Weekend Family Vacations

Sometimes a family needs a vacation together, but school, work or other factors don’t leave time for it — or the budget won’t stretch for a big trip. There’s no rule about how long a vacation needs to be — or how far you need to go. A weekend camping trip to a nearby state park can be a revitalizing mini vacation, and a chance for your whole family to get away from your everyday world. A weekend away is a chance to spend quality time together without sacrificing leave time or taking the kids out of school. A three-day holiday weekend is even better.

Think Close to Home

You don’t have time for long drives, so stick to a two-hour radius. Look at what’s close to you: a mountain to climb, a campground with recreation activities, a state park with trails or water sports? It doesn’t need to be an expensive amusement park. Is there a nearby city with a street festival or free events and activities? Even if you live in an area not known as a vacation destination, don’t think there’s nothing to do nearby — Google “attractions” or “places to visit” or “things to do” and the name of your region or nearby towns. You’ll be surprised! You can enjoy adventures together and make great memories anywhere.

Don’t Overlook the Obvious

Longwood Gardens during Christmas time, Pennsylvania © Stillman Rogers

Longwood Gardens during Christmas time, Pennsylvania © Stillman Rogers

Are there big attractions nearby you never thought would appeal to children? Look again. With the uptick in family travel, even places like the antiques-filled Winterthur Museum, in the Brandywine Valley between Philadelphia and Wilmington, have multiple family activities and attractions. Nearby Longwood Gardens sets aside an entire section of its conservatory as a children’s garden, has exciting fountain displays daily, and, in the fall, there’s a pumpkin playground. These two places could fill an entire weekend, but you might not think of them as family attractions. Check websites of historic sites and other attractions near you to see what they offer families.

Simplify Lodging

If camping sounds like fun but you don’t have a tent and camping equipment (or want to haul it out for a weekend trip), look for a campground with basic camping cabins; they are family-sized, cheaper than hotels and you have all the recreation facilities of the campground. Or go for a weekend package at a nearby resort where the kids will have plenty of activities and adults can just kick back. Most will let you stay to use all the facilities after you checked out on Sunday, so you get two full days of fun.

Don’t Wait for “Vacation Season”

Off season, when resorts are not busy with summer tourists and ski resorts aren’t packed with skiers, are the perfect times for weekend vacations. Rates are lower, staff is less stressed and recreation facilities are uncrowded. The indoor/outdoor pool at Vermont’s Okemo Mountain Resort, for example, is just as much fun in November as it is in February, and your family may have it to themselves. Also easy to reach from Boston, Nonantum Resort in Kennebunkport, Maine, offers bargain off-season rates for families who book directly (a savings of nearly $50 a night compared to popular booking site prices).

New Hampshire, Nottingham, Pawtuckaway State Park,

New Hampshire, Nottingham, Pawtuckaway State Park © Stillman Rogers

Do It Often

Make it a habit to de-stress on one of these mini vacations every few months. Plan them ahead, so the kids always have one to look forward to, and you can watch for the best deals. Or keep a few ideas in mind so you can take weekend vacations more spontaneously when you see everyone’s schedule is free. Because you’re not taking vacation time, you can take several mini-vacations a year. Remember, you’re only paying for two nights.