Go away for the week­end on one tank of gas.

One of the eas­i­est ways to make sum­mer even more sum­mery is to plan a week­end get­away on top of your big­ger va­ca­tion. We’re talk­ing about a one-tank road trip that takes you and the kid­dos up to three hours away for fun and ad­ven­ture but gets you back in time for day camp on Mon­day. Here’s how to gear up for a suc­cess­ful jaunt:


Pick up or or­der a pa­per road map and set a max driv­ing dis­tance of, say, 150 miles. Draw a cir­cle around your start­ing point so you can see at a glance all the fun places you can reach by car from your lo­ca­tion. Got your des­ti­na­tion? Head to a site such as Road­trip­, which can suggest a route and help you nav­i­gate points of in­ter­est along the way, in­clud­ing ev­ery­thing from funky road­side at­trac­tions to his­toric land­marks. (Bonus points if you find stops that pig­gy­back on your kids’ cur­rent ob­ses­sionsñ train mu­seum, any­one?)


Book your ho­tel ahead of time to avoid hunt­ing around for a room with sleepy (read: cranky!) kids in tow. lets you search by ameni­ties, such as free break­fast and a swim­ming pool, and al­lows you to quickly com­pare nightly rates across the Web. Now is the per­fect time to stay in a less ex­pen­sive ho­tel—kids are of­ten happy to just splash around in the in­door pool, and many af­ford­able ho­tels have one.


Book your lodg­ing and map out a rough itinerary, mak­ing time for un­sched­uled stops along the way. Not ev­ery­thing worth check­ing out is listed on Tri­pad­vi­sor, so pull over for dog parks and fruit stands that catch your eye. Look to lo­cals such as ho­tel front-desk clerks and cof­fee-shop baris­tas for hid­den gems and for tourist traps to avoid. Julie Furst Hen­ning, owner of the travel blog Road Trips for Fam­i­lies and mom of three in Eu­gene, OR, adds, “I like to go to garage sales. I ask about the best places to eat and the most fun play­grounds for kids.”


Snacks can make or break any fam­ily road trip, but most healthy options, such as cheese sticks and yogurt tubes, are good only for as long as they’re cold. Luck­ily, with a short trip, a sturdy cooler will keep grab-and-go snacks and drinks chilled for the du­ra­tion of your ad­ven­ture. No need to re­place ice along the way. You’ll also want to pack in-car en­ter­tain­ment, but we chal­lenge you to think out­side the movie marathon and leave the ipads at home. Shorter rides are a great time to try out no-mess crafts like lan­yards, fin­ger knit­ting, and home­made busy books. (Check out our “Crafts You Can Make in the Car” video on our Face­book page for the how-tos.) Off you go!

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