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Ideas for the Perfect Mini Family Vacation

Updated on May 11, 2017

It’s without a doubt nice to get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life. However, an extended vacation lasting days or even weeks isn’t always possible for all of us.

While cheap family vacations remedy the issue of lack of funds, sometimes it’s a lack of time that imposes the biggest restraints on our travel. Intense work schedules, school and family obligations often get in the way of planning a true family vacation.

However, that doesn’t mean you can’t improvise a bit with what’s available locally and find a day for a much-needed staycation.

With minimal effort on your part, you can have a mini family vacation in your own backyard that’s both fun and relaxing.


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Camp at a Local Campground

Whether you live in the city, suburbs or a rural area, chances are there’s a local campground within 10 to 20 miles.

Pack up the kids, a family-sized tent, sleeping bags — even an air mattress — and some food and supplies for a quality family bonding experience free from the distraction of electronic devices.

There are campgrounds suited to all manner of roughing it. Some are hike-in only with a small number of non-reservable campsites. Others offer car camping with amenities like showers and organized recreation activities for the kids.

Choose something relative to your family’s comfort level while still offering a vacation experience that’s a bit out of the ordinary. And don’t forget the s’mores!

Visit a County Fair

Each year, counties all across the country host youth fairs that showcase the local area’s agricultural endeavors (think Charlotte’s Web). More recently, these fairs have introduced art and craft competitions as well — for kids and adults.

You could spend an entire day at one of these fairs, taking in everything they have to offer. There are petting zoos, sideshow acts, games, rides, art exhibits, and of course greasy fair food.

Some even offer huge shopping areas, live music and horse racing! In short, there’s plenty to do for all ages that’s both educational and fun.

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Visit an Amusement Park

Even if you don’t live near a Disney park, there are still dozens of other theme parks and smaller amusement parks in practically every state.

Major theme parks usually offer a variety of rides for both children and adults in addition to family-friendly entertainment and dining options.

Tickets can range anywhere from $35-$125 depending on the park, so choose something that fits your budget.

Smaller local amusement parks are usually cheaper and may even offer free admission. These are a great budget friendly option if your kids are too little to go on rides or don’t care much for them.

Amusement parks usually offer pay-as-you-go options so you can stick to a budget and enjoy the other activities offered as well.


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Have a Beach or Pool Day

There’s nothing that screams "family holiday" more than relaxing next to a body of water. Have a family beach day building sand castles, swimming in the surf or enjoying water sports if you have older kids.

If you’re not within driving distance of a beach, local pools, lakes and rivers work too. Most kids can play in the water all day if you let them.

Many pools offer concession stands with delicious summer treats like ice cream and hot dogs. If you choose a lake or river, local rental companies will often have kayaks, pedal boats, and inner tubes available for use on an hourly basis as well.


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Go Hiking in a State or National Park

Don’t forget about our country’s beautiful collection of state and national parks. Enjoy quality time outdoors while hiking trails through the wilderness with your family.

Pack some water and food in a backpack and pick a spot to have a spontaneous picnic in. Get an Audubon Society guide and take turns trying to identify wildlife, plants, trees and flowers to each other.

Many national parks offer ranger-led hikes and activities that are free with entrance to the park. They’re a great opportunity for kids to learn something new about nature and the natural habitats of wildlife near you.


Spend the Day at a Science Museum

Most major cities offer a science museum with interactive exhibits and activities for children to enjoy. Exhibits vary from museum to museum, but can cover everything from ecological and earth sciences, to biology, to computer science and animation.

Science museums offer kids and adults the opportunity to experiment with scientific concepts and theories that can open up a whole new way of understanding the world. Some museums even offer special programs where you can spend the night there, learning about a specific topic and participating in an exclusive experience.

The large sizes of most science centers allow for all day exploration and many also have onsite IMAX theaters, planetariums and restaurants.


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Visit a Zoo or Aquarium

Zoos and aquariums are another great way to have a vacation that’s not too far from home. They’re also an affordable alternative to major theme parks while still offering an entertaining and fun-filled day.

Your family will have the opportunity to get up close and personal with animals you wouldn’t otherwise be able to observe in their natural habitat.

Many of these facilities also have action-packed animal shows and feeding demonstrations with zookeepers where kids can ask any burning questions they might have about a particular animal.


Attend a Sporting Event

For sports loving families, a day at the ballpark, arena or stadium is often enough to feel like a vacation. Most major league sports offer free admission for children under four, but you’ll find the best deals with minor league teams.

Minor league baseball teams have special promotions where tickets and certain food items are only $2!

If you can arrive early enough before the start time, some teams offer pre-game activities and giveaways for children and families. Sporting events are also great bonding experiences as you get your kids psyched up to root for a team.

Of course there’s always the opportunity to indulge in a variety of delicious junk food options, which are a big hit with the kids. Mom and dad can also imbibe responsibly with an alcoholic beverage or two.


Written by: Liana Minassian

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