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What your family really wants to do on a weekend trip

Based out of Dallas, Texas, Mary McCoy is a writer and social worker for disenfranchised women and children. She's a single mom, lover of Texas barbecue, and a die-hard fan of yoga

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the weekend

Don't let the end of summer signal the end of this year's family adventures. You can capitalize on family togetherness with a few well-planned and special getaways that are just what your family wants and needs this fall.

Family camping in a tent in the fall

Stay somewhere new

Chances are, you and your family packed up and headed to a hotel for at least a couple of nights over the summer. Hotels are nice, but weekend getaways offer the opportunity to try new lodgings for a different vacation atmosphere. This fall, consider doing the following:

  • Rent a house or cabin. Hotels are often in the midst of city bustle, but homes or cabins tend to feel more remote and private. You can find homes and cabins to rent for short vacations at HomeAway.
  • Camp out. If you're new to camping, it doesn't have to be as rustic as you might imagine. Many campsites have water, electricity, bathrooms and lodgings. Search for state and national parks at Recreation.gov and expand your search to include private campgrounds at ReserveAmerica.
  • Rent an RV — and don't knock it until you've tried it. Renting an RV allows for all of the natural beauty of camping, but with more creature comforts. You can find out how to rent an RV at Cruise America.

View the world differently

No one expects to travel to a far-flung destination on a weekend trip. Instead of driving hours on end for a getaway, tour local destinations with a new perspective. Rent a hotel room close to home with your family and visit the following tourist hot spots that make your town special:

  • Check out local museums. You might be surprised by just how many museums grace your town. Visit the Smithsonian website to find one near you.
  • Go to a professional sporting event. Enjoy a few hot dogs (and beers!) while rooting for the home team.
  • Visit botanical gardens. Families can actually while away an entire day at a botanical garden by taking pictures, feeding the koi and eating a picnic lunch.
  • Tour the local zoo or aquarium. For a fresh approach to taking a vacation, try to look at animals with the same wonder your kids have.

Enjoy nature

The summer is sometimes too sweltering to fully enjoy the beauty of nature, so make your fall getaway truly special by soaking up the great outdoors in these ways:

  • Turn off technology. This rule applies to both kids and parents.
  • Road-trip through fall colors. Check out the Weather Channel for a 2013 fall foliage map to better plan your trip.
  • Plan a hiking excursion. For an extra-special take on the weekend getaway, head to a destination that has lots of trails to explore.

Avoid stressful travel

The high expectations and hefty expenses of summer vacations can prove stressful for families. Take these precautions so your weekend getaway is stress-free and your family can fully relax:

  • Check the weather and postpone your trip if you anticipate storms. It's tough to enjoy nature during a downpour.
  • Check your car and map a course. Make sure that your car is running properly and that you know exactly how to reach your destination. There's nothing more frustrating than losing hours from a short trip because of car trouble.
  • Keep costs low. Camping, road-tripping and staying local are all great ways to lower costs. You can also save money by pooling travel expenses with another family whom you invite to join you.

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How are weekend trips better than long vacations?

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