How to plan a memorable family adventure - tips & resources

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Going on adventures feeds my soul and brings me so much joy! I love to be out in the world. I want to participate in life. I want to see and learn as much as I can. Shoot, sometimes, I just need a change of scenery.

"Discover, Adventure & Explore" are my family's mantras. These are important to us and vital to my mental well being. Therefore, I have turned myself into an expert on planning simple, yet memorable family adventures.

Adventures do not need to be expensive. We have walked around the North Carolina University campus exploring the arena where Michael Jordan played basketball. Other adventures have been crazy expensive, but once and a lifetime moments. One example would be when we stumbled into the Peabody Hotel in Memphis during their annual Christmas Tree lighting party and we watched their world famous ducks march through the lobby and hop into the fountain! My daughter loved it. Room service in a swanky hotel and sleeping between luxurious sheets is sometimes a necessity.

Here are my top resources and tips for planning a memorable family adventure:

MUST SEE LISTS

I google "Top must see..." lists all the time. Things to do with kids. Things to do in Indianapolis. Things to do in the Midwest. Things to do throughout the year. Things to do on the moon. Things to do in Tulsa (or whatever town we are headed to). Then I print those lists out, narrow down what works for my family and start crossing items off.

Must see lists are must see for a reason. We have discovered some beautiful and memorable places from these lists. Anything from a Nascar hauler parade, food truck circles, strawberry picking, gorgeous natural parks, antique stores, new areas to play at, like the City Museum in St Louis that we crawled over, under and through. These lists will help you try something new!

TIP: I have a Word document containing a must see list of places I would like to explore locally, their hours of operations and contact information. I have a print out of this list in my car. This is the best cure for "I'm bored" when it comes wafting forward from the backseat. Find some free time. Pull out the list. Visit and cross it off!

WEBSITES

Local, County, City and State websites are a great place to discover new adventures. I use my county and my state's capitol websites the most. They list new art exhibits, local art and beer festivals, featured restaurants and events you would never dream exist. I am currently researching local horse back riding for a day date with my husband. These websites help you discover local historical markers, walking tours and what might be hidden down that gravel back road off to the right.

YELP

This is one of my go-to apps on my phone. I use this app to choose healthy meal locations when we travel. Just type in where you are and let the app work its magic. This app is especially helpful when trying to feed kids. Our daughter is picky and we usually search 2-3 restaurants and their menus before we find one she may actually eat at. App can be checked while driving or walking.

TIP: I ONLY go to restaurants based on their reviews and customer feedback. If I am in a different area, I need about 100-200+ good reviews before I will try a restaurant. When I am adventuring, I want every last detail of that trip to be amazing, including the food, dining experience and wait staff.

TIP: I have also used Yelp to find yoga studios when I am in a different city or state. It is not just for restaurants!

INSTAGRAM - *MY NUMBER 1 RESOURCE*

This is my number 1 resource when it comes to choosing new adventures and destinations.

TIP: Follow local people, your city, your capitol, a big city near you, local restaurants, organizations, local photographers, etc. They are ALWAYS taking pictures of the next best place to visit. I follow both natural wildlife accounts and urban/suburban accounts. About 99% of the trips or events we explore I have found on Instagram.

Instagram is especially wonderful when you spin down the rabbit hole and discover a new "something" that happens to only be 15 minutes away from the city you will soon be exploring. A great example of this would be when we headed to Fort Wayne for the Johnny Appleseed Festival and from an Instagram picture I saw and Google Maps we wound up a couple miles north at the cutest farm and home decor store named The Shed.

GOOGLE MAPS

Need I say more? Enter your location and get driving. Google Maps will pretty much direct your anywhere you need to go. We have driven through many states on Google Maps alone.

TIP: I print out all directions just in case you enter a "dead zone" with no connection. (Hello, like all of Connecticut for me) You don't want to be on a back woods road at night with no signal, a tired child whining in the backseat and get lost. From one friend to another...just trust me on this one.

NEWSPAPERS

My city has a local newspaper that is delivered weekly to our mailbox. I always check out activities listed in our area. Some weekends, you may not have the money, energy or patience to drive very far. Your own community is key to low maintenance adventures. My daughter was able to participate in a helicopter Easter Egg drop due to our local paper. It was so cool!

LIBRARY

Do not forget about your local library, especially if you have younger children. Libraries offer so many free learning programs. My daughter and I have attended many library events and have all looked at all types of animals up close, participated in kids yoga and witnessed cool science experiments through library programs.

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BONUS - MY CALENDAR

I am a pitbull when it comes to my calendar. Something really has to EARN its way on. We are a typical family and booked with all the regular work, church, kid after school activities that every one else participates in. But I block my weekends. That means family events only.

BONUS TIP: I have a "Special Events" tab in my digital calendar. At the beginning of every year and/or season, I look up all the festivals that I would like to attend and I block them on my calendar. Sometimes I plan months or even a year in advance. This way those special "Play" events are already holding space on my calendar.

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BONUS - WHEN YOU GET THERE

BONUS TIP: Hop on a riding tour. After a day of exploring, the kids are hot and grumpy, you and your spouse have reached your limit with each other, someone may not make it home alive, hop on a tour. We have explored Savannah, Memphis, Indianapolis and even smaller towns like Nashville and French Lick this way. Give your feet a break. Meet some local people. Learn some history. Hop on a riding tour!

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Planning a family adventure does not need to be complicated. Brainstorm things you all might be interested in. Give each child a subject they would like to learn more about. Declare family night once a month at a new restaurant you learned about on Yelp. Walk down the street to the local library sponsored event. Attend your high school's local homecoming parade. Just get out there and explore!