The Less-Stress Staycation

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For Red’s first real spring break, I started making plans to take them on a vacation. The main reason I chose to work part-time for myself, from home, was so I could have flexibility and be with the boys if they are ill or off school. I was wary of going away, however, because they are both TERRIBLE sleepers. When we’re not in our own home, there are late nights, many middle-of-the-night wakings, and very early starts.  Like, 4.30am early. My husband wasn’t taking the time off work, and the thought of driving somewhere, not getting much sleep, and being sole parent for a few days was not appealing to me! So I decided we would stay home, but we would treat it like a vacation and fill it with fun activities. A Staycation. Then my husband could still see them in the evenings and we could keep our sleep (and my sanity!) intact.

Making Plans for a Great Staycation.

When I was thinking about what we wanted to do, I had lots of ideas, as did the boys.  In fact, it didn’t take long to come up with a list that we couldn’t possibly fit into a week! So instead I focused on our goals for the time off, to make sure we covered each one and didn’t get stuck doing just one type of thing.

1. Get Outside as Much as Possible

This one was easy! The weather was finally getting better, and with no need to drive to and from school or other activities, we could focus on getting outside and enjoying ourselves.  We decided to try different play parks.  You would be amazed how many play parks are in your local town, and it’s so easy to get stuck going to the ones you know or are close to you.  There weren’t any big ones that we hadn’t checked out in Boise, so we visited a couple that we hadn’t been to for a while. Going to a different part of town meant it was easy to meet up with some friends we hadn’t seen for a while, which was an added bonus.

We also spent lots of time in the yard or riding bikes in the driveway. Especially if we had been out and about doing other activities during the day, it was great to hang out at home for a while. And without regular scheduled school-week activities, we could spend as long as we wanted exploring and playing, without having to keep an eye on the clock.

2. New Experiences

Initially I decided I wanted us to try something new every day. But after thinking about the options, I realized I was really trying to squeeze in more than was necessary.  Because one of the other goals I had was to keep things simple. Give the boys lots of opportunities to have fun and try new things, but not overschedule them. Red wanted to meet up with friends he hadn’t seen since kindergarten started, and still have playdates with school friends. He’s a social butterfly if ever there was one, and playing with friends is important to him. A staycation allows him to do that in a way he just couldn’t have if we had gone on vacation. So instead I focused on the quality of the new experiences we would have. I decided to concentrate on our home city of Boise.  We’ve lived here for three years, and we’ve seen lots of the city, but it’s easy to fall into a routine of where to go. We have passes to the Discovery Center (a science museum) and the Boise Zoo.  We easily fill up spare time at the library. But I knew there must be other things we hadn’t investigated.  As a result, we went to an indoor city pool, visited the state historical museum, and ran about at the Pioneer Cemetery that is just down the road from us.

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3. Set a Budget (with flexibility)

I didn’t want to set an exact budget, but I knew that if we had gone away for a couple of nights we would have spent money on hotels, gas and eating out.  And so we could afford to spend a bit more on staycation. Dinner out with a two-year-old is not the most relaxing affair, so we focused on more lunches and treats out of the house than we’d have during a school week. Normally I think twice before adding an activity into the week if it costs money, especially if we can do something else fun for free.  But for the week to feel like a vacation, spending money and time on experiences would be essential.

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4. Make the most of not having to travel

At the start of most vacations, there is a lot of travel.  A long drive, possibly waiting in airports and sitting on flights.  I wanted to maximize our fun time because we didn’t have the travel, so I arranged a trip to the zoo immediately after school came out on the Friday.  A few other kindergarten friends came, we took a picnic, it was warm and sunny and finally felt like spring. We were home by mid-afternoon which allowed for some much-needed decompression time, followed by a movie night. It was an easy and great way to start the week off with a bang, and the boys really felt as if they were into vacation mode before we had even hit the weekend.

5. Make the most of the flexibility of staying at home

We woke up on the Sunday to an unexpected snowstorm. We ditched our plans, built snowmen and drank hot chocolate.  It was great to be in our own home and not a hotel room or rental for the surprise weather, as we could easily adjust our activities for the day, plus we had all the outdoor clothes on hand to make the most of it. Thankfully our Spring Break snowstorm was short-lived, and so we knew we’d be back on track with our staycation plans by the next day.

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 6. How much housework/work will the parents do?

I kept Smalls at daycare so that I could still do work as some unexpected jobs came up. That meant I worked hard to schedule the fun stuff in the afternoons and evenings. Adding in more meals and snacks out the house than normal, and intentionally leaving some chores to the weekend meant I was able to spend more fun time with the boys, which helped it feel like a vacation for all of us.

7. Mix things up!

We stayed home every night, making the most of the fact that, unlike if we were away on vacation, we could keep our bedtime routine.  This makes a huge difference for us and was the main reason I decided on a staycation. But we still included fun activities after dinner, like movies or family games.  We often keep these kinds of things for the weekends, when the boys stay up later.  It definitely added to the feeling of a vacation to be able to do ‘weekend’ activities most nights.

8. Include the kids when making plans

Even on vacation, we would probably ask the kids for some input, but it’s easy when you’re not at home to get caught up finding out about activities online and suggesting them to the kids. Because we stayed home, the boys already had lots of ideas about what they wanted to do. Favorite places to visit to eat, or new places the had heard about from friends. Larger art and craft projects to get involved in when we stayed home. It was a lot of fun to use their input and weave it in among some ideas I had, plus it helped them feel more involved in the vacation.

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Have you tried a staycation? What did you love about it? If you have any tips, I’d love to hear them!

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