by Carles Brito
Traditionally, summer time means vacation time. During those days or weeks of school-free time, the family heads off into the distance for their annual family vacation.
In this economy, not everyone has the time or the money to get away from home. So, what's a cash-strapped, time-crunched family to do? Have a staycation, of course! If you have resources, we have ideas for you, too!
You might wonder, "What's a staycation?" Families on a staycation spend time playing and relaxing at or near home. Sometimes they stay right in the house and backyard and sometimes they head off on short day trips to local area attractions.
Three Staycation Plans
Whether your ideal summer plans involve a few days roughing it in a tent, a few hours checking local events or a few afternoons making your own fun, you can glean ideas from each of these staycations.
Day trips allow you to enjoy attractions without swiping your debit card for lodging or airfare. You might notice another benefit of vacationing locally. You avoid much of the stress associated with travel -- packing, lines at the airport and long drives.
Take a day to explore your local attractions. Think like a tourist and visit the places other people would want to see. Get out in the great outdoors by going on hikes or spending a day at the lake. Which would your family rather do?
- A beach day
- Go for a hike
- Spend the day geocaching
- Listen to stories and do crafts at the summer library program
- Rent a canoe and explore a water way
Make your own camp! What's the kids' interest of the month -- dinosaurs, flower fairies or string art? Embrace it! Round table with the kids and plan a week of games, crafts, learning and food around the activity. You might even invite another family to join in the fun.
Put up the tent or toss a sheet over the clothesline. Play outdoor games. Go exploring. Have your own barbecue that culminates in a homemade sundae dessert. Then tell stories around a flashlight and head to bed, either in the tent or in your own, comfy beds.
Community Family Events
Your area may have events for all ages this summer. Even businesses get in the act. Look around and find a bunch of summer fun for the family.
• Check out the car show. Drop by the fair. Tour your chocolate company or the fortune cookie factory. If you're over 21, you can drop by a local winery or brewery for a tour and tasting.
• Free museum or park days: Watch your local newspaper. You'll find events, activities and more taking place in a park or museum near you.
• Summer concerts and movie days: Our community center plays outdoor family-friendly movies each Friday night all summer long. Mid-week, they offer concerts. In my friend's community the library offer a free movie once a week. Do you have Regal Cinema, United Artist and Edwards Theatre nearby? Moviegoers of all ages can climb aboard their Summer Movie Express to enjoy a great selection of films for only a dollar on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings at 10:00.
Pack a Cooler Full of Goodies
When you're heading across town or across the state, the pennies you save packing a cooler with snacks and drinks can add up to a full tank of the gas. Follow these tips when you pack your cooler:
• Pack a drink and a snack per person for every two hours you'll be in the car. It sounds like a lot, but even if we're not hungry that often, we're ready for a change, even eating. If you end up with extras, you'll have snack for the next day.
• Include favorites, like your thermos of iced coffee and popcorn or home-made trail mix. You don't have to go overboard on junk food, but everyone will appreciate a familiar snack.
• Add fun items your family might not expect on a trip. How about cream cheese and salmon spread, or ants on a log?
• Start off with a long-lasting, drip proof ice pack.
• Toss a clean up bag beside the ice chest. Include paper towels, wet wipes and a trash bag.
Do Your Research
Does your area have a "first Wednesday" program when families get free admission to museums or events? Watch the community papers and then take advantage when you see an activity you'd all enjoy.
How will your family relax, unwind, and recharge this summer? What's been your favorite adventure?