Day tripping is the low-pressure, low-barrier secret that keeps my family closely bonded, despite an average six day per week work schedule as an active drill instructor. What does it look like when travel becomes your family love language?
I’ve yet to meet someone opposed to travel. It’s a luxury most of us do our best to budget for once, maybe twice a year. Day tripping is the budget friendly option that drives adventure into your everyday life. Tahiti is still on our life’s bucket list, but learning to two-step in Nashville, Tenn., climbing Toccoa Mountain in Georgia, and spotting submarines surface at Deception Pass in Washington are all worth line items to add.
Five years ago, a honeymoon didn’t fit the training schedule or pocket change-sized bank accounts we had as a young, married couple. Instead, we began taking nearly every day off work to see anything and everything within the area. Remarkably, we felt more well-traveled than ever, and realized just how much each state had to offer.
The renewal of hearts and minds through shared experiences is the greatest tools we’ve found to help our soldier mentally reintegrate. It is what makes up for frequently missed soccer seasons, and combats detachment from 16-hour work days. Additionally, travel and curiosity are the friends our children have found they’ll never have to say goodbye to.
Proximity is king to a day tripping life. When planning adventures, I like to categorize activities by what we think we can accomplish in a day, half a day, a few hours or things that need to piggyback onto a bigger trip.
Here are some of our favorite adventures near a couple duty stations:
In only a few hours
Fort Jackson, S.C. — Lynches River County Park (1 hour)
Plan to trek into the trees via several suspended bridges. Stop and learn at the nature center, which has a fabulous collection of live reptiles and a library of native insect species. Opt into a short boardwalk hike along the riverside and stop roadside for pick-your-own strawberries, if the season is right.
For a full day adventure
Fort Jackson — Sliding Rock near Brevard, N.C. (2 hours 45 minutes)
This is easily one of the coolest places we’ve ever visited. Wake up extra early to find prime roadside parking in the Pisgah National Forest where Sliding Rock is located. Pack snacks and extra towels, and be forewarned that the water is cold year-round. Post sliding, drive down the mountain and stop at one of the many waterfalls along the road. Head to Caesars Head State Park where the view from the overlook is steps from your car. Opt to squeeze down the hidden staircase into a narrow gorge that the kids will love.
Later, dine alfresco in Greenville, S.C., at Falls Park on the Reedy. A hearty waterfall, lush green lawns, and a photo op in front of the Medusa Tree is the perfect way to end the day. An easy 1.5 hour drive back home makes this a no brainer to visit.
With only half a day
Fort Campbell, Ky. — Mammoth Cave National Park (2 hours)
It is not often that we get to experience life underground, and not often is it as expansive and visually stunning. Book a variation of tours with a range of difficulty and length.
Oh, and by the way, Fort Campbell puts people within driving distance of another underground experience. Also explore the Lost River Cave by boat in Bowling Green, Ky. Both trips can easily fit into a half day adventure.
Being a young family with kids ranging from 8 to 18 months, micro-adventures are accomplished easily and eliminate the pressures that a big budget trip can put on small children. In fact, most of our trips are so low cost and close to home, that the unexpected earache or meltdown can be met with a quick tip back home with a “try again” attitude. Plus, you’ll frequently find my husband sleeping off a 24-hour duty shift while I pilot us to our destination.
Use the incredible gift of proximity given to you through your next Permanent Change of Station and learn to love every nook and cranny of your newly adopted state.Read comments