Mini family vacations -- savoring end of summer

by Melissa Jaramillo

Mini Family VacationsIt's your last chance to drag out the maps, cruise websites and plan a mini vacation before the kids head back to the classroom.

August might signal back to school but it doesn't have to mean the end of family fun.

You can "vacation" in your backyard, explore your community or head out for a weekend adventure.

Three mini family vacations

Backyard camp out

Do you think your family would enjoy camping but you're not ready to head into the wilderness? Put away the video games, turn off the TV and pitch a tent in the backyard.

Gear up: You won't need a lot of equipment for an overnight backyard adventure. Just a tent, sleeping bags or bedrolls, backpack, flashlights and an ice chest and you're set. Each child can pack their own bag.

What you can do: Grab your packs and head out with your map. Find the route with a compass or your phone's GPS. Your path leads around the neighborhood and ends at your camping spot in the backyard. It's okay to cheat and leave heavy stuff like the tent and food behind.

Reach the campsite an hour before sunset so you have plenty of time to set up before dark.

The town tour

Visit a neighboring town. Changing locations for the day can feel like an entire weekend of fun.

Gear up: Pack a picnic lunch. We all know that a child's hunger switch turns on with your car's ignition, so bring along snacks, too. Grab your list of the town's activities and explore! Encourage the kids to fill their backpacks with a change of clothes, a jacket or swim suit. They should also bring a car activity and any extra gear you think will make the day extra enjoyable.

What you can do: Drive down main street, park your car and explore the local shops or museums. Stop at a park for lunch. You'll learn a little about the history of the town. Finish off your day with dinner at a local restaurant and a family-friendly movie.

Go to the beach or head to the mountains?

Does your region have beaches or mountains? Reserve a hotel room near your destination. This can be your home base -- a spot for breakfast, rest, a swim and the end of the day routine.

Gear up: Pack enough clothes and equipment for two days and nights. If you'll be swimming, pack your family's favorites. For a hike in the mountains, each person should have sturdy, comfortable shoes. Bring sunscreen and family-safe bug repellent. Make a picnic lunch and place it in an ice chest with plenty of ice packs to keep it cool overnight.

Have each child fill their backpack with pajamas and at least one change of clothes. Suggest other items like sketch pads, guide books or cameras. Once you've unpacked at the hotel, each person can get their day pack ready for tomorrow's adventure!

What you can do: Check out the local events and see what's enjoyable for the family. Order take-out or stop by a kid-friendly restaurant on your way back to the hotel. Enjoy an evening at the pool or watch movies together. Sometimes you can find a collection in the lobby or bring some movies along.

Wake up and head out with your picnic and gear for a day in the great outdoors. We bet you'll come back with kids ready for an early bedtime!

Is your family heading out for a mini-vacation this year? Where are you headed? What was your favorite activity or destination?

Photo courtesy of