Taking a "Staycation," a vacation at home, can be a great way to spend time with your family and save a little money. If you travel a lot or have been deployed recently, you may not be interested in a long trip for your next vacation. With a little planning and creativity, a staycation can be relaxing and fun for everyone in the family.
Choosing a staycation
Staycations can be a great idea for military families, who often have the opportunity to live in different places across the country or around the world. Maybe you haven't lived in your new duty station long or you've spent your leave traveling home to visit extended family. Here are some reasons you might choose a staycation:
- Save money. For many families, saving money is one of the biggest reasons to plan a staycation. Vacations can get expensive, especially if you have children. The price of hotel rooms alone can really drive up the cost of a traditional vacation.
- Sleep in your own bed. On a staycation, you can come home to your own bed each night. You won't have to squeeze your whole family into a cramped, uncomfortable hotel or motel room.
- Experience less stress. A staycation can be a relaxing way to spend your time off. Without the long drive, airport delays, or search for accommodations, you'll have more time to relax and have fun.
- See the sites. If you haven't had a chance to visit the local area around your duty station since you've moved, now is your opportunity. Take advantage of what's nearby - you may never have a better chance.
- Spend quality time with your family. The most important part of any vacation is spending quality time with your family. Without all the hustle and bustle of a jam-packed vacation schedule, you'll have the chance get to know your kids a little better and maybe spend a quiet evening with your spouse.
- Have fun. A staycation gives you the unique opportunity to have fun in your own backyard, try a new activity, or just go see a movie. It doesn't really matter what you do, as long as you relax and have fun.
Planning your staycation
Planning is key to making your staycation great. As you begin, be sure to ask everyone in your family for ideas to get a good feel for what they want to do. It's important to take everyone's ideas and interests into account.
- What's unique in your area? Pretend you're a tourist - do a little research and find out what's interesting near your home. Go online to read restaurant reviews and check out local museums and attractions. Visit the local library or your installation's library to find guidebooks about your area.
- Have a plan. If you don't, you may end up doing laundry or working on household projects. Have a general idea of what you want to do each day, but be sure to leave some free time in your schedule.
- Make a budget. Take advantage of local coupons and military discounts to make your dollar go farther. Check with your installation's ITT or ticket office for discounted tickets to local attractions. Many amusement parks offer military discounts or discounts for local residents.
- Make it feel like a vacation. Take time away from work and household chores. Your staycation should be relaxing for everyone - not just the kids. Budget for a few meals out and a cleaning service to clean your home before or after your staycation.
- Mix it up. Let each member of the family help plan. If your children are older, let them plan a whole day, including meals, activities, and budgeting.
- Invite a friend. It may be difficult to invite friends on a typical vacation. But with a staycation, you can easily invite a friend to spend the day with your family. Try letting each child invite a friend for the day he has planned.
- Take advantage of facilities on your installation. Many installations have bowling alleys, beaches with picnic areas, or other recreational facilities. Check out what's available on your installation or other nearby installations.
- Split up. You don't have to spend every minute together. Maybe the girls want to spend the afternoon at a water park while the boys see a movie. If you split up, everyone will get to do something they like.
- Hire a babysitter and enjoy an evening out with your spouse. Visit a new restaurant, see a movie, or take advantage of a local museum or amusement park that stays open late.
- Get everyone involved. Let your children help pack the picnic lunch or fill water bottles for a day at the park. By sharing the workload, you'll all have more fun.
- Make it a real vacation. Try to limit your time working, checking email, or calling the office.
Here are a few ideas to help you get started:
- Research local attractions. Amusements parks, aquariums, or water parks may come to mind immediately, but don't forget local museums, state parks, and community centers. Visit their websites - many of these offer classes or workshops for adults, children, or families. And keep in mind that many public libraries have memberships in museums and let families check out the tickets on a library card.
- Check out your military installation's facilities. You may find a riding stable or a marina that rents boats and ski equipment. Some installations rent out large grills, camping equipment, or other recreational equipment. Check out your installation's website for more information. Go to MilitaryINSTALLATIONS for links.
- Throw a party. This can be a great time to get family and friends together for a backyard barbeque.
- Pamper yourself. Create a spa at home or make an appointment at a day spa. You may also want to visit a massage therapist or go to a salon and have a manicure.
- Have a field day. Set up games in your backyard. Invite friends over and make a day of it with medals or prizes for everyone.
- Pack a picnic. Visit a park or a local beach and bring a picnic lunch. Many picnic areas have grills so you can cook out.
- Take a hike. Many city and community websites list local hiking areas.
- Push the limits. Try something new. You may be surprised at what your children can do. Visit a climbing wall, take a golf lesson, or enroll in a scuba class. Try something that takes you outside your comfort zone.
- Try geocaching. With a handheld Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver, you can search for treasure near your home. This is a great activity for children of all ages. Check out one of several commercial websites that offer GPS coordinates for geocaching.
- Visit a local farm. Call ahead to see if they welcome visitors. Some may even offer tours for families.
- Make a kite. Go online for directions and plans for putting together your homemade kite.
- Camp out in your backyard. The kids will love the novelty of sleeping in the backyard. You can cook dinner over a campfire, tell ghost stories, and roast marshmallows.
- Use your imagination. Come up with your own ideas by visiting local websites and talking to friends who have lived in the area a while. Your children can also be a great source of ideas for fun activities.