This year my family made the decision to mix things up a bit as we mapped out travel plans.

This year my family made the decision to mix things up a bit as we mapped out travel plans. We are a family of three, which means there is some flexibility in our mode of travel - car, plane or train, for example. Usually we opt for driving. It allows me (err, us) more control. There are no baggage fees, we create our own schedule and we get an up-close look at some of the country's most picturesque views.

We have given our son, Ian, the nickname "Li'l Traveler" because right from the start, he's been a boy who has accumulated a lot of miles, both air and road. Our extended family is spread out across the country: California, Texas, Indiana, Ohio, Florida and Maryland. In the early days, flying was optimal because we didn't have to buy Ian's ticket, but as he got older and airfare soared, we took to the car whenever possible.

Last Christmas we went south to Daytona Beach, Fla., where we spent the week in a timeshare. The weather was great, but even nicer was the leisurely drive that included stops along the way. It is always fun to take everything in with Ian. It takes me back to childhood memories of my parents loading my three siblings and me up their station wagon for visits with family and vacations to destinations including Washington, D.C., Mammoth Cave, Ky., and various state parks.

My own parents were adamant that we look out the windows, read a book and enjoy the ride. Of course, I am certain they were also desperate to keep the four of us from bickering and constantly asking, "How long till we get there?" Road trips with Ian are similar: We want him to take note of where we are and to savor the family time.

Our spring break trip was to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Gatlinburg, Tenn. We stayed in a condo in the mountains with an absolutely gorgeous view. Because there were a couple of cold days, we had plenty of time to relax inside before venturing out to the NASCAR Speedpark, the Ober Gatlinburg Ski Resort and the many shops and restaurants in Gatlinburg.

We cover a lot of ground in actual miles on our road trips, but it's more than numbers on the odometer: It's also countless memories of our respective childhoods. Ian loves the stories and he also loves the free time with video games and the occasional book (if I really push). We've also taken to giving him an introduction to what we call "real music." While he loves today's top 40, our Li'l Traveler has become quite the fan of old school funk and R&B.

As Ian approaches middle school and the teen years, we truly relish these times. The pace is slower but overflowing with opportunities to create some new memories and solidify connections. Those are elements of family life you just don't get racing through the airport.

-Tracy Townsend is a news reporter and anchor with 10TV News HD.