Taking Your Faith on Vacation: How to Plan the Ultimate Spiritual Road Trip

We are at the peak of summer vacation time, and to me, that means one thing — ROAD TRIPS! In fact, I consider myself to be something of a road trip aficionado. My road trips always involve curated playlists handpicked specifically for that particular adventure. I never leave on an interstate journey without a legal pad and Sharpie in order to communicate with other motorists. And most of my road trips have included original car games. Some have had costumes, and a few notable outings involved hand puppets to entertain passing truckers. Mixed in with all of these shenanigans however, my family and friends make sure to never leave our Catholic faith at home. Travel is a great way to experience the sheer variety and vastness of the Catholic tradition and the universal Catholic Church. Here are a handful of suggestions for how you, your friends, and family can take your faith on the road on your next vacation.

Visit a unique new church

My family always celebrates Mass while we’re on vacation, which lets us simultaneously experience the local culture and also participate in a Mass that is often entirely different than what we are accustomed to. Doing so, we have attended Mass in enormous basilicas and tiny chapels, overlooking the ocean in Mexico, and under towering trees at an outdoor Mass in Northern Michigan. Masstimes.org can steer you toward all manner of churches, no matter your destination. The website catholicplaces.org also lists notable Catholic points of interest but focuses on basilicas, cathedrals, and shrines that go beyond the typical neighborhood parish.

RELATED: What Are Some Great Catholic Sites to Visit on Vacation?

Catch a music festival

In recent decades, music festivals have become destinations of their own. There are weekend-long concert events spanning all music genres, and Christian music is no different. Some of the bigger shows yet to happen this summer include Soulfest in Gilford, New Hampshire, Shippensburg, Pennsylvania’s Uprise Festival, and Point Fest at Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio. A listing and map of many of the larger Christian music festivals can be found here.

The author on a road trip with his family.

Head to campus

I live in a college town. I was initially surprised at how many tourists visit Michigan State University’s campus each day. Some are alumni, some are families with prospective students, and many others have unique motivations like seeing a football game in every Big Ten stadium. Check out the USCCB’s list of U.S. Catholic Colleges and Universities. Play a round of golf at the Abbey Golf Course at St. Leo’s University, tour the McMullen Museum of Art at Boston College, or take a guided tour of the St. Joan of Arc Chapel on Marquette University’s campus. Not to mention, just about every Catholic university has regularly scheduled Masses open to the public. And if you find yourself in East Lansing on MSU’s campus, be sure to walk one block north and stop by my home parish of St. John Church and Student Center, home of the Catholic Spartans. Go Green!

RELATED: Vacation Guide to Saintly U.S. Cities

Drop in on a parish festival

Some regions of the country admittedly do this better than others. I tend to associate parish festivals with Midwestern cities founded by European immigrants, such as Cleveland, Milwaukee, Minneapolis/St Paul, and Indianapolis. Those dioceses, in particular, have parish festivals every weekend of the summer and well into the fall. I remember going to several of these each summer when I was a kid growing up in Milwaukee. Think beer tent, local cover bands, carnival games for the kids, and maybe even a handful of midway rides all staffed with volunteers from the hosting church. Many parish bulletins and websites will advertise not only their own events but others happening nearby. Checking out the events section of your diocesan website is another good place to start.

Participate in an event Mass

Summertime is when the regular Sunday Mass may burst through the church doors to take worship out into the beautiful weather God has blessed us with. There are some oceanside parishes that hold Mass on the beach, some that have Mass out on the lawn, and I have found myself at a Polka Mass or two as well. So, the next time you’re road tripping across the country, look for a Mass in the great outdoors.

John Oliva

John Oliva has been surrounded by college students for most of his adult life. He spent the first half of his career as a university professor and now works as a licensed, professional engineer in the private sector. Along with his wife Lisa and their daughter, the Oliva’s are active in campus ministry and other service initiatives through their home parish of St John's Church and Student Center at Michigan State University. An aspirant deacon, John is in his first year of diaconate formation with hopes of being ordained for the Diocese of Lansing.