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10 Steps for the Ultimate Family Staycation

There’s no place like home.

Staycation \ˈstā-ˈkā-shən\ noun

:  a vacation from work, spent in or near the home

ex. My passport forbids me from travelling, so I had a lovely staycation this March break.

Staycations are awesome. They give you the time to do all the things you never get a chance to go because you’re too busy working, caring for children or addressing some other pressing task. There aren’t many towns in the world that don’t have some hidden gems worth visiting, from the smallest village to the largest metropolitan city.

Considering the high cost and carbon footprint of even a short plane ride for a small family, staycations are good for the environment and the pocketbook. The real trick is to get in the spirit and let loose from “normal” life.

Step One: Shut off communication

If you want your “trip” to feel like a real vacation, you’re going to need to cut yourself loose from the cell phone, social media, your laptop and email. Turn on your out-of-office auto-reply. No emailing friends, no laundry day, no calling your mother to give an update on the little ones. No unnecessary communication of any kind. It’s a vacation, so that means you won’t be washing too many dishes or scrubbing the tub either. Let it wait.

Step Two: Plan your meals

You’ve already managed to save a bucket-load on flights and accommodation, so you can probably afford a meal out in the evening. And in the daytime, throw together simple, cold meals or picnics just as you would if you weren’t at home. 

If you’re set on not eating out, plan some meals the week before and freeze them. A nice frozen lasagna should be good for at least one lunch and dinner. Try eating some exotic foods. You can even give your trip a theme after a certain country and work those traditions into your vacation.

Step Three: Get in the act

A staycation is no fun if everyone doesn’t pretend like they’re on vacation. Swap bedrooms for a week and put room numbers on the door. Have someone turn down the bed and leave some mints on the pillow every evening. Have one family member play waiter each night at dinner. Order “room service.”

A little creativity and imagination is critical to a satisfying staycation. Pack a suitcase for the next room. Swap houses with another staycation-ing family. Be silly. Ridiculous, even. It might just make your vacation the most memorable one yet.

Step Four: Splurge a little

If you’d normally get a massage or pedicure on your vacation while your spouse watches the kids, then get going! Book that spa treatment. Spend three days on the golf course if that’s what you’d normally do on a trip. Drink just a little too much. Have dessert with dinner.

Step Five: Do family activities

Somehow on vacation, the mind opens up to let in a little cheese. Get corny. Have a talent show or a bingo night. Serve colourful drinks in tall souvenir glasses, and daiquiris for the adults. Play pretend. Hang up some old curtains and make a stage in the living room. You can use a flashlight as a spotlight. 

Step Six: Do a day trip

No vacation would be complete without jumping on a bus to a neighbouring town and spending an entire day walking until your feet are blistered and sore. Chances are you live in or next to some larger city or another. Drive up or, better yet, take the train in for a visit. Don’t forget to buy some postcards and spend a leisurely lunch filling them out for your friends and family back home.

If you live in the city, drive out to the country for a day by the lake, enjoying the slow pace of life outside the city.

Step Seven: Have a beach day

However long it takes, get yourself and your loved ones into their swimsuits and out to a lake, pool or ocean. Pack an afternoon’s worth of food and snacks just as you would on a typical vacation.

Step Eight: See a show

Even a night at the movie theatre would do, but if your city is hosting some musical theatre, a play, a ballet or even an opera, be sure to spend a night at the show. Failing that, jump on a local sightseeing tour or boat trip. You’ll probably learn something about your city, too.

Step Nine: Camp for a night or two

You can even do this in your own yard (bonus for the flush toilets). Tell campfire stories, roast marshmallows and cook hotdogs and beans over a camp stove. Get some folding tables for the eating area, or eat on a large picnic blanket. Make sure you’re stocked with all of your family’s traditional camping foods. 

Step Ten: Stay in a hotel for a night

There’s just nothing quite like camping out in a hotel room for a night. This is sure to get you in the true vacation spirit. Order room service. Eat at a local restaurant. Get out to a show or spend the night with the whole family snuggled in bed watching pay-per-view. It might feel like an unnecessary splurge, but consider that on average a family vacation costs upwards of US$5,000, and can run a lot higher. You can’t help but save a ton with a staycation.

Most important is that you embrace your vacation and allow yourself to actually be on holiday. Live a little. You can still be as frugal as you need to be. Most important is that you get into the spirit of it. Sleep a little later. Get up early and watch the sunrise from a rooftop somewhere. Breathe a little deeper. Let people off the hook. Open up and feel good. That’s pretty much your number one and only job during the holiday!


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