07 Dec Bonding with your Teen on College Road Trips
Bonding–The Unexpected Perk of College Visits Road Trips
Driving home, I had this sudden notion that I could be that person! I had already planned two separate trips for my daughter that had gone very well—and we had thoroughly enjoyed our time together. I was working freelance and on contract at the time, so I had the flexibility to travel when it best suited both my schedule and my daughter’s. I also found that I was spending more time doing college research and itinerary planning than on my paid work. And I loved doing it! More than anything, both she and I were exceptionally pleased with the outcome of these trips.
Later that evening, I shared my business idea with my husband, who thought it was great—a service to help families plan customized, unescorted college visit itineraries that would offer in-depth on-campus arrangements and assistance with route planning and travel arrangements as well.
My first client—my girlfriend, of course! I offered her my assistance and together we worked out the details for her upcoming trip. Upon her return, she shared with me some of the week’s experiences. Of course, most important were her daughter’s takeaways from the colleges that she visited—her impressions of the students, faculty and administration that she met while she was there, and her ability to determine if the academics would meet her needs and interests—and to gauge the true sense of the college community and how she might fit in.
But what also struck me was how much they enjoyed their time together—one-on-one time that is so precious these days. As I listened, I realized that it wasn’t just our family trips that were yielding these memorable moments. They couldn’t have picked a worse weather week to tour the Midwest—a week of torrential rain. I heard about their mad dashes across some of the campuses, trying to get from one meeting to another—and of a day where they didn’t even venture outside their hotel room because the weather was just too treacherous—so they spent the day together just chatting, watching old movies on TV and snacking on junk food.
I fondly remember one college road trip when my son (12 at the time) and my aunt joined us as we visited Williams College, Skidmore College, Smith College and Brown University. My aunt has since passed away but the memories of the trip are still vivid; I remember feeling so honored that she chose to spend her time with us visiting colleges. In Williamstown, she found the ice cream shop and hung out with my son while my daughter and I toured the Williams campus. At Skidmore, we met up with a college friend of mine and her daughter, and all of us explored the campus together—and ended our visit there with a delicious lunch in their dining hall, compliments of the new Director of Dining Services. We enjoyed each other’s company that afternoon as we ate lunch at The Circus Café, still a favorite of my son (he is now a junior at Skidmore) and wandered in and out of the many shops on Broadway; one of my son’s treasured possessions is a paperweight that my aunt bought for him on this visit. We continued on to Smith College from there—my alma mater. What a thrill it was for me to share the campus with my daughter and to see her take it all in for the first time. While those times have come and gone, I still cherish the experiences that the four of us had together.
One of the greatest rewards for me when working with families is to hear about their positive experiences when they return. Here’s part of a note from a client who travelled from California to the east coast with her son for the first of three college visit trips: “Home safe and warm! It was really a treat for me to spend the week with Tom. He is a man of particular interests, and until this week, I’m not sure I had a good understanding of what he’s interested in and until now, he’s never found the patience to explain it to me in terms I understand. We laughed a lot, and have returned home with a renewed sense of purpose as it relates to the college search”.
And this, from a mom in New York: “The college visits were also a lot of fun for us as a family and very informative on so many levels”.
Time seems to pass faster and faster as our kids grow older—and the high school years seem to fly by. The frenzied life of a teenager offers little in the way of quality family time, especially during the junior and senior years of high school. Combine that with parents’ day-to-day responsibilities, and it’s understandable why there are few opportunities for bonding. So while the college road trip is not what most of us think of as a typical vacation, it’s a chance for parents and teens to do things together, either one-on-one or with the whole family. Getting away from the everyday routine and experiencing something out of the ordinary can bring about great conversations and wonderful memories.