They don’t just happen, you know. Lasting memories, that is. Parents need to be intentional about creating them. But how to do it?

My daughter creating lasting memories fishing with friends in South Carolina.

One of the best ways to create lasting memories is to do something with your children that is a unique experience — something out of the ordinary. It could be something as simple as going to a movie or to McDonald’s for breakfast one morning. The what doesn’t matter as much as the why. Children notice when parents go out of their way to spend time with them. They pay attention when we make the effort to carve out space to experience something new with them — something only we share with them.

Believe me, in a busy family of six children, it can be difficult to spend that one-on-one time with each of them. We do things together, of course, as you can see in my series Build a Family You Can Be Proud Of or Why Walt Disney World Is Our Favorite Place to Be a Family. We read together as I’ve written about here. We explore parks. Enjoy special family nights.

But there’s something to be said for a parent taking time to build the one-on-one relationship with each child to create lasting memories.

One method I have used as a dad to create lasting and unique memories with our children is to take road trips with each of them. I started last December when I took my oldest son on what was to be an eight-day road trip to Florida and back. It turned into a 9-day trip when we encountered a nasty ice-storm in Northern Kentucky and had to vacation an extra day in a hotel. But even the unexpected drama of skidding across the interstate only added to lasting memories of the trip.

Most recently, I took my oldest daughter on a week-long road trip to Atlanta, Ga, and South Carolina. The primary purpose of the trip was more professional and ministry-related, but a chance to spend time with my little girl (she just turned 12) one-on-one was right up there in making it a win-win trip.

The benefits of a taking a road trip

Here’s what I noted most about the benefits of taking a road trip with one child to create lasting memories:

  • You get to be quiet with the child. In our daily rush, we seldom get to be still, to sit in silence with each other and be Ok with it. In that environment, thoughts get shared as they come. Or not. It can make for a very authentic relationship building that sets the stage for future communication.
  • Older siblings get to enjoy being young again. Like it or not, older siblings tend to carry some of the load of helping with younger brothers and sisters. Some of that duty they take on themselves. But a road trip alone with mom or dad gives them a chance to relax and enjoy being a kid again.
  • You can do things that otherwise might not be possible as a family. Taking the entire family out to eat can be expensive. But a light snack for two might be doable. Stopping at a roadside attraction suddenly isn’t the logistical challenge it can be with the family when it’s just the two of you.
  • You can create lasting memories unique to that child. For my son, he is now the only child to have toured the USS Yorktown, seen Fort Sumter up close, and touched a Saturn V rocket. My daughter is now the only one to have caught a decent-sized fish (and then eaten it), gone clamming (a first for me, too), and visited the Atlanta Zoo. Oh, and she was also named honorary older-sister for our friends’ girls in Atlanta. Nobody else can say that. And that’s a good thing, provided each child gets a chance to carve out unique memories along the way.
  • You get to talk about life as it unfolds. For example, as we drove, we listened to Christmas music and discussed the lyrics at our leisure. We made new friends and discussed how people do things differently than our family and why we do what we do. It made for terrific opportunities to prepare her to think through life on her own in the coming years.

A few pictures from the trip with our friends: 

My daughter in her honorary role of Big Sister at the Atlanta Zoo.

Clamming with friends in South Carolina — a first for us both.

All of these reason only begin to scratch the surface. In short, road trips create lasting memories because they allow you to write a chapter in the story of a child’s life that is uniquely his or her own. And in a tight-knit family, it’s critical not to lose sight of each child as an individual, created in the image of God to be unlike anyone else.

Are you sensing some distance between yourself and one of your children? Maybe it’s time you fired up the car and took a road trip of your own to create some lasting memories with your child — before it’s too late to get intentional about life. Judging by the extra hugs I’ve received from her since our return, I can’t wait for the next trip with the next child.

Which of these reasons makes you want to take a trip with one of your children? Have you ever taken a road trip like ours? Share your story with a comment here to help us all grow.


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