Last Updated on September 24, 2013 by Jody Halsted
Thank you to Maxine Dee for this timely guest post on finding summer fun locally!
In our household, summer is the best time to hit the trail for a long and relaxing road trip with the rest of the family. The weather's perfect for any outdoor activity and the kids, as well as the adults, are all itching to leave town in search of the ultimate family adventure. Over the years, my family has covered a lot of ground enjoying everything that the country has to offer. Beaches, camping grounds, amusement parks – the list goes on.
If your family, like mine, enjoys experiencing new things and exploring the wonders of nature, then an out-of-town trip is probably one of your must-do's this season. But with the way fuel prices have been fluctuating in the last month or so, an out-of-town trip may just put a large dent on your savings account.
The good news is that there are other ways to ensure lasting family fun without having to spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on gas, lodging, and food. In fact, you don't have to go far to experience a memorable family adventure. I've gotten tips from a number of parents who seem to be experts at planning local or in-town family vacations. I've tried some of these tips and my kids just love these special “stay-in” weekends. Now, I'm sharing these tips with you and hoping that you and your family will also find joy in simple and fun family activities.
Tip #1: Think backyard adventures!
With a little creativity, your very own backyard can become the perfect vacation spot. For water fun, why not set up a portable pool? Mom can watch kids splatter while dad grills the perfect hamburgers!
You can even build sandcastles and take good pictures!
For extended fun, set up a tent or two at night! Backyard camping can be a real adventure for kids and adults alike. Imagine sipping hot chocolate and enjoying open-faced s'mores (freshly-made not microwaved!) as the entire family sits around a small and controlled campfire – pretty heartwarming picture, right? You can spend the night showing the kids the different constellations or telling spooky campfire stories; although I don't recommend the latter for kids aged 7 years old and below. Another fun activity you can look forward to? Singing! If your child is well on his or her way to becoming a cub scout or girl scout daisy, then now might be the best time to teach your kid the ultimate camping song – Kumbaya.
Tip #2: Try state park activities.
Our country has a lot of beautiful state parks, national parks, and forests. Most of these parks allow camping, biking, hiking, and fishing. By letting your children see and experience all that nature has to offer, you're teaching them to love and appreciate the environment.
But before you start buying maps and rifling through them in search of the nearest state or national park, I suggest making your life easier. Just head on to VisitMyForest.org and the site will help you find a forest that's within a hundred miles from your city/town.
Tip #3: Consider simple fun things you've never done (or rarely do).
When was the last time you enjoyed an afternoon picnic with your family? (And no, munching on fast food take-aways while sitting on a park bench doesn't count.) I'm talking about the whole shebang – homemade sandwiches, freshly-squeezed juices, chocolate chip cookies, the plaid blanket, and the wicker basket. If it's been a while since you've last had a real picnic in the works, then now's the time for you to start planning a trip to the local park. While you're at it, get some kites and take advantage of the light breeze and beautiful weather this summer.
Tip #4: Find excitement (new things) in your own neighborhood.
Try to remember getting lost as a kid. Instead of feeling fear or annoyance, you would've felt excitement. This activity encourages you to “borrow” that sense of wonderment and curiosity from your kids. During one of your day trips with the children, get lost. Not too lost, but just enough to start exploring the other parts of the neighborhood that you don't usually visit.
If a co-worker has mentioned something about an excellent pizzeria or diner a few blocks from your house, then take your kids along and enjoy this new experience with them.
Tip #5: Join local tours.
Warning: You may feel silly at first, buying a map of your own hometown and checking it for tourist spots, but acting like a tourist in your city or town is a great way to reconnect with your roots. Join a local tour, visit museums with the kids, go to historical spots – the point is to immerse yourself in the culture. By bringing your kids along and enjoying these eye-opening experiences with them, you're able to bond with your children while teaching them to appreciate the richness and diversity of the American culture.
Sometimes, the smallest activities can be the most memorable ones. When your kids grow up and start reminiscing about their childhood, they won't be thinking about the different places you've visited. They will, however, reminisce about the fun times you've spent with them. With a little creativity and a lot of heart, you can turn any location into the perfect retreat – even if the location's just your backyard. Spend quality time with your kids this summer without worrying about gas money and other expenses by enjoying an in-town family vacation.
Maxine Dee is a mother and wife who is dedicated to her family. Spending time with them is her first priority and the entire family is always up for trying something new and adventurous. When not with her family, she works for Treetopia, a seller of artificial Christmas trees. Their trees are multi-colored including pine and white Christmas trees for every style.