Making a staycation work for your family

Staycations

by Stacey Shannon


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There's nothing more refreshing than a great vacation to relax you and get you out of your rut. However, affording such a trip can be overwhelmingly stressful and difficult. Even though the finances might not be there, the need of a vacation doesn't go away. Some alternatives are in order. A staycation - vacationing from home - can be a great way to keep expenses low and still have a relaxing time.

Ideally, everyone would live in a major city, such as New York City, where there is an abundance of activities and areas of town never before visited. However, most of the rest of us live in smaller cities where we may know every street by name and are lucky to have a small civic theatre to entertain us once in a while. Even if you live in the smallest of towns, there are still staycation destinations.

First and foremost, treat your staycation like any other vacation. Even if you only plan on using one weekend or a couple of weekdays, plan it like you will be away from home. Tell friends and family you will be unavailable and ask them to only call in case of an emergency.

Next, do chores ahead of time so you won't be tempted to do them while you're on staycation. After all, if you were going away, you would make sure your clothes were washed ahead of time. Determine your budget. Are you willing to spend a little extra on food for vacation? If so, plan a meal or two out. Are you able to spend money for tickets to a cultural event? If so, how much? Are you willing to drive a short distance to a neighboring town? Check state travel guides, which often include coupons for food and entertainment.

Also, stock up on snacks. Think of them as things you would usually have in the car or in the evenings. Then, stock up on easy-to-prepare dinners, such as frozen pizza, frozen chicken nuggets and all-in-a-box meals. Plan to eat some of your meals outside in a picnic or have an indoor picnic by laying down a blanket in the living room. A change of scenery helps change the pace.

Once you're set, begin scouring the local newspaper and listings for events going on during your staycation time. My city, for example, has free summer concerts by the county building during lunchtime on Fridays. Pack a brown-bag lunch and you have an hour of food and entertainment. Be sure to check for performances given by local high school or college students. Many times these are free or nearly free and the music is enjoyable.

If you're a sports fan, check local listings for high school, college or minor league baseball games. Though my town doesn't have a minor league ball club, a town 50 miles away does and tickets for one game only set you back $6. Not too bad for an afternoon at the ballpark.

Don't overlook the obvious. Do you live near a lake or even the ocean or mountains? I live in the Midwest and am surrounded by lots of cornfields. I didn't notice their beauty until I took a short drive through the country and looked with "fresh" eyes through my camera. Later, I scanned the photos and now use them on my computer desktop.

The best thing about nature is it's free. If you are a hiker or biker, take advantage of local scenery you usually overlook or go a route that's out of the ordinary. If you prefer car rides, play some favorite tunes, roll down the windows, and head to an area you aren't very familiar with or haven't really paid attention to. Stay long enough to see the stars come out.

If nature doesn't excite you, walk or drive around town and take photographs of favorite locations or hangouts. Looking through a camera lens gives a whole new perspective. Pretend you are a tourist and notice things you usually miss. I recently took a walk through the downtown area of my hometown and was amazed at all I found I didnĀ¹t know was there!

For those who enjoy athletics, check with the local YMCA for a one-day pass. The Y in my town charges $10 for adults and $6 for children up to age 13 for a day pass. Spend the afternoon swimming and playing racquetball. No matter what you find to do, be sure to take plenty of pictures to remember the day. The best staycation memories come from time spent relaxing alone or with loved ones, no matter where you are.


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