I’ve had people ask me how we plan these museum trips and it’s easier than you think. It’s not like planning a trip to Disney where you have to schedule every second. My advice is to start one of three ways:
1) Is there something you care about or are interested in? Say you have a miniature train hobby. Type “miniature train museum” into your favorite search bar and you’ll be amazed at how many places come up. Pick one that is a distance you’re willing to go, and plan your trip. Or if there’s a history buff in the family (like the wife, so now every fourth trip we’re at some battlefield museum or famous dead person’s house looking at their historically important desk or something), think of a significant event in the time period you’re interested in. I bet if you do some digging, you’ll find a museum for that, too. If you have a favorite artist, see if there’s a collection of their work somewhere. Give it a try, see what you can come up with.
2) Another option, and this is the one that I personally like, is to find a place on the map you’re interested in going. It could be ANYWHERE. One time when it was my turn, I was eating an orange every day for lunch, so I got the brilliant idea that we were going to West Orange, New Jersey. Now that place isn’t all that far from us, but I’d never been there and didn’t really know what it has to offer. But I typed “West Orange, NJ Museums” into the yahoo bar and that’s how we ended up at the Montclair Art Museum staring at an Edward Hopper painting. How awesome is that? I did this even before the internet, too, where I’d just pick somewhere on the map, and me and Felicia would just head there. Let me tell you: there isn’t a lot in Bullpit, IL, other than some nice people. But I did learn some stuff about the Great Frog Infestation of 1875. You can’t beat that (or live it down. I lost my pick for two years over that one)!
3) The last way requires the least amount of planning. If you’ve heard of a museum (we watch a lot of the History Channel, so this happens regularly at our house) and you think it might be a great place to visit, write down the name. Go look it up and see how far it is. If it’s a distance you’re willing to go, great. If not, think about what struck you as interesting about it and see if there’s something similar closer to you.
A few other bits of advice: first, if you’re travelling during the summer, getting advance tickets to any special events that you want to do is smart. Same with hotels. There might be a festival or some other event going on at the same time that can affect room availability. Make reservations if you can, on the route you’re taking if necessary but definitely at your destination. Second, have a bit of a backup plan. Some places will take days to really look through, others a couple of hours. You’ll feel pretty dumb if you load up the car and kids, drive for hours and hours to get to a video arcade museum only to find out it’s really just some guy’s basement with a couple of vintage machines. Have options in the area, or know where to find them. Those pamphlets in hotel lobbies are your friends. Grab a few on your way to check in. Or if you stay at those fancy hotels, ask the concierge what’s worth doing. Lastly, know before you go: plan your costs. Some places have expensive admissions. Some don’t have any. Others only ask for a donation. Some places, if you actually read the sign, say “suggested price” which means you can pay whatever you want to pay. This is true. So it’s in your best interest to figure it out beforehand.