Summer is the time for family vacations. Unfortunately, thanks to rising travel costs and economic concerns, taking an expensive trip might not be in the family budget this year.
One fun and cost effective alternative is “stay-cationing” or vacationing at home. Vacationing locally also helps to save fuel, reduce traffic congestion, greenhouse gas emissions and summertime smog.
“Aside from being environmentally and economically beneficial, stay-cations enable families to enjoy their principle investments - their homes, their gardens and landscaping,” said Tito, a city councillor and father of two young daughters. “Stay-cations can also be much more relaxing then hauling the whole family around on three or four hour road trips through traffic-jammed highways.”
Aprile, an office administrator with two school-aged kids, agrees.
“Our backyard is like our own little resort. Once summer hits, we love to enjoy our pool with family, friends and neighbours. With some good tunes on the radio and the barbecue fired up, why leave home?” she says. “When night falls, we light the torches and gaze up at the stars or take a nighttime swim.”
If you want to venture beyond your own backyard, or if you don’t have one to enjoy, Linda, a sculptor and empty-nester, has a few suggestions:
“Find the river that is closest to your home, rent or borrow a canoe and paddle away the afternoon,” said Linda, who recently took a trip with her husband to celebrate her birthday.
“We saw otters, baby loons, turtles, bullfrogs, fish and beautiful water lilies,” she says. “We were even surprised with the slap of a bossy beaver tail only inches from the front of the canoe.”
You can also explore city parks and trails, which are often hidden gems.
“Take a camera on a butterfly hunt around local gardens,” said Linda. “It’s great fun for small children and helps to teach them to appreciate nature.”
Stay-cations (like vacations) should help you recharge your batteries and de-stress your life. Here are a few pointers to help you maximize your time off:
-If you don’t already have one, invest in an answering machine – as well as call display.
-Let close friends and family know that unless it’s an emergency, you’re officially unreachable.
- Use some of the money that you’ll be saving and hire a cleaning service before you begin your holiday. You won’t be tempted to spend your time off catching up on household chores.
-Make a list of the activities and outings that interest you and your family members.
-Plan your meals. Decide what days you want to eat out and make reservations. If you’re eating at home, have everyone take a turn at preparing a meal.
- Allow each member of your family to have one day when they get to choose an activity. This will help to minimize arguments and ensure that everyone has a special day.
Not sure how to unwind at home? Try some of these ideas:
Unplug. Have one full day where everyone in your household agrees not to answer the phone, check their PDAs or connect to the Internet.
Laugh until in hurts. Rent, buy or borrow your favorite comedy shows or movies and have a laugh-a-thon. Make sure you have plenty of popcorn and other movie style treats to enjoy. If the weather is clear, consider moving your television outside for the evening and laugh under the stars.
Have a jammie day! Remember Ferris Bueller? Before stress actually makes you sick, spend an entire day in your PJs. Take the time to do the morning crossword (or two) and have breakfast for dinner (pancakes, eggs and bacon). Spending the day in your jammies can help give you a more relaxed outlook on the world.
Create a home spa. Soak in the tub, give yourself a manicure or pedicure or indulge in a facial treatment. Purchase an inexpensive face mask, or make your own out of natural ingredients. Combine a cup of cooked oatmeal (cool first), a pureed ripe peach and two tablespoons of plain yogurt. Blend and apply to your face for five minutes.
In your City
No matter how long you've lived there, you might be surprised at how many interesting places there are to see in your own community.
Be a Hometown Tourist. Buy a travel guide or map of your town or city or visit your local tourist information center to find out about local tours.
Ride public transit. Most cities offer low-cost transit day passes for families. Plan a day around using as many transportation options as possible, including subway, bus, streetcars, light rail and commuter trains.
Rediscover the joy of riding a bicycle. It's amazing how much ground you can cover on a bike without too much effort. Plan a day trip with your kids and tour your local community.
Have a picnic in the park. Pack up a picnic lunch and enjoy a neighborhood park. Take along Frisbees and games for the kids to enjoy.
Take a hike. Visit your local conservation area or park. Invest in an expensive field guide to help identify local flora and fauna.
Check into a local hotel. if you don’t have your own pool, check into a local hotel and play tourist for the day. Enjoy the little luxuries like room service, free toiletries and having someone else make the bed.
Be a stargazer. The summer is a great time study the stars, especially in August during the Perseid Meteor Shower (August 12 and 13). Find a location that has a minimum of artificial light to steal the heavens, lie back on a blanket and watch the night sky.
Go camping in your own backyard. Forget about fighting traffic. Set up a tent in your backyard and enjoy a night under the stars.