Need to save money this year, but still want to give your kids a typical vacation experience? Consider planning your own staycation. Start by thinking about what "vacation" means to your family. Personally, I think of sleeping in, lingering over morning coffee, and enjoying family time—and a good book! But you might be more adventurous... Whatever it is you like to do on vacation, hold that image in your mind.
With a clear picture of what you like to do, it becomes easier to see how those ideas could be worked into local activities you can enjoy during a family staycation with your kids.
Before Your Staycation Begins
Pretend you're a tourist and make a list of all the local sights you'd like to see on your vacation. For us, this means visiting a larger zoo that's a bit of a drive from our neighborhood, and spending at least one full day at the beach. Try to plan on doing at least one activity on each family member's list -- including yours!
- Check your state's tourism Web site for ideas
- Pick up local tourist guides and pamphlets at your local library or various establishments around town
- Focus on locations that are within a one-hour drive of your home
Take advantage of coupons and special pricing opportunities. You might be eligible for special pricing at various attractions in your area through work or through your child's school.
Also consider the benefits of any organizations you belong to. For example, your local single parents support group may participate in half-price days at your local zoo or children's museum.
- Check your local newspaper for coupons
- Utilize local "Entertainment Book" coupons or "booster club" coupons sold by your local high school
- Find out whether membership in any organizations you already belong to might give you free or reduced admission costs to local attractions
Transform your home into a vacation-like atmosphere. What would you need to do in order to make your home feel as comfortable and welcoming as a choice hotel? Do you need to clear out some clutter, hire a cleaning service, or stock up on your favorite coffee and chocolates? What would you do if you were preparing your home for guests? Try to do this a couple of weeks before your staycation.
- Prepare your home ahead of time so that you can spend your vacation week free of cleaning, chores, and grocery shopping
- Do exactly what you would do for out-of-town guests
- Then treat yourselves like you are those guests!
Go to the library and check out several books and movies for your staycation. Treat yourself to a typical "beach read," as well as several movies that your whole family can enjoy.
- Consider picking up a few classics
- Don't forget kids' books, too
- Consider selecting one chapter book to read aloud together
- Turn off the outside world. This can be really hard, but try to avoid checking your E-mail while you're vacationing at home together. In addition, let your coworkers know that they should consider you "unavailable," despite the fact that you'll be relatively close to home during the entire vacation.
- Don't bring work home during your vacation if you can avoid it
- Don't check your E-mail or voice mail while you vacation at home
- Let your co-workers know that you're unavailable while you spend this time vacationing with your kids
- Make at least one meal a day special. Whether it's blueberry pancakes for breakfast or a themed Mexican dinner, complete with homemade Nachos, for dinner, try make your vacation meals fun and enjoyable. Ideally, you'll probably have more time together during your vacation meals than you do during your typical workweek. Take advantage of this time by including each family member in the meal preparation and using the meal time to talk and ask open-ended questions, such as "If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you want to be, and why?"
- Limit eating out during your at-home vacation to those restaurants that you really, truly enjoy
- To save money, eat at least one meal a day at home, if not more
- Use meal times to talk, ask questions, and really devote your attention to one another
- Do Something Different. In our house, we only have one TV, and it's in the family room. So for my kids, moving the TV into one of the bedrooms and watching a movie from there would be a real treat! What is something simple, like that, that your kids would always remember? Perhaps it's sleeping outside in a tent - or in the living room in a tent! Or out on the balcony or deck. Be creative and see what you come up with.
- Rearrange the furniture
- Eat or watch TV in a room you don't normally use for that purpose
- Sleep in a different location (outside, a tent in the living room...)
- Plan a few special treats for yourself. For me, this would be stocking up on really good coffee and setting aside some time to read while my kids play and enjoy themselves. While your vacation time is a great opportunity to bond as a family, it's also intended to be time for you to relax, unwind, and enjoy yourself.
- It's OK to get a babysitter and go out with some friends
- Take a day trip with another family whose company you really enjoy
- Pamper yourself by sleeping in a bit, reading a book, or just sitting with a glass of lemonade