Twelve Year Old Trips – Mystery Location

Kayleen, my sister-in-law, first told me about 12 yr-old trips when my children were much younger.  I don’t know if she invented the idea or if she had heard about it from someone else – but I knew it was something that I wanted to incorporate into our family culture.  The essence of the idea is that when a child turns 12, there will be a special trip planned for Mom and child – alone and having fun together for a couple days – a great opportunity to strengthen an important relationship as the child enters into teen years.
Tucked deeply into my mind and heart – the idea emerged again as Nathan neared his twelfth birthday.  Nathan loved US and world history – he had his heart set on someday going to Gettysburg and Normandy.  Normandy would have to wait (and is still waiting), but Mark and I were trying to figure out how he could see Gettysburg — then we remembered the 12 yr-old trip!  I had to gird up my courage to fly about the country without Mark… and I did!  We continued the tradition as each child reached this milestone – free airline miles and hotel points have made it all very affordable!!  Here is a very short run down on five completed 12 yr-old trips with one on the way (how did they all get to be so grown up????)

5 yr old Yankee

I should add that many other families and friends now have a similar tradition – sometimes elaborate and sometimes very simple.  One family chose to go with Mom at age 16.  Even a campout alone with Mom in the backyard would make a difference in a child’s life.  I like the “Mom” idea because dads always get to be fun – this gives Mom a chance to let down her hair a little.
Here is a very short run down on five completed 12 yr-old trips; and one that is coming up very quickly…


Nathan – Pennsylvania- we presented him with a “golden ticket” inside a large candy bar.  We enjoyed a couple beautiful autumn days touring the Gettysburg battlefield and a quick jaunt into Amish country.  The Killer Angels was a book that helped me greatly understand more of the history.  I don’t know if Nathan learned anything new— but he was totally in his element, and we were both struck by the reverence we felt here.

Greg  – Ohio – his gift was a brochure on Cedar Point Amusement park with its many roller coasters of distinction.  It was SO cold that with the wind off Lake Erie it measured in the teens.  Many coasters were closed which worked out well – we had such fun on the carnival-type rides.  Locals wore down jackets and we were stuck with our little windbreakers.  Luckily our hotel was completely messed up with cold water in the hot tub and super warm water in the pool.  We had beautiful sunshine our second day which we spent touring Kirtland.

Jackie – New York – presented with a waterproof camera to represent Niagara Falls.  Such beautiful weather in October and no crowds to deal with.  We were captivated from the time we stepped out of our car and heard the roar of the water.  Wow!  What power we felt!  Another more peaceful power was felt in a beautiful grove of trees as our other adventure was spent in Palmyra.  Prior to catching our flight we took a quick tour of the mansion of George Eastman (KODAK) in Rochester.


Natalie – Pennsylvania – A new tradition began as we decided to not tell the location of the vacation until we were on our way.  She was headed to Hershey, PA so every few days prior to her trip I would leave Hershey Kisses under her pillow as a hint.  We began with an early morning hot air balloon ride over Amish country – it was years later before she confided how scary that had been for her (I loved it). That evening and the next day we played at HersheyPark – a very fun amusement park.  The mega outdoor store next to our hotel may have been her favorite stop!


Clever siblings!

David –  Colorado – He helped me plan a surprise birthday party for Greg, who in turn was planning a surprise party for David.  They were both surprised and David’s hint was an adobe-style cake made by his siblings.  He was headed to Durango to tour Mesa Verde and Aztec Ruins as well as spending a day ziplining at Soaring Tree Top Adventures.  Mesa Verde was very hot and we had forgotten our water bottles which made for good water-seeking adventures.  “Soaring” was just amazing – I think there were 26 lines which became longer and more exhilarating as the day went on – ending with 1/4 mile stretch.  We wished it had gone on and on!

Kimberly – We leave tomorrow but the location is still unknown (to her).  We try to go to somewhat unusual locations (no Disneyland, Hawaii, etc.) that the will probably never be a family vacation destination.  Though no one has ever recognized their clues for what they are, her subtle clue this week has been that we pulled out our “Beverly Hillbillies” DVDs.  Perhaps tonight we will find the time to watch “Christy”… where are we going??

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