRIP MEMORIES” written by Sue Hansen. © 2012 ElderSong Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.

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