vw-camper-336606_1280Sometimes the best thing about an extended vacation is collapsing in your own bed when it’s over. Jam-packed as many vacations are, the treadmill on which we find ourselves when we are away from home can exhaust the most energetic of parents and tire the most resilient of children.

Staying in one place and exploring a surrounding area with a series of day trips can be fun; a restful pace with lots of laughter thrown in. Here are some ideas for your summer:

Public transportation: Driving a car in an unfamiliar landscape can leave a driver feeling like the GPS was his best memory. Lots of fun can be generated on a bus or train, especially if you have a focus for things to look for. Rather than passive passengers, children and parents can be actively engaged with the landscape making the journey as much fun as the destination.

Planning: Involving children in places they might like to see, especially teenagers, can create a buy-in for them. Do this ahead of time and arrange as much as possible before you get there.

Take a class: It’s not uncommon for restaurants, farms, artists or factories to not only give guided tours, but to give a guided work experience.

Oldies but goodies: Passing out games at hour intervals, tracking where people are from by analyzing license plates, singing, playing magnetized board games, map tracking the journey, I Spy, I’m thinking of ….

  • Give everybody a camera.
  • Press flowers or leaves and use these to make presents such as stationary when you get home.
  • Get started before you go: Maps, films, food, books by local authors can prepare children for their adventure once you arrive.
  • Post cards: let each child buy one post card at each destination and write what they like on it and put it in the mail. It’s a real treat to return home to snail mail.
  • Ask an expert if you have a child with special needs: www.disabledfriends.com, www.youreable.com
  • Split up responsibilities to allow some time alone. Look into child-care or day camps ahead of time; this will allow the more grown-up members of your family some flexibility to explore things they are interested in.

If you review the list above you will see that almost everything can begin and end in your own hometown neighborhood. Rather than a non-stop month that ends in exhaustion, consider a summer of day trips—one a week. I think you’ll like it.

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