Jill Fay: Try these family mini-vacations

My family is very active throughout the year. My husband and I are both self-employed and my children have full schedules between school and extracurricular activities.

Thankfully, we are able to take small breaks for family play and quality time together. I am asked quite often about our mini-vacation road trips, so I thought I would share some fun places we have enjoyed.

1. Camping. Our family's “go to” camping spots are at Mill Pond and Rock Creek campground near Glide. We love both these places because of the small campgrounds, proximity to home and the activities they offer. There are waterfall hiking trails that are gorgeous (Fall Creek Falls is our favorite), a fish hatchery for the kids to feed fish, bike/nature trails, shallow swimming for kiddos in the river, fishing, a baseball field, horseshoe pits and volleyball areas for the family to play.

2. Small waterparks. In Corvallis, there is a small park called Otter Beach. The Eugene/Springfield area has a small park called Amazon Pool. There is also a water park in or near McMinnville that we have not tried out yet but have heard great things.

3. Larger waterparks. Water Works in Redding, Calif. (about 4 hours from Roseburg), Great Wolf Lodge in Grand Mound, Wash. (just inside Washing about 4 ½ hours away from Roseburg) and Wild Waves in Northern Washington (about 5 ½ hours away).

4. Redding, Calif. If you visit Redding for the weekend, there is plenty to do with the family. It is a very nice area, and we really enjoyed our stay there this last Memorial Day weekend.

The day after we visited Water Works park, we went to Turtle Bay, which is a family museum with wildlife included in historic education, as well as exhibits.

Sundial Bridge is right next to Turtle Bay and is amazingly beautiful at night - it's a must-see when lit up in the evening. It is a suspension bridge with glass-like blocks to walk across.

This area has lots of territory to cover with nature trails and gardens, along with turtles in the bay.

In addition, there is a budget theater on Marina Drive close to Turtle Bay where my boys enjoyed a ($4 admission!) 3-D movie while my daughter and I relaxed at our hotel after a long day in our hotel pool.

There are also mini golf/family fun centers where we enjoyed golf together. All these places are REALLY close together in the same area, so a hotel in that area is very nice to have. (We stayed at Best Western Twin View Inn and Suites.)

You may even want to consider traveling through the Redwoods on your way home for some beautiful scenery.

5. Great Wolf Lodge Resort. Staying one night is plenty for our family since you have two whole days in the water park and enjoy the lodge activities (which are plenty). You can go on quests with wands purchased there that send your kids throughout lodge. There is a teen zone, an arcade and a craft room, as well as a spa (for those who want to splurge) for kids and adults. We prefer the basic rooms since you are only there for sleep, food, and showers mostly. Our first stay there we got a kids cabin, which was kind of cool for my kids but cost quite a bit more. We check in early... you can usually can get in before they say on their site ... and after check-out the second day, we stay in the park and lodge until closing. We then go to Centralia (5 minutes south) and stay at a more reasonable priced hotel.

6. Wild Waves. This water park is a big one! It's our favorite, and admission includes all the amusement park rides there as well. We have family we stay with close by, but you could most definitely camp or hotel for a night or two since the drive is a long one.

There is so much to do in the Washington area. Sand in the City is in Olympia and is usually held in August. That is usually when we go. It is a sand sculpting contest and festival. The sculptures are really awesome!

7. Beach. We love the northern coast. Cannon Beach and Seaside are like our second homes.

Cannon Beach is very beautiful! It's a great place for beach fires, walks, water play in the ocean, kite flying and sand play. Ecola State park is lovely also. There is a skate park, playground and cute shops to check out while staying there. There is a campground right across the entrance into Ecola State Park that has horseback-riding tours. There is also an RV park that has an indoor pool and hot tub for guests. You would want to make reservations early to camp at either place. Usually in June there is a sand sculpting contest on the beach and it is pretty amazing.

Seaside is very family friendly! Fun shops, arcades and a carousel inside the little mall downtown, sweet treats, a small tourist aquarium, great food, beach bike rentals, as well as these really neat family car looking bikes we have yet to rent. It is fun seeing families cruising around in them.

Tips and money saving ideas:

1. Bring a cooler and pack your food and beverages. Use picnic areas to eat so you don't have to fall into the money trap and unhealthy choices inside the parks. Sometimes we will buy sub sandwiches the morning of and save for lunch.

2. Look online for ticket and hotel savings ahead of time. Reserve rooms with a refrigerator to keep food.

3. Bring your own lifejackets, arm floats (if needed), water socks and towels. Definitely bring sunblock and reapply throughout the day. Purchase sealable waterproof pouches for your phone to take pictures or buy a waterproof disposable camera ahead of time.

4. Get to campground destinations EARLY to ensure you get a spot. There are no reservations at either campground listed above except at the Cannon Beach campground.

5. Get to parks early to ensure a spot that is shaded or where you would like to spend your break time. Leaving your towel on chairs will mark your spots.

Most importantly, enjoy each other and try not to cram too much in when having such a short time traveling. You really want to enjoy quality time with your family and make the most of building memories together that will last a lifetime! Take advantage of the road trip time by talking and interacting with your family. Having games or conversation ideas ahead of time may help the trip be more enjoyable.

Have a very safe and wonderful summer!

Jill Fay is married with two children. Read her regularly on Douglas County Moms.

You may even want to consider traveling through the Redwoods on your way home for some beautiful scenery.


Explore Related Articles

The News-Review Updated Nov 18, 2013 07:31PM Published Jun 18, 2013 09:02AM Copyright 2013 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.