By Judy M. Miller

Are the kids restless? How about you? It might be time for a change in routine or scenery. Day trips are a wonderful and often inexpensive option to family vacations, and the possibilities are endless and abound everywhere, no matter where you live.

Plan On It: Make getting out of the house and away a priority. Part of making day trips happen is commitment. Set aside one day of the month that you can regularly stick to, like the last Saturday of every month. Don’t work? Consider a day during the week, when destinations might not be as busy. Discuss it with all family members and add it to the calendar.

Brainstorm Ideas: Explore the options. Be sure to consider and include your children’s preferences and interests. Consider indoors and outdoors options. My kids range in ages of n19 down to 10, two girls and two boys. Their interests are vast and ever changing as they age. We’ve traveled a few hours to explore zoos and museums, fish or kayak, ski or sled, walk through an auto show, ride a train into a large city for the purpose of seeing a specific exhibition or enjoying a cultural festival, learn about the Thoroughbred horse, watch cows being milked and cheese being made, walk and roll down the hot sand dunes into a cool wet Great Lake on a hot day, and much more.

Keep a Binder: You’ll likely find that you travel within a few hours radius, as we do. I keep a binder with section dividers so that I can include information about the areas we frequent, mindful of free admittance days and special events and festivals. I am on the mailing list for surrounding states’ event planners, which I keep with my binder.

Think Local: We take advantage of what local communities offer by checking out their websites. One constant in our family has apple picking in late summer. We’ve been going to the same orchard for close to two decades. We pick as much as we all can carry, arriving home to prepare most of the apples for applesauce and freeze the rest for delicious pies to be eaten during the colder months.

Think Seasonal: What options do you have where you live? My kids love to hike in the different seasons and picnic. One recurring excursion we take is to state parks, where the entrance fee is nominal. We pack food, snacks and drinks for the day, along with plenty of blankets to sit and nap on, as well as some cards, sketchpads and colored pencils. A favorite pastime is skipping rocks and one of my youngest is very good at it. She also brings her bird book along.

Remember Your Diaper Bag Era: Perhaps you still are using a diaper bag. My diaper bag was a great “training” ground for always being prepared. It was packed and in the car at all times. I know I relied on mine well past the time I needed it, adjusting it to more of a toddler bag, then a kids “go-to” bag. I still carry a bag in the car year-round. I also have a first-aid kit with bug repellant and sunscreen (make sure everything is replenished and updated), gallon sized bags and wipes for mishaps, as well as old towels and a few umbrellas.

Make the Most of Your Time: We’re up and away first thing in the morning, often deciding on our destination as we pull out of the driveway. I check my tires, fluids and gas up the car the evening before. My kids keep packed backpacks in their closets. So, we move out as soon as they’ve dressed and brushed their teeth they grab their backpacks. Sometimes we just grab breakfast on the way to our destination as an extra treat.

We return home late—tired, dirty, content and reconnected through another family experience. I often look back, or into my rearview mirror, and I see sleepy heads resting on siblings’ shoulders. And I know my kids will have another memory to share with each other.

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