With summer break approaching, now is the time to start planning those vacations.
If an expensive getaway isn't in the budget, however, day trips can be just as fun and give families the opportunity to explore more.
Here are some ideas of how you can plan the perfect day trip for your family.
Narrow down the basics
Before you begin planning your day trip, decide how much you want to spend and how far you want to drive.
If you have young children, it may be best to stay closer to home - limiting the number of hours you spend in the car, for example.
Not sure where to venture? Grab a map and check out the communities within a certain driving distance from your home. Include the kids and use a compass to draw a circle with a set radius around where your home is located on the map.
Day trips don't have to take several hours to reach - fun trips can be within 5 miles of your own house.
Make sure to include expected and unexpected costs when budgeting. Include gas, food, souvenirs and entrance fee costs, but don't forget to budget money for unexpected stops such as a farmer's market or antique store you may stumble across.
Hit the books
Bookstores and websites have extensive collections of travel books, from those that highlight entire states to ones that focus on a single community. Want to browse without committing to buying? Check your local libraries, which can help you find books and navigate the web.
“We have materials – both books and magazines – on what to do for local travel,” said Debbie Albrecht, director of the Lansing Public Library. “Our reference librarians are always happy to share online information with our patrons, too. The web can be overwhelming and we have sites we know are good.”
Mary Harrigan, head of reference services at the Crown Point Community Library, says the library has several travel publications in its non-fiction section, as well as books on Indiana travel.
“There is even one book that just lists possible day trips throughout the state,” she said.
The Crown Point library also has travel pamphlets that can be checked out, just like books, she said.
Visit the visitors bureau
If planning your day trip in advance, call or email the community's visitors bureau and ask for brochures or a guide of what the locale has to offer.
Kristen Guthrie, director of marketing at Visit Fort Wayne, says travelers visiting Fort Wayne can take advantage of hotel packages and coupons that the visitors center offers on its website, visitfortwayne.com.
"We are the best resource for all visitor information, day trip information, restaurants, calendar of events and more," she said.
Often, visitors bureaus will allow someone to request a tourism packet online. If the community doesn't have a visitors bureau, check with the local Chamber of Commerce.
Don't be afraid to drop in on the visitors bureau or center once in town. Many are open throughout the year and welcome travelers looking for the perfect spot to eat or destination to visit.
"We work to bring visitors to our community and help them once they are here," Guthrie said.
Check out other resources
The web is a powerful resource - especially when getting to know what a community has to offer.
Visit the sites of newspapers in communities you are considering and check for travel sections that highlight new exhibits or upcoming festivals, for example.
Check out parks and recreation departments in the area, which often publicize popular activities such as sledding, fishing and park sites.
Other sites to consider include state and national parks, and websites like bringfido.com that promote pet-friendly destinations.
Before hitting the road
In addition to munchies, don't forget music and games for the road. Do some research beforehand, and come up with fun quiz questions about your destination.
Pack a tub of ready-to-go items such as a blanket for a picnic or a football for an impromptu game.
Don't forget a camera, and even a family journal. Encouraging kids to document their travels help them become good observers, but also create lasting memories of your family trip.