How To Plan a Spring Break Weekend Road Trip

The words “Spring Break” bring to mind images of sandy beaches, poolside drinks, and palm trees. Spending a week in paradise does sound appealing, especially after the heavy weight of winter and the dreaded “polar vortex.” For some families, however, jetting off to a tropical location just isn’t possible.

But what if you still crave a change of scenery? A weekend road trip might be the perfect solution for you and yours.

One of the advantages of living in the Iowa City area is that many large metro areas and attractions are only a few hours away. And although spending the weekend in Chicago (for instance) isn’t the same as basking under the sun in Cancun or a trip to Disney World, it’s still a great way to recharge your batteries with some family-friendly fun. All it takes is some careful planning and a dose of perspective to create a memorable weekend road trip with your family.

Keep it Simple.

You really don’t have to shoot for the moon when planning a Spring Break weekend getaway. Most of the time, just staying in a hotel with a pool is plenty of excitement for kids. One year we visited the Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield, Illinois. Although some of the trip’s content was over our kids’ heads, there was still plenty to keep them entertained. In fact, I’m pretty sure the simple picnic lunch we had at a small local park was one of their favorite parts of that trip.

Plan One Big Thing.

When planning weekend getaways, a mistake my husband and I used to make was trying to do too much. If you choose to visit a city like Chicago, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with all of the options. We discovered that if we over-filled our itinerary, we became rushed and stressed. So instead of blasting through all three museums on the Museum Campus for instance, we chose just one and spent a whole day there. Since you’re working with a limited window of time, choosing one highlight attraction is a much better use of that time and energy.

Spring Break RT

Be Flexible.

The last time we had a Spring Break getaway, our “one big thing” was Shedd Aquarium. Aside from that, we kept our plan somewhat loose. We didn’t want to be rushed, and we wanted to make sure the kids had enough rest. We slept in, we ate great food, and we shopped, allowing the kids to choose some stores to visit on Michigan Ave. If we strolled by a park we stopped and let the kids play. And it just so happened that on the weekend of our visit the weather was nice enough for some impromptu splashing in Lake Michigan. I hadn’t packed swimsuits, but I let them take off their shoes and play in the water anyway.

Spring Break RT

Regardless of where you go or what you do for spring break, the most important thing is that you actually take a break of some sort if you can. Even a short deviation from a regular routine can provide a welcome burst of energy for your family. And while glittering beaches and trips to Disney are certainly fun, you and your kids will cherish the memories of your family’s adventures no matter where they occur.


Meghann is the mom of 5 kids. She is a Lecturer at the University of Iowa School of Journalism and Mass Communication and an Owner/Partner at Brand Driven Digital. Meghann was elected to the Coralville City Council in 2017 and is currently serving her first term. She serves on the Board of Directors of the Coralville Community Food Pantry (Vice-Chair) and on the DVIP Board of Directors. She is also a member of Johnson County's Juvenile Justice and Youth Development Policy Board. Meghann is passionate about her family, her community, and is a proud pop culture nerd.


  1. Have you ever been to the Grand Harbor Resort/Waterpark in Dubuque? There is a large indoor waterpark at the hotel and it’s right next to the Mississippi River Museum, which is a really fun spot for kids. I stayed at the Grand Harbor a few years ago (without kids) and it’s pretty nice. My parents have take our kids to the River Museum and they had a lot of fun.

    Another fun place is Honey Creek Resort on Rathburn Lake. They have some very nice cabin/cottages, or you can stay up in the hotel. There’s some fun trails, golf, and an indoor waterpark at the hotel.

    Hope this helps-if I think of any others I’ll post another comment! 🙂

  2. Those sound like great ideas! What can you tell me about the Amana colonies? Is there much to do/see in the winter? I was also thinking of a trip to Living History Farms… Thanks! Holly

    • I think in the winter/early spring months there’s not as much going on in the Amana Colonies as far as special events (but I could be wrong about that.) They always have really great food and lots of fun shops, and that’s an important part of experiencing the colonies which happens year-round. They also have the Old Creamery Theatre for Young Audiences series, and their next show “Stuart Little” starts on April 5th.

      Living History Farms is really fun, but if you’re looking for a Spring Break getaway they don’t open until May 1st. Last summer since our baby was still pretty young our family did a short trip to Des Moines & Omaha. The baby stayed with my in-laws during the day (they live in the Des Moines area) while the rest of us visited Living History Farms & Adventureland. We then went on to the Omaha Zoo and it made for a nice little weekend trip.

      There’s still some great year-round options in Des Moines though. The Science Center and Art Center are really fun for kids & families.


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