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Family Vacations: Four Fabulous Road Trips

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kids children car little girls travel road trip Discount airlines may be making air travel cheaper than ever, but when it comes to family vacations, there's still nothing like a good old-fashioned road trip. Even with gas prices on the rise, traveling in a car is almost always less expensive than flying by the time you factor in airfare for three or four (or more!).

And you can't beat road trips for family bonding opportunities; playing the license plate game, singing silly songs and even calling out the endless refrain of "Are we there yet?" can make for extra-special family memories.

To help you plan your next summer vacation on the road, we've pulled together four fun weeklong itineraries geared toward four different types of families. For example, active kids will find plenty of outdoor adventure in Montana's glacier country, while parents seeking a more educational trip can head to the historic attractions of the Washington D.C. area. But while each road trip is centered around a certain theme, they all feature a variety of activities to keep kids busy and engaged.

Outdoor Adventure in Glacier Country, MT
Day One: Begin your trip at the eastern border of Glacier National Park, on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Browning, Montana. Stop at the Museum of the Plains Indian to view the rich diversity of historic arts of the Northern Plains tribal people, as well as work created by talented contemporary Native American artists. Experience traditional Blackfeet life by spending the night sleeping in tepees and dining on traditional cuisine at the Lodgepole Gallery & Tipi Village.

Day Two: Drive 35 minutes from Browning to St. Mary, located on the eastern edge of Glacier National Park. Dedicate most of the day to traveling the Going-to-the-Sun Road and exploring the heart of the park, which offers views of large glacial lakes, cedar forests and gorgeous alpine tundra. Stop at the Logan Pass Visitor Information Center at the top of the Continental Divide for exhibits and info. The Going-to-the-Sun Road exits the park at West Glacier, a charming mountain community and the western entrance to Glacier National Park. Spend the night here.

Day Three: Spend the day on the Flathead River with a guided whitewater rafting trip with the Glacier Raft Company or Montana Raft Company. This adventure is sure to be fun for the whole family and provides a view of the park from the Flathead's waters. Overnight in West Glacier.

Day Four: Drive 20 minutes west to Columbia Falls, and spend the day at Big Sky Waterpark on 10 slides, in a huge whirlpool, playing beach volleyball and more. Drive 10 minutes to the western town of Whitefish to spend the night.

Day Five: Whitefish is home to Whitefish Mountain Resort, where you can take a gondola ride up to the top of the mountain for great views of Glacier National Park. Or check out the "Walk in the Treetops," a 2.5-hour guided tour along an 800-foot rope boardwalk that offers a unique look at the treetop canopy. You can also rent mountain bikes or enjoy a guided wildflower walk. Overnight in Whitefish.

Day Six: Drive south 25 minutes to Bigfork and take to the waters of Flathead Lake, the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi. Bigfork and the numerous other lakeshore communities, including Lakeside and Polson, are great starting points for water fun, with opportunities for sailing, boating, waterskiing and fishing. An added bonus: In late July, local Flathead cherries are harvested. You can pick your own fruit from lakeside orchards or visit a local roadside fruit stand. Overnight in Bigfork.

Day Seven: Drive south 70 minutes from Flathead Lake, through the Mission Valley to Charlo. A point of interest here is the Ninepipes Museum of Early Montana, where you can look back into the history of the Flathead Reservation and valley through artifacts, native and early Montana clothing, and a gun collection used by native Indians. From here, it's about a three-hour drive back to the starting point of the road trip.

Discuss this trip on the Rocky Mountain message board!

Battlefields and Historic Attractions of the Mid-Atlantic
colonial williamsburg virginia historyDay One: Start with a day in Colonial Williamsburg, VA, touring historic buildings and trying your hand at colonial chores and games. Overnight in Williamsburg area.

Day Two: Drive southwest about 20 minutes to Jamestown, site of the first permanent English settlement in America. There's a living history museum there as well as a fort and reconstructed settlers' ships. In the afternoon, drive east about 40 minutes to Yorktown, the site of a major Revolutionary battlefield. Overnight in Yorktown area.

Days Three and Four: Drive north about three hours to Washington D.C., where you'll find historic attractions in spades. Spend this day and the next exploring the various museums and monuments there, such as the Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials, the Washington Monument and the new WWII Memorial. Kids will also have a blast at the International Spy Museum. Need a break from history? Visit the National Zoo, which is most famous for its pandas. Spend two nights in the Washington D.C. area. For more ideas, see Washington D.C. Essentials.

Day Five: Drive northwest about two hours to Gettysburg, PA, site of the Civil War's most famous battle. In addition to touring the battlefield, kids can also visit the nearby American Civil War Museum, which offers life-size dioramas and a reenactment of the Battle of Gettysburg. Overnight in the Gettysburg area.

Day Six: Drive southeast about two hours to Alexandria, VA, where the well-preserved Old Town offers a snapshot of colonial life. Kids can go on a scavenger hunt through the Old Town to learn about George Washington and other historic figures. If the kids are overloaded on history, head to Cameron Run Regional Park (also in Alexandria), featuring a water park, mini golf and batting cages. Overnight in the Alexandria area.

Day Seven: Drive south about 20 minutes to Mount Vernon, VA, George Washington's gracious mansion home. Tour the mansion and gardens, walk along the forest trail, and meet the farm animals. Kids get a colorful map with their ticket that guides them around the estate to solve a series of nine puzzles. Drive south about 2.5 hours to return to Williamsburg.

Discuss this trip on the Mid-Atlantic message board!


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