One Tank Trips: Last Minute Summer Vacay Ideas

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As any mini-van driving mom knows, it costs a lot more to fill up that mom-mobile. With back to school season around the corner, you may be re-evaluating your travel plans and adjusting your budget. Never fear, fun IS near and maybe a lot nearer than you think. No, I’m not talking about the stay-cation, that’s so 10 years ago, let’s talk about a one tank trip.

Where can you go on just one tank of gas?

Depending on your vehicle, depending on where you live, a one tank trip is generally an excursion within two or three hours of your home. You can make it an overnight deal or perhaps an actual week away in a nearby town soaking up all of the local flavor.

AARP has a whole section on one tank trips from various big city areas. It’s a great place to check for ideas based on where you live. Some of the trips listed include: Washington, D.C. to Alexandria, Chicago to Madison, and San Francisco to Occidental. The Travel Channel  also has some great suggestion and the local paper in your area may cover hidden treasures in your state.

My One Tank Trip

As for my family, we’re planning a trip to the area around Columbus, Georgia and on to Tuskegee, Alabama. Columbus is about 90 minutes from our town and home to The Wild Animal Safari. We call it the drive through zoo. Take their advice, rent a car from them or ride the bus less your mom-mobile get coated in animal saliva. It is the most fun you’ll have at a zoo and will be the source of many memories and much laughter. It’s also a great place to take a picnic lunch and enjoy the surroundings.

On to Columbus, which boats a vibrant military community and the famous Fort Benning, home of Army Ranger School. Ft. Benning hosts the National Infantry Museum and it is FREE!!!

In fact, if there is a military base in your one tank trip radius, it’s a good place to go for free or inexpensive entertainment. Military museums also expose your children to dedicated people who volunteer to serve our country.

To add to our adventure, we plan to explore the relatively new whitewater rafting.

Columbus has worked to provide great, family adventure attractions making it an ideal place for a one tank trip.

We’ll wrap up our journey by continuing on for another hour down I-85 to historic Tuskegee, Alabama and visiting the Tuskegee Airmen site. This is another FREE activity and part of the National Park Service. If your child is involved with Scouting, they can earn badges and patches through the NPS Ranger program. Yet another inexpensive way to enhance your travels.

What if overnight is not in our budget?

  • Find a nearby community with a skate park, a splash park or a bike park. It might be more of a drive for you, but the cheap admission and no overnight stay will make it worth your while.
  • Explore your state parks and go geocaching (a tech enhanced treasure hunt).
  • Visit other National Historic Sites worthy of a day trip.
  • And one of my kids’ favorites… a city day. We buy a day pass for the subway and explore anywhere we can near the subway line. “It’s just like being in New York!” (not really, but it’s still fun).

It is amazing the little treasures that await when you take a different path. I hope your family makes many wonderful memories on your one tank trip. Find ideas on what to bring to keep the kids entertained. Be sure to share your itinerary, experiences and ideas in the comments sections below.


PS- Every road trip needs a soundtrack. What’s on yours?

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About Eve Espy

Eve Espy is the mother of a two creative girls. They love to cook, craft, draw and write and perform their own plays together. She teaches high school audio/video production and has a small collection of goats, donkeys, dogs and a pony.

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