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Road Trip With Your Kid for a Unique Bonding Experience

by Rina Nehdar

Dec 16, 2018

© Doug Gellerman

Travel Tips
Father Son Road Trip © Doug Gellerman

Father Son Road Trip © Doug Gellerman

Even with the constant reminder that “it’s the journey and not the destination” that matters, it’s still hard not to urge our children to hurry up and get to the destination, especially in the time-strapped culture in which many of us are mired. We could say it’s habitual and just the way things are but one man found a way to slow down the relentless march of time to match the internal clock of his youngest son’s wonder. Doug Gellerman, senior vice president of West Coast sales, National CineMedia, and father of three, wanted to find a way to bond with his son, Josh, in a way that the normal course of their busy lives wouldn’t allow. So, every summer, they started doing road trips. Gellerman shared advice based on things he’s learned over the 13 years he’s been doing these trips with his son.

Three’s a Crowd

First off, the trips work best if you take only one child at a time. I don’t think we need to explain why. Initially, Gellerman said, he started doing the road trips with other dads and their sons, too, but soon found himself spending more time with the adult instead of his son. “It’s nice, but it didn’t accomplish the objective,” said Gellerman. So, he decided, it would just be the two of them.

Aim For A Destination on the Road Less Traveled

A road trip is better than a flight because of the length of time it requires to get to the destinations. It’s within those long, cumbersome hours the conversations you didn’t know you wanted to have suddenly happen. It’s within that void of productivity that the real work of communication opens. He also advises to take the side roads. “You can set (the smartphone navigation app) Waze now so it avoids the freeways,” Gellerman said. “It takes longer to get there but it’s all about the getting there, the adventure, that’s the best part.”

Father Son Road Trip © Doug Gellerman

Father Son Road Trip © Doug Gellerman

Don’t Overplan

If you don’t have a plan you’re trying to stick to, that opens up even more space for unexpected adventure. “As you’re driving, you see a sign that says World’s Biggest Hole,” he says, “Hey, you gotta go check that out.” They’d also stop at every little town they passed and walk the streets. They’d go into interesting-looking shops, talk to the people and see what they could find. “When Josh was little and he wanted to buy something, I’d say, fine, but you have to ask for it in a Russian accent.” End each day with a vague idea of the destination you’d like to reach tomorrow and be open to revision. “It’s all about the time together, the adventure along the way and the surprises.”

Use a Hotel App

In the old days, Gellerman said, he’d start looking for a motel to spend the night after they’d finished dinner. He’d go from property to property to find a vacancy or just a clean room. These days, he uses an app called Choice Hotels. The app finds nearby, available hotels and motels with description and price points of each, making the search much easier.

Venture Out

Typically, Gellerman said he’d have about a week of vacation time to devote to these trips and when they’d visited all the destinations around their home that fell within that timeline, they started flying to cities across the country and repeat the whole experience aiming for new areas with rented cars.

Bring Disposable Cameras

Being distracted by smartphones may thwart your bonding experience, so unless you can leave them on airplane mode and use only the camera and travel apps you need, you should bring a bunch of disposable cameras. Gellerman says he always brought about eight and, at the end, he made a photo album of each of their trips.

Gellerman knew he’d made an impact when he recently came into his son’s room and found the albums of their trips spread all over Josh’s room. When he asked what he was doing, Josh replied he was writing his college essay based on things he’d learned from the road trips they’d taken together.

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