Going West: Our Annual Family Road Trip

Little boy and girl playing in sand of Lake Michigan

Connor and Cassie on their first trip to the shore of Lake Michigan.

Several years ago, when our kids were almost 2 and 4 years old, we took a family road trip to the west side of Michigan; it was so much fun that it’s become an annual family tradition.

My husband, Chris, and I graduated from Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo. During our time in college together, we would head to the small beach town of South Haven for some fun in the sun whenever the weather warmed up! As a result, South Haven as well as Kalamazoo, hold very special memories for us that we love to share with our kids. That being said, when we set out for a family road trip, the Ryans head west!

These mini vacations are something we look forward to each year: a laid-back, long weekend where we can simply be together. We pack up the car with suitcases, boogie boards, sand toys, coolers, beach towels, and chairs, and head to our favorite spot.

For us, some of the fun of a road trip and vacation is doing and allowing things we wouldn’t in our normal routine. For example, we stock up on candy and treats at the gas station before we depart, we put a DVD player in the car, there’s no bed time, Cheetos and Doritos (whose orange powdered cheese usually makes me cringe!) are allowed, and ice cream is a must every night. We stay at a hotel that allows us to bring our dog along, and of course a pool is a requirement! I think it’s safe to say that swimming and being in the water is the kids’ favorite.

Girl and boy standing on a rock in front of a red lighthouse

The Holland Harbor Light makes a great backdrop.

We spend the majority of our time in South Haven: on the beach, swimming in Lake Michigan, walking the pier to the infamous red lighthouse, perusing the shops in town, grabbing a bite to eat at Clementine’s or Captain Nemo’s, and spending too much on dessert at Kilwin’s. We’ve also spent some time in Holland; the state park has a gorgeous beach and the downtown is nice, too. Saugatuck is an adorable spot as well.

I love tradition, and I love being with my little family, so this road trip is something I truly look forward to. Seeing the kids having so much fun and seeing how they remember things we’ve done from year to year, just makes my heart smile. This year our daughter, Cassie, who’s now 9 years old, kept a journal during our trip. I loved reading her thoughts and perceptions of our time away…memories I hope that will last a lifetime. I feel her ending to one of the passages of her journal is a perfect way to close out these thoughts on our family time. She wrote, “As the day drifted away, and the sun faded, we layed (sic) on our blankets and watched the sunset together.”

Girl and boy with boogie boards in Lake Michigan

See you next year, West Michigan!

The Ryan Family


4 Responses to “Going West: Our Annual Family Road Trip”

  1. 1 Anonymous July 31, 2014 at 10:42 am

    I love this! You are a beautiful family and I am proud & happy to have you for my friend. I muss you a lot. ❤

  2. 3 Kelly Ryan July 31, 2014 at 2:27 pm

    Awww thank you Linda! I miss you too 🙂

  3. 4 Anonymous July 31, 2014 at 3:47 pm

    Great memories captured with wonderful smiles!

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