As much as I despise the word, “staycation,” we’re big fans of family travel to destinations within a 1- or 2-hour drive of our home.
Partly this is because we live in Sonoma County, California, IMHO one of the most beautiful places on Earth. It’s also because Powerwoman and I believe strongly that you don’t have to go far to experience the wonder of something new.
We put this philosophy into practice over the holiday weekend, when good friends from Central California—a family of four with two daughters, ages 5 and 3—came to visit. They arrived Wednesday night. And from that point until late Saturday, we had a Peter Pan-like panoply of adventures without ever leaving the county.
The activities themselves were fun—especially on Friday, when the eight of us took a private tour of Safari West, a private animal park with giraffes, zebras and hundreds of other animals, just down the freeway in Santa Rosa.
But what was even better was watching the girls play and laugh and bond by just being girls.
They shared cookies at a French bakery. They waved flags at a Fourth of July parade. They splished and splashed in an inflatable kiddie pool. They danced to a ragtag folk band at a local farmers’ market.
Sure, my kids had done most of this stuff before. But they’d never done the stuff with friends, and that factor enhanced each experience acutely.
This reality has been true for me, as well.
My fondest memories of that trip in high school to Acadia National Park revolve around hiking solo with a buddy who tagged along for the adventure. And as a younger child, the best parts of summer trips to Cape Cod were the lazy days with a childhood pal (and her brood).
Last night, a few hours after we parted ways, my Big Girl looked at me with sullen eyes and stated, “Doing stuff was more fun with [my buddy’s daughters] around.” In that moment, I was reminded of something we all should remember: Traveling with family can be transcendent, but traveling with family and family friends can be even better.