Our family loves to travel, but with our busy schedules a full week long vacation sometimes just isn’t possible. That’s why we are always on the look out for ideas for a weekend family getaway trip near Pittsburgh. Recently we decided to explore the Laurel Highlands area of south western Pennsylvania. Only an easy hour or so drive from our house, it was the perfect place for a short few day vacation.
We based our family at the Summit Inn. It’s a historic hotel complete with actual room keys, and limited wi-fi, but with a lovely throwback glamour (without a lot of stuffy antiques), kid friendly things to do, and views that could not be beat. It was centrally located to all the activities we wanted to check out in the area. In one day, we saw a fort where George Washington actually slept (Fort Necessity National Battleground), a grave in the middle of a road (General Edward Braddock’s), a tree house (on the hotel’s grounds, and featured in a TV show), a light show set to music in a cave (Laurel Caverns), and a small zoo (at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort). We ended our whirlwind day by letting the kids burn off their last bit of energy swimming in one of the Summit Inn’s pools (with us parents able to take a relaxing moment in the whirlpool), and then we all hung out on our hotel’s porch watching the sunset.
The second day we headed straight to Ohiopyle to go white water rafting on the Youghiogheny River. We went on the Lower part of the river, and it was the perfect level for my two middle school age boys. It was definitely the highlight of the trip. We only had a little bit of time to spend in the actual state park, but we are already talking about the things we want to do next time we go back, such as walking around Cucumber Falls, and checking out some of the hiking trails.
Overall, this was a great way for us to get away from the normal hustle and bustle, and hang out together as a family. This quick weekend trip was just what we needed to come back home rested and ready for another week.
Our family weekend getaway trip was a success since we followed a few easy tips:
- Pick a place that is within a few hours’ drive, no more than three hours (or a direct flight.) After all you don’t want to spend your whole weekend trying to get someplace. Also, try to avoid leaving too early on a Friday, since everyone else probably also thinks that starting the weekend drive at 3pm is a great idea. Instead, since you don’t have that long to go anyway, hold off until it is closer to the kid’s bed times. Hopefully, they will fall asleep in the car, or at least be ready to wind down, and the traffic will be less heavy.
- Pack light. The benefit of only going away for a couple days, means you don’t need a lot of clothes or other things. But do make sure you bring the essentials. Since your days will be busy, bring whatever is needed to ensure a goodnight sleep. Also, make sure you pack the must haves. You don’t want to spend limited time driving around trying to find a swimsuit to buy that you forgot to bring.
- Plan, but still leave a little room for being spontaneous. Time is limited on a weekend trip, so you want to make sure you don’t miss the must do’s of the areas. Do a little research on the area before you leave, to find out what the big attractions are and what your family would like to do. Make sure you make any reservations that are needed, so you don’t miss out. But do leave a little room to stop off and explore something interesting that catches your family’s eye. On this trip, when driving down there, we came across a cute ice cream shop that looked like a gingerbread house. Sure, it meant we arrived at our hotel an hour later than planned, but the ice cream was definitely worth it!
- Pick a centrally located place to stay. With less time to get to where you want to go, you and your family will have more time to do what you want to do.
- Do one thing you all have never done before. For this getaway, whitewater rafting was something we wanted the kids to try for some time now, but hadn’t gotten a chance to do yet. By planning something we all were looking forward to, it made the trip even more special (and helped get certain members of the family through the more education parts of the trip.)
- And of course most important for any family weekend getaway…Have Fun!