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I used to think a real vacation meant months of planning, carefully honing in on thee perfect place to schlep the family that would be exciting enough for a four year old, cool enough for a 9 year old, yet interesting for us adults. We wanted a memory that could provide the idea of happy, non-argumentative kids, agreeable adults and once, when we brought Bowser, our beloved dog, a place that was completely pet friendly. (An aside, Drury Hotels welcomes dogs!) Our family vacation was to culminate from a year of saving and many hours in an airplane, car or some other mode of transportation that would take us far, far away. Heck, the word staycation wasn’t even an option when I was a kid!

Mother And Kids Enjoying Staycation Picnic Outdoors

Learn how to create a memorable staycation and summer-on-a-budget trip for less than a conventional trip away would cost.

That, it would seem, was what a vacation meant. The idea of venturing off to some yet-to-be discovered locale, where the kids could use the beds as trampolines, the pool for a quick rinse and a $4 soda was ok because heck, we’re on vacation.

Somewhere down the road, figuratively and literally, we realized that the kids just really loved having an experience. They weren’t too concerned with the miles or the money or if we had breakfast with a mouse or a historical president.

They simply wanted us.

Since our adult ah-ha moment, we have become pretty good at creating summer-on-a-budget fun and all far less than a conventional trip away would cost, including specialty supplies. So, what can you and your family do this summer for a memorable staycation? Here’s a few of our ideas:

Beyond the backyard tent—Familyville
Transform your patio or deck into a one-of-a-kind oasis. The local party store or online shops are great for finding inflatable palm trees,and tiki torches. Rent a canopy for under $100, head to discount store and find a couple of hammocks. In the morning, venture to the nearest local stream, rent a canoe, catch some fish and fry the catch over a morning campfire.

Pick It and Pack
Have the kids pack an overnight bag and pick a random three digit number and one direction among the various combinations (i.e. N, NE, NW, S, SE, SW, etc.) The random number will be the amount of time in the car, if the number 529, then you would drive 5 hours, 29 minutes in the chosen direction. Or, if the kids are young, you could drive 52.9 miles… a manageable amount of time in the car. Once you arrive at your Pick It destination, begin to explore. This is a fun way to find new places not too far from home and still affordable.

Are We There Yet?
For the kids who aren’t buying your staycation idea and couldn’t care less about the budget, you have to fake them out a little (just a little). This works well for 8-12 year olds. Pack the car at 8:00 p.m. pm with a roll-out-of-the-driveway time of 9:30 p.m. Make sure the kids are in their PJs, make the backseat cozy with blankets, books and whatever the latest distracting electronic device is most popular at the moment, and venture out. On your way to the highway, stop at the gas station, fuel up, grab a coffee. Let the kids have “one last call for potty break before we get going.” Head out and within an hour, they’ll be dozing off. Once sound asleep, find a hotel and that’s your staycation destination. Check in, nudge the kids to walk to the room, tuck them in and kick back knowing you are only about 60 miles from home and at a sleep-cheap place with a free breakfast. In the morning, the kids will only know they are not home. Pick up a few touristy maps of the town you are discovering, go for a hike and spring for the extra scoop of ice cream because you haven’t really spent much.

What can you do once you get where you’re going? How about:

  • Geocaching
  • Visiting local museums and learn that towns history
  • Eating at the local diner, talk to folks, ask them their favorite to-do.
  • Swapping phones (camera’s) for an hour and see how others view the trip
  • Attending a charity run, walk, or dinner in the town you are visiting

As you can see, creating a memorable staycation and creating summer fun on a budget isn’t that difficult. Kids just want our time. It’s up to us to use it wisely.

Do you have a great story to share about your staycation or fun this summer on a budget? Drop us a line, we’d love to hear from you and possibly share your story in an upcoming blog.