Summer is the perfect time to get out and about, making memories with your family. It isn’t always practical to take two weeks to go on a big vacation, however. Instead of spending a lot of time and money on a vacation, one of the best things you can do is make use of the staycation.
Planning the perfect staycation isn’t difficult, and it can provide you with a way to enjoy time with your family. Not only that, but you can get more mileage out of a staycation since the nature of shorter, local trips allows for multiple activities. “I suggest a staycation that is spread out during a few months,” says Jackie Lam, the frugality expert behind Cheapsters.org.
As you prepare your family summer plans, here are some ideas for planning the perfect staycation:
Be a tourist in your town
Think about local tourist attractions. There’s a good chance that you haven’t visited them because you live in the area. I’ve been to the Independence Mall area three times since I’ve moved here, but I know native Philadelphians who haven’t been to Old City even once. Don’t limit yourself to spots you know about, either. Visit your town’s tourism or visitors bureau and grab a pamphlet of local attractions. “You may find a new, interesting spot you didn’t know about,” says Andrew Meadows, from BrokenEggsFilm.com. “I just found out there’s a wave organ a few blocks from my house.”
Find out-of-the-way places and call ahead
Linsey Knerl, the homeschooling mom behind Lille Punkin’, says that her family calls ahead before visiting museums and other interesting spots because she has six children. However, this tends to create an even more memorable experience because they choose out-of-the-way places that might not get much foot traffic. “We find they tend to roll out the red carpet, so to speak,” she says. “They’ll make sure displays are updated, maybe even have coffee on hand. I remember bringing our kids to an old train depot that rarely gets visited. The kids got gifts, a private tour, and a whole lot of history.”
While you might not get gifts and a private tour, calling ahead with your intention to bring a large party is a courtesy, and it can provide your hosts with an incentive to make things more interesting. “If you don’t have six kids like we do, ask another family to join you on these mini-adventures,” suggests Knerl.
Complete a quest
Spice up your staycation by turning it into a game. Lam suggests quests for your staycations. Your family can visit all of the parks in your town to discover which has the best equipment, tallest trees or any other feature you can think of. From searching out the restaurant with the best nachos to identifying the best hike to figuring out how many statues in town, it’s possible to keep your family busy every weekend of the summer without spending very much and without leaving town. “Turn it into a game that fits within your budget,” Lam says.
Your family can also take up geocaching and look for caches in your area. You might be surprised to discover how many hidden treasures there are, even in the smallest of towns.
Set the stage for an at-home staycation
Elisabeth Ritter Kelly sets the stage for her family’s staycations. They plan local activities, like going to the beach and having picnics. However, they also prepare the house ahead of time for a vacation from “normal” life. The family participates in a “crazy clean” ahead of time and prepares meals that they can grab and take with them, or eat easily without a lot of fuss. “We have one rule: no housework, no errands,” says Kelly. “We usually ‘save’ a few new movies to borrow from the library for our staycation and make ice cream sundaes.”
Kelly also points out that there are a lot of programs that you might not be aware of when you visit state parks or historic city sites. Do a little research ahead of time to find out what options are available for a more in-depth experience.
Look for discounts
Finally, even though a staycation is generally cheaper than a more traditional vacation, you can still look for discounts. Check daily deal sites for discounts on local activities and restaurants. Bank of America runs a free museum days promotion for cardholders. The first day of every month, you can receive free entry at select museums, zoos and cultural centers in more than 90 cities. Check with your city’s Chamber of Commerce for discount and coupon booklets to get information on freebies and other activities. Finally, your town’s parks and recreation department should have information about free outings, concerts and other events in your town.
You might be surprised at how easy and cheap it is to fill up your summer with family-friendly activities.