Have Fun At Home

As summer approaches, families start thinking about vacations. But with money tight all over, the idea of paying for plane tickets, hotel rooms, and meals out on the town – not to mention the cost of whatever activities you were planning – just seems excessive. More and more, you're hearing about StayCations – trips right in your own hometown. But how exactly can you plan a StayCation of your own?

1. Think like a tourist.

Start by Googling "[your town] with kids" or "[your town] for families" and take a look at what comes up. You may uncover attractions and sites you've never seen, and you can get many pertinent details –prices, hours of operation, and so on – online.

Does your town have a Convention and Visitors Bureau? Call them and ask for information about places that are fun for kids and families. You can also contact your local public library. The reference librarian will often be able to help you come up with some great ideas for your "trip."

2. Map a tentative itinerary.

How many days will you be on vacation? How much can you reasonably do in a day? One activity per day is a good rule of thumb for families with small children. If your kids are older, you can plan two half-day activities and maybe even a meal out. Or start later in the day and add an evening outing if that's more your style. Set up your days so that you're not traveling in rush hour or crisscrossing the town multiple times per day – you have the hometown advantage, so use it.

3. Get the kids involved.

With a tentative itinerary down, bring the kids in and get their input. Let them help make the decisions that will matter to them, such as where you'll eat lunch, who you'll invite to an evening barbecue, and the order of events. Often, being able to take a friend along on an outing will be enough to get the kids to buy in to the idea and the reality. If the kids truly hate all your suggestions, have them propose an itinerary. They might just surprise you.

4. Act like a tourist.

If your kids will cooperate, act a little touristy when you're out and about. Take pictures, wear hats, carry maps. Got crafty kids? Plan on having them help with the scrapbooking afterwards. Not into cutting and pasting? Go digital – let the kids video blog the experience or make an online album to remember the event.

A StayCation can be just as much fun as an expensive trip out of town. With a little planning and imagination, your family can have a fantastic time without leaving your hometown.

For more on family vacations:

Save money on your next family vacation

Stress-free family travel guide

Affordable and relaxing vacation ideas near home

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