Discovering the world together can provide parents and children with memories to cherish, strengthening the bonds of love and respect—or not. Here, Hemispheres contributors share tales of family trips that didn’t quite follow the script, along with tips to help others avoid familial woes in far-off lands.
When I was about 10, I told my mother that I’d like to see Wyoming, the most sparsely populated state in the lower 48. That’s the kind of kid I was. Being a bit of an explorer herself, Mom booked us a holiday at a working horse ranch in the middle of nowhere.
We arrived late at night during a violent electrical storm. At the end of the driveway, a ranch hand informed us that lightning had ignited a forest fire near the main house, and that until it was under control, “you’d best find another place to hole up.”
We turned around and drove off toward the nearest town, lightning striking the landscape around us. My mom managed to stay calm for the most part, but tipped her hand when two glowing arches appeared in the distance. “Want to go to McDonald’s?” she asked with apparent breeziness, her foot pressing harder on the accelerator. That was the first and last time my health-conscious mother uttered those five words. She must have been terrified.
We sat in that fast-food joint for hours, pacing ourselves through nuggets, burgers and fries as the storm raged outside. We’d traveled to Wyoming to see something new, and what we got was this. Even at the time, I understood that “this” was something pretty great. —SAM POLCER
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Each year at least 5 million U.S. family vacations include representatives from three generations
Parents traveling with children make up approximately 30 percent of U.S. adult leisure travelers
Grandparents traveling with grandchildren represent 7 percent of U.S. adult leisure travelers
Family travelers take an average of 4.5 trips each year (with grandparents often footing the bill)
65 percent of Americans who have been on family trips describe the experience as relaxing
24 percent of Americans say they usually need a vacation after they return from a family trip
Children ages 6 and younger ask “Are we there yet?” an average of 13 times during a one-week vacation