This month with summer full on for most readers, many of us are wondering about what to do for a vacation. Planning is the key here. As is a budget. (That nasty four six letter word BUDGET! Shiver!) Realizing that some readers are budgeting on a string, and a worn out one at that, the goal of this seven quick takes will be how to plan a very economical staycation. (With a few parenting tips thrown in for FREE! Who can beat free!)
Quick take one: defining a staycation.
Simply put: it’s staying at home and having a vacation enjoying activities that are free or very cheap. Let’s face it, while gas has dropped in price the past year – traveling long distances to enjoy paying for a hotel room is still expensive. Thus many families are opting to stay home and enjoy their local sights, sounds, and activities. A staycation can be designed anyway you want to do it – it can be as long as you like or chopped up and spread out over summer weekends.
What is your budget? For some I realize it’s zero, absolutely zero dollars, for a vacation. So for those readers I’m going to suggest that for next few weeks you conscientiously hoard all the pennies and dimes you can find and plan on staycationing later in the summer to give you time to save for the one big staycation splurge; be it delectable ice cream sundaes at home or a night at the movies. For those with a larger budget think carefully of what you want to do and what you can afford to pay for – maybe meals out or a family movie. If you can swing it – a family membership to a local zoo or children’s museum might be an option as then you can continue to enjoy this for the whole year after and it would open the doors to other companion zoos, museums etc for free or half price.
Have a power cleaning day (or couple of days) before the vacation. The week before you leave on a vacation is always spent packing, writing lists, laundry, writing more lists and a frantic tidy up before you lock that door behind you. So take that last week before your vacation starts and think minimalist and if at all possible, put away a lot of stuff that is cluttering up your ‘hotel’. Extra toys – bag ‘em and hide them in a closet or garage. You get the idea. On the last day of your staycation do a quick tidy up like you would in the hotel room or house you were renting. After all, it’s never fun to come home from vacation to a messy house. To motivate the kids to clean that day hold out on one the best activities as a reward for helping.
Pack as if you are going away. Yes, you heard me correctly. Choose your wardrobe (obviously I’m referring to a several days long staycation) and pack it in suitcases, back packs, whatever. Have the kids help you – this will increase their anticipation of a staycation and cut way down on laundry for you. (Tell the teens that the laundry room is off duty the entire week so if they don’t want to pack they had best make sure they have lots of clean unmentionables for that week) If necessary though – midweek you can open the laundry room and go to the ‘Laundromat’ for an hour or two just as you might need to do on a week-long vacation. BUT keep it to a minimum!
This is almost a subcategory of budgeting but I decided to treat it on its own as after all – it’s FOOD we are talking about here. Again for those on very tight budgets try to put away a special treat each week – a bag of chips you don’t usually buy, that package of chocolate bars you never buy. Keep your eyes peeled for sales that might allow you to stock up on a favorite treat that you can hide until the staycation begins. However – the real concern is the meals. It’s a little hard to be on vacation and have to cook every last drop of fuel that goes into your family’s mouths. One suggestion is to prepare freezer meals, along with planning a picnic style menu. Stock up in the weeks or months ahead with disposable plates, cups, etc so that clean up is at a minimal. Don’t forget the carrots – and I don’t mean the edible kind. Hold off on that rented movie until everyone has helped toss the Styrofoam, washed the table and have put away the pot used to heat that frozen chili. (I promised free parenting tips – remember?)
Uh huh – rules! Or perhaps we can call it boundaries if that’s more comfortable. What will we allow/not allow on the vacation? Will the cell phones be put away? Will we include best buddies on any of the out of house activities? Online games – yay or nay? This is something I strongly suggest you figure out a few weeks before you start the staycation. You know your kids best so decide accordingly which will work better – parents deciding the boundaries and presenting them as part of the staycation plans – or having a family meeting and pounding out the details together. (Another free parental tip – I give you full permission to limit input from kids and to warn them in advance that inability to discuss these details nicely will result in adjournment of meeting and parental authorities deciding all boundaries/rules. Second chances are your prerogative.)
Ok – so I’ve convinced you that this idea is worth a shot but you are drawing a blank as to what to do? Once you have a good idea how many dollars you have to throw at your staycation – I suggest you start brainstorming about what kind of things your family enjoys? Jot down things you love to do; movies, hiking, bowling, picnicking, listening to music…
Movies – tight budget? See if your local library is showing free movies. Sometimes the local movie theater shows 2 dollar matinees throughout summer. These are good possibilities. If you can afford an evening movie with treats though, go for it!
Hiking – If you love outdoor activities like hiking, exploring parks etc – consider dressing up a hike with some geocaching. Here is where you can find out if there is one near you. Be sure to pack a picnic so you can make it an all day thing with a heavenly crockpot meal simmering away to great you at the end of the day.
Bowling – check and see if your town offers a cheap night or afternoon of bowling. Same with roller skating, ice skating etc.
Music – pay attention for possible music festivals in your area or a free concert in a local park.
How about a date night for mum and dad perhaps in the middle of the staycation? If so, rent a kids movie and you two nip out for a romantic dinner or if your kids aren’t old enough to be left alone and a babysitter is just not in the budget – try a driveway date or two!
Hopefully, I have gotten your creative juices running and your imagination is boiling over with ideas now. No vacation time available this summer? Simple – break up your staycation over the weekends. You and the kids power clean and cook all day Friday and hit the deck running Saturday morning having planned your staycation around the free activities in your area. Make sure to take advantage of any long weekends on the calendar.
Be sure to come back after and share in our comments what you did and help inspire others to step out and enjoy their own staycation! So bookmark this quick take seven so you can easily find it. Oh, and don’t forget to mosey on over to our hostess This Aint the Lyseum and see what everyone else is saying today.
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Christi Gareis is a homeschooling mother of thirteen, with four children still at home. Her youngest child can boast that she was an aunt before she was born. Christi has been blogging since 2005 and has three blogs. In addition to blogging, Christi has been published on Catholicmom.com as well as in CCL’s magazine Family Foundations. She also wrote the section on How to ‘Prepare Your Child for First Reconciliation’ in the book '101 Stories of Reconciliation' by Sister Patricia Proctor.