There's a reason people say, "I need a vacation from my
vacation." It's not because of the bucolic beaches and exhilarating
excursions. It's because of the baggage fees, cramped airplanes and
But you still need time off work and a focus on your
family. The tough economy gave rise to staycations-a vacation spent
at home. But the travails of travel just might give staycations
That's especially true in Chicago, a prime tourist
destination for people from all over the world. Blessed as we are
to live in such a rich metropolitan area, there's no burning need
to leave town for spring break. But if you choose to staycation
this year, remember that it will only feel like a vacation if you
treat it like a vacation.
By following a few simple rules, a week at home can offer
the same satisfaction as a week away, minus the travel
Plan it like a once-in-a-lifetime trip to
Maybe you don't have to work quite that hard, but unless
you plan something fun to do each day, there's a chance the last
day of your staycation will arrive and you'll realize you and the
kids did nothing but veg in front of the TV.
Do something different
A vacation in another town or city would involve
discovering new things. So spend your staycation week discovering
new things, too. If you live in the suburbs, head into the city. If
you live in the city, explore a suburb. If you live on the North
Side, head to the South Side. There are, literally, thousands of
things worth visiting in Chicago and the surrounding areas. There
must be some museum (Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Art, anyone?) you
haven't yet visited.
Having trouble coming up with a good idea? Pick up your copy of
Chicago Parent's Going Places, or check out the latest issue online, have
your kids close their eyes and point, then head to that
If you want to go further afield, Sue Kirchner, Palatine
mom of two and founder of the ChocolateCakeClub.com, suggests letting the
kids play "pin the map." Circle a three-hour radius around your
house and let the blindfolded kids choose your
Ditch the car
Pretend you're vacationing in an exotic location where you
would not have access to a car. It would require you to figure out
how to get around by train, bus, cab or on foot. Do the same thing
from home. A ride downtown on the commuter train or El is a treat
in itself for kids who usually get around by car.
Sleep somewhere new
If you had gone on vacation, you would all be sleeping
together in one hotel room, right? So turn your bedroom into a
hotel room. Or camp out together in the backyard. Or build a fort
big enough for all to sleep in the family room. Kids love the
adventure of it all. If the budget can stand it, consider spending
one night in a nearby hotel. Pick one that has a pool for the kids
(and maybe a spa for the parents).
Turn off the electronics
Yes, that means your computer and smart phone, as well as
the kids' TV and game systems. The definition of a vacation, after
all, is "planned time spent not working." Pretend you're on a
cruise ship without Wi-Fi. Put your e-mail on automatic vacation
response and change your cell phone message to tell folks you're
Don't answer the door
The in-laws, friends and neighbor kids couldn't drop by if
you were out of town. So let them know you're unavailable during
Try new foods
If you had taken that dream trip to Italy, you'd be eating
Italian food, so choose your pretend destination and eat that food
for the week. Or choose a different staycation destination each day
and eat that food for all three meals. For example, if you're
spending a day exploring Chinatown, do a little research and find
out what the Chinese eat. [See
our guide to Chinatown for Little Feet]
Teri Gault, head of TheGroceryGame.com, suggests splurging on paper
plates and cups to cut down on clean-up chores and collecting
restaurant coupons in the weeks before your staycation.
Take plenty of photos
You would document a vacation in pictures and post them to
your Facebook page, right? Well, your staycation is a vacation,
too, so snap and post away.
Let the chores go undone
This might be the toughest part of making a staycation
feel like a real vacation, at least for moms. Unfortunately,
there's no maid service during a staycation. But perhaps there
could be before and after. If you save enough by not traveling, see
if the budget can afford a cleaning service the day before the
vacation starts so you don't spend time thinking, "I really should
clean that _____." A second visit after the staycation ends means
you won't spend the week thinking, "What a mess we're making of the
house." Accept that you'll have a bin full of laundry, just as you
would if you had spent the week basking on the beach.
Cindy Richards is the mom of two who gets her muse from traveling the world, usually with kids in tow. She also writes for TravelingMom.com, where she also serves as editor.
See more of Cindy's stories here.
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