Short family trips can be a great way to get out of town and have fun without breaking the bank or loading up the car with luggage. Here are some tips for making the most of a few hours on the road, and a few days away from home.

1. Have a plan. You may not stick to it, but at least have an idea of what works best for your family to get through the day.

  • Do children need naps?
  • When do you usually need to eat?
  • Check out events, amusement parks, or other places you are planning to attend for their policies on bringing in food and drinks.

2. Pack a cooler. It may just be a weekend, but everyone has to eat. Cut down on spending and hassle by packing a cooler full of easy, ready-to-eat foods to use for meals and/or snacks:

  • sliced cheese
  • crackers
  • hummus/vegetable dip
  • cut veggies and fruits (carrot sticks, carrot coins, grapes, sliced apples)
  • sandwiches cut in small triangles or rectangles
  • trail mix (nuts, granola, dried fruits
  • small containers of yogurt
  • cookies
  • water bottles or water thermos and cups

3. Consolidate clothing. When traveling for a weekend, save space by packing kids' clothing in one bag or small suitcase rather than a bag for each child to save space.

  • Keep an extra set of clothing for each child in a car bag. Accidents will happen, and this will keep you from driving back to your hotel.

4. Pack enough clothing so that you don't have to do laundry. It's a short vacation; don't waste precious time on cleaning clothes.

5. Stay at a hotel or lodge with a continental breakfast on site. No packing breakfast foods, no packing everyone in the car.

6. Car activities and games. It may be a short trip, but it always helps to have things in the car for kids to entertain themselves with.

  • books
  • coloring books and crayons
  • travel games
  • word searches/word puzzles
  • pad and pencil

7. Make sure your car is road-ready. A short trip can turn into a long one if you have problems on the way to your destination.

8. Make the most of a short time.

  • Bring along a movie or new board game for one of the evenings at the hotel.
  • For families with older kids, consider using at least one evening or afternoon for down time. Everyone rests, reads, or otherwise participates in a quiet activity.

Get some ideas for short trips and cheap weekend trips with these articles from USA TODAY Travel:

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