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How To Turn A Staycation Into a Real Vacation


Read 9 Staycation day trips and 20 staycation ideas.

We decided to do a staycation this summer. Following two exotic trips over the winter (Guadeloupe and Senegal), plus our spring break jaunt to Pittsburgh, we opted to be relatively frugal and save up for bigger trips again over fall and winter breaks.

We wanted it to feel like a real vacation, though, not just a week hanging around the house. One goal was to find things to do that felt novel and a little indulgent– the types of things that provide good fodder for a “What I Did on My Summer Vacation” essay. The other was to keep us away from everyday chores.

Here were some parameters we set to make sure our week felt like real vacation. I hope it gives you some good staycation ideas for your family.

Our staycation tips

Home Sweet Vacation Home 

our simple staycation camp siteWe cheated a little and based ourselves at Richard’s parents’ weekend house near Danbury, Connecticut, about 70 miles from home. Traffic in and out of Brooklyn is always awful in the summer, so by shifting ourselves a bit north it was faster and easier to get places. Plus, the house is central to the Connecticut Coast, a dozen state parks, the Massachusetts Berkshires and New York’s Hudson Valley, providing easy access to a wide variety of day trips. We consider it a staycation because we were so close to home. and we still had the challenge of resisting work, DIY projects and housework and had to create a novel, vacation vibe in completely familiar surroundings.

To mix things up a bit we did spend two nights away from “home.” A night in a hotel in Mystic allowed us to do more in the area and made the four-hour round-trip drive more worthwhile.  Camping in a nearby state park was purely fun, to give our daughter a chance to make  “lazy man” s’mores, cook over a fire and sleep outdoors.

Don’t Work:

relaxing moment on a staycationWe agreed we would leave the house every day. If we didn’t it was too easy to succumb to the call of the laundry, email, conference calls (Richard) and endless social media demands (me).

We also resigned ourselves to the fact that we would both check in to work every day. We were home and we could, and when we don’t catching up is too insane when vacation is over. Luckily, Tiny Traveler sleeps like a teenager so it was easy to get this daily check-in out of the way while waiting for her to wake up mid-morning.

Do Plan Things To Do:

visiting old planes on staycatiionWe had planned at the outset to do quite a bit during our Connecticut staycation, heading off in the car every day to museums and aquariums and a waterpark. Then the weather, schedule changes at some attractions and Tiny Traveler’s inclinations changed our plans considerably.

In the end. we only did two big excursions. We went to Mystic to visit the Seaport Museum and go paddleboarding. And we visited the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome in the Hudson Valley to see its antique airplane flight show. These activities naturally provided some of the highlights of our week: TT could tell her friends she saw whale vomit (amber gris), Rich tried paddleboarding for the first tome, and we saw genuine WWI fighter planes actually fly.

rock climbing on staycationBut aside from that, we spent most of our time hiking and river-wading. Connecticut has a plethora of state parks, rivers and waterfalls. Some days we only traveled a few minutes from home and still had an adventure.

This turned out to be a better staycation then the one we’d planned. Tiny Traveler had a blast splashing in rivers, learning to skip stones, finding frogs and rock climbing. We saved quite a bit of money on all those activities we didn’t get to. And best of all, we relaxed much more than we do when we’re sightseeing like mad.

I have to say that it’s  easier to change course, alter your plans considerably and take it in stride on a staycation then when you’ve traveled to a destination and have your money and time invested in seeing and doing certain things.

Eat Well:

dining out well is part of a staycationOne of the best ways to feel you’re on vacation is to eat better than you normally do. So we cooked when we felt like it and ate out when we didn’t — including an indulgent diner breakfast of waffles and omelets after a rough night sleeping in the tent. We ate very good ice cream every day, including raspberry ice cream we made. One night we bought New England steamer clams and lobsters, shrimp and farm-stand corn to cook at home; the quintessential New England Summer feast on our back porch.

We also watched Netflix while we ate dinner most nights we were home, something we don’t normally do. We all got caught in the Great British Baking Show, betting on who was a goner each night and whooping it up for the eventual winner.

Next Time

Our next vacation will certainly involve airplane tickets (it’s already planned). But it’s nice to know that when we need to, we can find adventure in our own backyard.

Pin it for later!

A family staycation can feel like a real vacation if you plan and budget, just as you for a vacation away. Here's how parents and kids can have a real getaway locally

Next Week:

Our staycation itinerary and budget.

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9 Comments

  1. September 21, 2016 at 6:19 pm — Reply

    I would love to see WWI planes in flight. I’ve only seen them on display in museums. You are so fortunate to live up north where I hope the summer wasn’t too hot. It’s like an oven in Texas, so we try to stay indoors or in a pool in the summer. My problem is that I pretended I was on a staycation for 2 months, and now have TONS of housework and cobweb sweeping to do to make up for it. In the summer,We were home just long enough to mess up the house but not long enough to clean it.

    • September 21, 2016 at 10:22 pm — Reply

      No one has ever gotten to the end of their life, looked back and thought, “I wish I cleaned more.” In summer, we let things go, too! It can get very hot and humid in NYC but that weekend was OK.

  2. September 19, 2016 at 5:58 pm — Reply

    It’s amazing the adventure you can find in your own backyard. Sometimes it’s the best way to go 🙂

  3. September 19, 2016 at 4:59 am — Reply

    Eileen, I think you did the “staycation” right. One of my main goals is to get out even on those stay at home weekends so that I can get away from the endless household chores.

    • September 19, 2016 at 11:50 am — Reply

      Yes! i don’t think anyone has ever gotten to the end of their life, looked back and said, “i wish i’d done more laundry.” 🙂

  4. September 18, 2016 at 11:31 pm — Reply

    Staycations are amazing, particularly now that we travel so much for work. It is just the best time to be at home and pamper ourselves without the threat of writing deadlines and social media promotions.

    • September 19, 2016 at 11:49 am — Reply

      it’s true. if you can manage to pamper yourself. We have an easy time managing to do it!

  5. September 18, 2016 at 6:22 pm — Reply

    Planning activities and lodging while “staying” in your area is a nice way to mix it up from the daily grind. I’ve found amazing activities hiding just under the surface in my area.

    • September 19, 2016 at 11:48 am — Reply

      yes, you do a fantastic job of exploring your local region!

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