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Family travel all about the plan

Tips for making it the summer of a lifetime

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Summer provides the ideal opportunity for families to reconnect and make memories, but it can also be a time of boredom for children and frustration for parents.

The difference between a summer filled with memorable moments and one that is frustrating and exhausting comes down to planning. Families who take the time to discuss their expectations and make a plan are more likely to have the summer of their dreams than those who wing it.

Here are a few ideas for activities and travel options to help get you started. The most important thing to remember is it doesn't take a lot of money to enjoy family holidays; it takes some time and a good action plan.

The price is right -- free family fun

Summer is the peak season for festivals and events, and there are plenty of free parades and community celebrations. Special events that charge admission often have designated days that are free or dramatically discounted for families. Check out the municipal websites of cities and towns within driving distance to find the dates for parades and community celebrations. Festival websites will list free or discounted days for families.

Free admission to national parks and historic sites

A visit to a National Park or National Historic Site is always a good idea. Parks Canada is celebrating Canada Day by offering free entry at all National Parks, National Historic Sites and National Marine Conservation Areas on July 1. If you can't make it for Canada Day, July 20 is Parks Day and while entrance will not be free, there will be special free family activities at most national parks and historic sites.

School's out, but learning is still in

Museums and historic sites are no longer the stuffy, boring places they once were. With hands-on activities and fun family programing, a visit to a museum can be both pleasurable and educational. If you visit several museums over the summer months, consider purchasing an annual pass for provincial museums and historic sites.

Send the kids to camp -- or go with them

For many children, summer camp is one of the highlights of their summer break, and today these camps involve much more than just canoeing and hiking. Kids can learn new skills or further develop existing skills and abilities in various areas of interest. Some institutions even offer family camps, where parents and kids can have fun together and meet other families in the process.

Hot tax tip

Some summer camps are tax-deductible and qualify for the Children's Arts Tax Credit (CATC) or the Children's Fitness Tax Credit (CFTC).

Great outdoors getaways

If you have never gone on a family camping trip, even the thought of such an expedition can be intimidating. Parks Canada is now in the process of developing a new type of accommodation called the oTENTik to help families get back to nature without having to worry about dirt and bugs.

A cross between a tent and a cabin, each unit sleeps six people and comes with mattresses, a wood stove, pots and pans, a table and chairs, a propane barbecue and a firepit. They are currently available in many parks in most provinces, with more being added all the time. There will be 10 built in Banff National Park and 10 in Kootenay National Park in B.C., for example, and it is expected they will be ready on a first-come, first-serve basis this July with rates starting at $145 per night. For more information, visit the Parks Canada website.

-- Postmedia News

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 27, 2013 E9

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