Now that school is quickly approaching, i thought i would share an idea that we use to get away for a day, or even overnight. This is something that is always for the most part unplanned. What we will do, usually on a weekend, is just take off and go for a drive. No destination in mind, no planning, and for the most part, no GPS or map. We try to travel to places we have never been, or maybe go somewhere that we have been, and then go from there.
We pick an area of NY or PA that is within a few hours drive, so that we always know we will back for school and work in time, and head that way. If we don't make it to our destination, that is fine as well, and this is where the no GPS and no map come in, as well as making it interesting for everyone. We will head away from home, get to an area that looks like it might be interesting, and then try to get lost on as many back roads and out of the way places as we possibly can. We drive down a road, come to an intersection, and have someone pick a direction to turn. With 3 younger children, this also helps to keep them interested and cuts down on the "Are we there yet?" scenario.
For us, we have found dirt roads that ended in seasonal use roads, found an old barely remembered fort, a hidden lighthouse, a defunct castle, a very old train bridge, a defunct and unused military base, a series of covered bridges, and even learned different ways to get back home. When you get tired in your travels, especially in the off season, hotel and motel rates are usually cheaper, which helps save money. Meals are sometimes a bit hard to find in some really out of the way places, but if you are truly lost, most GPS units will show you where lodging, fuel, and food are in relation to where you are at and your distance from those places. We have found over the years that in getting lost, you can find some interesting things you might otherwise never know in your area.
A bit of caution, though. Always use your better judgement on these trips, because being that the area is new to you, you can get yourself stuck very easily. If you see a road that you dont think the conditions warrant traveling on, you can always turn around and try the next road. Getting stuck somewhere that you have no idea where you are can really put a damper on a trip! An example of this, a couple years ago, we took a trip like this, and after driving down a barely used seasonal road, instead of turning around when the road seemed to end, it looked to me like instead of the road ending, it just got narrower. Instead, we ended up driving on an ATV and snowmobile trail that was rutted and muddy, and had a couple very sharp turns, and almost got stuck, which in winter, in NY, would have been no fun at all. It also helps to find a local radio station, so that you can keep alert to weather and road conditions, accidents, impending storms, whatever the case may be.
For the most part, though, it can fun a fun, interesting and rewarding way to get out of the house, and cure boredom, and if done right, isnt all that expensive depending on how far away from home you travel.