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How do I plan the perfect “staycation” for my family?

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No matter if you are planning a winter mountain retreat or waiting for that annual summer trip to the beach, families around the world look forward to extended breaks from the routine that bring everyone together. A family vacation is one of the best ways to enhance relationships, a time where parents and caregivers can concentrate one-on-one with their kids while getting a break from the daily pressures of work or school.

However, a family vacation can also be quite expensive with the high cost of travel prices, hotel rates, theme parks,and even food. In fact, according to Northwestern Mutual, 74% of families go into debt by taking their annual family vacation.

Staycation Suggestions

The good news is that there are is a wonderful alternative to the traditional idea of vacation and it’s called a “staycation”—a time where families can bond and relax while still saving money from costly out of town trips. But how do you plan activities that will help you and your family stay entertained without breaking the budget? Here are some creative suggestions for making that staycation a memorable occasion:

  • Visit your local park system: Too often we forget about the wonderful recreational opportunities in our own hometown. From city parks to state parks, most people live near free recreational areas that offer such amenities as picnic areas, beaches, lakes, water sports, camping sites, hiking, and many other opportunities for outdoor family fun. Just do a web search for local or state parks and you may be amazed at the fun available to you and your family right next door.
  • Amusement parks: Mickey Mouse may only be in Florida or California, but there are many other theme parks in and around South Carolina that offer up plenty of day trip excursions for the whole family. Most amusement parks also have family or group ticket packages that offer up some savings. So, get an early morning start and spend a carefree day with the whole family for a memorable trip.
  •  A movie marathon: A great escape can be as close as your local movie theatre. Family movies are typically playing most any time of the year and a day spent watching several movies can be a nice escape for kids (and caregivers!) of any age. Also, check with your local theatres for special pricing during the week. 
  • Backyard camping: That vacation in the Great Outdoors can be as simple as your own backyard. Setting up a tent and cooking outside can be a fun way to enjoy nature on a budget. Another option is to camp in a neighbor’s yard (with permission!) to make it seem like a real getaway while staying close to home.
  • Treasure and scavenger hunts: Scavenger hunts are a great way to have fun with children while promoting exercise and observational skills. All you need to do is print up a list of people, places or things for your kids and their friends to find and set them loose (with adult supervision, of course). Then reward prizes to the child or team with the most finds. A variation on this is a treasure hunt where small “treasures” are planted for children to find. Each treasure (candy, small toy, etc.) has a clue that will lead to the next—with the final treasure being a bigger prize like a video game or new book.
  • Outdoor picnics: If you’re planning a week of activities close to home such as movie day, a museum day, etc., make meals a special occasion with outdoor picnics (weather permitting, of course). From lunch in the park to a backyard weenie roast, eating outdoors is a fun and relatively inexpensive way to enjoy mealtime on your staycation.
  •  Find some local culture: There’s plenty of cultural and educational experiences in or near most any town in South Carolina at local museums, art galleries, theatres, and zoos. Many organizations also offer programming that is specifically targeted for children with a family-friendly way to learn about the arts and sciences. Just check the entertainment section of local newspapers or search online. And remember that many of these organizations offer free days during special times of the year.
  • Tour and explore your hometown: One thing that many people miss in their own hometown are the unique stories and history that surround them. Look for walking tour guides from your local historic organization or museum to learn about the people and places that make your hometown (or one nearby) so unique. Your family might learn to appreciate where they live in a brand new way.
  • Taste your town: While the family is out exploring their own hometown, make a list of the unique restaurants and food options that are available. From exploring exotic menus to tasting the local food that defines your city, your family can get a tasty treat while learning about different cultures.
  • The no plan day: Finally, one option on your staycation is to make a “no plan” day. Let the family all come up with their own options for adventure and take a vote on what to do that day.

Even though staycations may be much less expensive than a traditional out of town trip, make sure to plan a budget and stick to it for the whole week. If the total costs are more than you can afford, consider changing or altering some activities. Also, look for coupons or deals and call ahead to check for free days or family pricing. 

By ABC Quality Team on October 13, 2020