I recently took a family road trip through Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland with my aunt and uncle. Since I typically travel on my own, this was a nice chance to change things up a bit. We met up with Belfast and out journey took us to quite a few places over 9 days. Stops included Derry, Sligo, and Kilkenny. In this post I’ll share some of the lessons I learned from taking a family road trip.
1) Take the time to prepare: It surely helped that I was ready to change gears from traveling on my own, to traveling with family. It was helpful that I’d taken the time to think about a few things to be a better travel companion. If you haven’t traveled with family in awhile it’ll be worth your while to get into the mindset of traveling as a group aka take the time to think of others.
2) Have the time to slow down: This was something that spanned from hiking and other daily activities, in addition to how we planned our route. I’ve always been an advocate for slow travel, but this trip only made me more of a believer. Being able to stay 2 nights in own place, was surely a treat. It meant that we could see more and have more time to relax. Even taking the time to hike at a slower pace meant that I had more time to soak up the surroundings, which I really enjoyed.
3) Learn to say yes: While you probably shouldn’t say yes to everything, just give it a shot. I always thought those open top hop on, hop off tour bus tours looked lame, but was I wrong. When my aunt suggested it, I nearly said “no” to opt for an alternative activity, but then I decided to go. It turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip.
4) Find a way to stay positive: My aunt deserves an award for positive. I can’t get over how much having someone so positive and optimistic made our trip that much better. Everyone isn’t always going to get the best night’s rest or driving on the opposite side of the road can be frustrating, but having someone with a big smile and a positive demeanor was great. So do your best to say positive and turn that frown upside down, it really works wonders.
5) Locals know best: While I always try to connect with locals, this family road trip only emphasized how important it is to take the time to speak with locals and to take their advice. We ended up traveling to Sligo, which wasn’t on our original itinerary, but it ended up being a great place. Our B&B host even offered up suggestions for a hike in the nearby town of Strandhill, Ireland which turned out to be a hidden gem. So put down your smartphone, look up, and take advice from a local.
6) Be grateful: Slowing down allowed me to take the time to appreciate the time we had together. I think it’s easy to get caught up in the daily planning and what to see, where to go, and what’s next when traveling in a group. Try to do your best to be grateful for the time you have together because the trip will be over before you know it. Making time to journal helped me to be grateful, in addition to voicing that gratitude to my aunt and uncle. We repeatedly mentioned to each other how thankful we were for the trip and how lucky we were to be traveling in such a beautiful place together.
Written in: The Hague, The Netherlands