Spring break is about a month away for many American kids. As a parent I feel an unspoken pressure to find something awesome and story provoking for my family to do. I don’t know if any other parents feel that way or not but as parents we naturally want the best of everything for our kids. We also want to give them fun family memories that can last a lifetime. The old saying goes “the family that plays together, stays together”. Doing activities as a family can build bonds and strengthen relationships. So again, what to do? Money is tight for so many families and the idea of coming up with some sort of vacation can add a whole other level of stress on top of already cumbersome money pile. Plus, many parents can’t take off work just to simply go on a little excursion. Here we will discuss a couple of strategies on how to think outside the box when planning your little getaway.
Over the last few years stay-cations have become a popular option for many families. The days of traveling thousands of miles to the beach for a week is a thing of the past for many. Especially if you are like my family, and trying to cut costs, save money and get out of debt (see my post on living in Financial Peace). The last thing you will want to do is max out a credit card just so junior can play in the sand for a week. Yes memories are wonderful but you can still make amazing memories without breaking the bank.
Stay-cation planning ideas:
- Go to your local zoo for the day, and stay ALL day. See every animal and ride every ride. You will wear the kids (and yourself) out but they will have such a good time.
- Stay the night at an indoor water park. In most cases you get free tickets to the water park just for booking your hotel stay. We have a couple of good ones in central Ohio and an awesome one a couple of hours away near Cincinnati. I highly recommend getting online and reading reviews on these places. Some are a lot better than others.
- Explore the city. I am a hop, skip and a jump from Downtown Columbus. There are tons of awesome things to see and do. We have The Santa Maria, The North Market, The Columbus Museum of Art, COSI, German Village and so much more. Check out special events taking place at some of your local hot spots.
- A walk through the park. Explore your local park system. We have many metro parks all throughout central Ohio. I love going to our parks. They also offer free classes for kids and families. This could be anything from a night hike where you gaze upon the nocturnal animals to exploring a creek bed or even trying your hand at archery. We have a Historical Farm that is completely run by volunteers and it is a 100% working farm from the early 1800’s. You can watch them sheer a sheep, collect eggs from the hen-house or even assist the volunteers in watering the garden.
- Go on a factory tour. Just down the road from me is the Anthony Thomas Chocolate factory. They give very inexpensive tours and at the end you get a piece of chocolate. Some factories actually give free tours! Check out this site for a list of factories in your area.
- Go to the museum. Here in Columbus we have some amazing museums. I don’t mean the dry stuffy type that you simply walk through corridors staring at items from the past. We have the Historical Society that houses an Egyptian Mummy and a full size Woolly Mammoth skeleton. Also, on special occasions they open up the Historical Village on site. It is a 1800’s village completely equipped with a general store, blacksmith and courthouse to name a few. It is a few extra dollars but so worth it. There’s also a few hands on kids museums in neighboring cities.
- Go to the movies. I know it’s a simple act that you may do often but dinner and a movie is an oldie but goodie.
- Attend a festival. There are many fun events and festivals kicking off all around the area.
- Take a class together. Sign up at a craft store for an art class or take a cooking class somewhere! Many community centers offers inexpensive classes. There are pottery places around Columbus where you pick your pottery piece, paint it and they fire it! What a fun little souvenir to remind you of your time together.
- Visit the library. Libraries are wonderful places. They offer free reading times, crafts and sometimes science activities. Check out your local library for a schedule of events.
Another form of vacationing that I love to do is going on short day trips. Last summer we ventured to cities a couple of hours away. This was wonderful! We got out-of-town and got to see some new and wonderful things.
Simply look on a map and pick a place within 1-3 hours away, pack up the fam and hit the road! This used to be the preferred method of travel for many families at one time. Many adults have fond memories of being piled in the family station wagon with their brothers and sisters and going on a family adventure. Now a days with gas prices being so high, taking a long road trip may be out of question. However, a short 1-3 hour trip may be more forgiving on the wallet.
Before Hitting the Road:
- Have all vehicle maintenance completed like oil changes, tire rotations etc.
- Pack a first aid kit full of bandages, Neosporin, Tylenol, Tums and things like that. You never know what might happen when you are away from home.
- Pack some extra blankets and pillows.
- Load up the DVD player if you have one. If not I highly recommend one for long trips. I refuse to turn it on if we are driving around town. There’s no reason to turn on a Disney movie is we are going down the road to the grocery store. We have a detachable player that sticks to the head rests. Very convenient and a God-send for long trips.
- Have the kids pick out a couple of toys to take in the car. Could be the Nintendo DS or coloring books. Just something they can do when watching DVD’s is no longer a novelty.
- Pack a change of clothes. Again, you never know what might happen. Last summer when we spent the day in Cincinnati, we stumbled upon a large splash pad right on the Ohio River in the downtown area. My kids were soaking wet from head to toe and we didn’t have a towel or change of clothes.
- Pack a cooler with snacks and drinks.
- Pack a lunch. Why spend extra money on an expensive restaurant? Pack a picnic style lunch. During your day find a nice spot and sit down for a family picnic.
- Make sure to have your cell phone charges and bring the car charger along for the ride.
- Print out directions to your location. Using paper maps is also a thing of the past. I know my hubby and I use our GPS all of the time. But sometimes it gives us trouble and then we are driving around waiting to get signal. If you have a map and printed directions you could save yourself some stress.
Whatever your plans are this spring, please be safe in all of your travels and most importantly…..HAVE FUN!