With young kids, sometimes taking a “big” vacation just isn’t in the cards. Maybe you have a car-crier, or you recently potty trained or your child just started school. Maybe work schedules don’t allow for a week-long vacation. Maybe your budget doesn’t (because, let’s face it — kids are expensive! And so are vacations).

Or — maybe you took a summer vacation, but would still like to get away with the family for a few days.

Consider taking a state-cation; that is, exploring your own state! Between state parks, historical monuments, fun museums, local festivals and new playgrounds, there are probably lots of places you’ve never been before. Here are 8 reasons on why to take a family state-cation.

1. Save Money

In general, the less you travel, the less you’ll pay. Take out a map of your state and look at state parks, major cities, beaches, mountains and museums. As long as your destination is within 500 miles, you should be able to drive there in a day, meaning you won’t have to pay for overnight accommodations. Filling up the family minivan is much, much cheaper than paying for airfare — even if you need to rent a larger car for your road trip!

In addition, the lodging at state parks is generally reasonably priced and family friendly. For what you’d pay for a single hotel room, you can generally get an entire cabin or lodge suite. Your family will be much more comfortable and relaxed in the larger accommodations — plus, since you only traveled a few hours to get there, it’s reasonable to only stay a few nights (versus a “big” vacation where you have to stay a week to justify the long trip).

Prior to leaving on your vacation, consider getting yourself one of the best rewards credit cards on the market. This card will allow you to collect reward miles, earn points, or receive cash back on your purchases. In the end, this makes your trip as a whole less expensive; since you will get something back for the money that you have spent. Not all of these cards are the same, so make sure that you shop around and find the one that will provide you and your family with the most benefits.

2. Less Travel Time

If you’re traveling with kids, the logistics of getting there can be daunting. Between the frequent pit stops for potty breaks, snacks and stretching, your 6-hour trip could easily take 8. By the time you arrive at your destination, you’re exhausted and the kids are completely hyped up after being cooped up in a car all day.

Less travel time means less headache. It also means your vacation can start sooner, and you’ll get more bang for your buck. Lastly, if you’re unable to take a week off work, you could make the most of a long weekend, since you won’t be spending entire days traveling.

3. State Parks

There are 10,234 state park areas comprising over 18 million acres in the United States, according to the National Association of State Park Directors (NASPD). Within these parks lie some 43,000 miles of trails, 217,000 campsites and more than 8,200 cabins. In other words, there is a lot to explore!

If you’ve been a lifelong resident of your state, there are surely several state parks you haven’t explored; if you’re new, vacationing at a state park is a great way to get a lay of the land! State parks offer natural and aesthetic qualities that make each site unique, such as native plants, trees, landscapes and wildlife. It’s imperative to get kids out in nature, as a strong child/nature connection gives kids their value of place, ability to feel awe and wonder and a sense of stewardship with the earth. State parks are also a healthy option, as there are lots of physical activities for families to do together.

4. Random Museums

Ever been to the National Popcorn Museum? International Banana Museum? Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum? If you live near Marion, OH; Mecca, CA; or Gatlinburg, TN (respectively), these eclectic museums could be part of your next road trip! There are so many interesting museums to explore; consider doing a quick Google search of your route and finding a random museum for a mid-trip pit stop.

You can also explore other children’s museums in your state through the Association of Children’s Museums Reciprocal Network benefits program, which allows for 50% off general admission for up to six people at museums participating in the network. Call your local children’s museum to see if you have this feature on your membership, or visit the ACM website for a full list of participating museums.

5. Local Flavor

One of the best parts about road trips is being able to embrace local culture. While traveling on state routes and back roads you’ll discover off-the-path diners, random farm stands and even festivals and events. Again, Google is your friend here: search for your state’s festival calendar; look up event listings in major cities on your route or near your destination; even check out the Food Network for any features on local diners in the area!

6. Fun Playgrounds

Break your larger road trip into several, smaller pieces by stopping at playgrounds along the way. This is a great way to get kids to stretch their legs — and may even wear them out enough for a nap on the next leg of your trip! You’ll probably have the best luck searching for huge playgrounds outside of major cities. Or, use Facebook to your advantage: ask friends if they know of fun parks in the area, or see if you can connect with any of your friends’ friends who live near your destination. Parents are your best resource here — so do a little networking and see what you can find!

7. State History

Consider stopping at your state’s capital for a few hours. Or, search for landmarks or famous buildings in your state. Your kids will get to experience their state’s history in a real, meaningful way. This is by far the best way to teach your children about history — no classroom needed!

Make a memory box of your trip. Collect pamphlets from museums and parks, press leaves or flowers in between sheets of wax paper, take pictures and purchase postcards or small souvenirs so your kids can have a tangible way to recollect the vacation.

8. Stop and Smell the Roses

You know that famous Emerson quote, “Life is a journey, not a destination”? Well, clearly, Emerson never spent 10 hours in a car with multiple toddlers. Traveling with kids can be tricky and frustrating — and this is where a state-cation will save your sanity.

Break your trip up into smaller segments; after all, if you’re only vacationing 4 hours from home, you can easily stop at a playground, museum or festival along the way. You won’t be stressing as much about “getting there,” since “there” is only a few hours away. You might actually be able to enjoy the journey — and your family!

For more tips on road-trippin’ with kids, check out 6 Tips for Summer Trips to Grandma’s House!

Sources: 1. Consumer Reports, Save Big Traveling to Your Next Vacation | 2. America’s State Parks, State Park Facts
Photo Credits: Sarah M.


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