Seating assignments, picture frames, and laundry: What are your travel traditions?

I’m working on a five-part story that will run on the blog every Thursday in May. It’s about a trip I took a few years ago to Hot Springs, Arkansas, and it got me thinking about the the weird/fun/interesting idiosyncrasies we all have when it comes to travel.

travel traditionsThe first “tradition” I remember growing up was the seating assignment for family road trips. Dad was very specific about seating: since there were two of us boys, one always sat in the front passenger seat, and the other always sat in the rear seat behind the driver. (We would rotate at each stop, since two young boys can’t abide having one “hog” the front seat the whole time.)

This left my mom in the rear passenger-side seat, since I honestly can’t remember her driving on a road trip, and my dad was in the driver seat. (Bless his heart: now that I’ve taken a few road trips of my own, I understand why he gets a little miffed being the primary driver while mom gets to enjoy being chaffered, but that’s another story for another time…)

You may be wondering why this seating configuration was so specific. Dad spent many years on the scenes of car accidents as an investigator for the trucking line he worked for. He’s seen and heard of some pretty gnarly situations between cars and semi tractor trailers. In his mind, our little four-person arrangement made it very unlikely that either both parents or both kids would be impacted (or worse) in the event of an accident.

As an elementary school student on the way to Waycross, Georgia, this struck me as mildly morbid. But as I’ve shared this years later with other friends, some who have their own kids, it actually makes sense.

picture frames When I began traveling on my own, I started my own (admittedly less fatalistic) tradition without even realizing it. On a few trips, I bought picture frames with the name of the location on them and filled them with a photo of my fellow travelers. After picking up frames from Steamboat Springs and New York, I realized that I had stumbled on a tradition that I absolutely love.

I now make it a point to find a city-specific frame at each place I visit, although it gets challenging internationally. Key West, Arkansas, San Diego, and Dallas remain incomplete due to my own oversight. It’s the only cheesey souvenir I’ll allow myself, and I don’t count work trips unless there’s also some friend-related activity with it.

I absolutely love the end result: a reminder of the places I’ve been and the good people I’ve traveled with.

Do you have specific seating assignments on road trips? Do you always pack the same thing, or pick up the same souvenir when you visit different places? That spoon collection needs a few more additions, don’t you think? As we’re coming up on summer, what are your own travel traditions?

P.S.–In the spirit of full disclosure, I should also share that I typically unpack as soon as I get home, regardless of the time, and I’ve been known to start a load of laundry at ungodly hours of the morning upon returning from a trip. The though of living out of a suitcase in my own home is maddening.

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