My wife Tracy is a better writer than I am.  By a lot.

She's written this post for this blog to give ideas to families who are staying home for the Spring Break.  It seems half of the community where I live has gone to Florida for Spring Break 2013!  Here are some ideas from Tracy below about making the most of this time!  She'll offer you a different perspective on things, kind of like this photo to the left.  The people who live there see it every day, but I bet they don't see it like we're seeing it in this photo!  For some fresh perspective if you're staying home, here you go:

It’s Spring Break!  Hooray!  What are your plans?

This year our family is staying at home for Spring Break.  But that doesn’t mean we are just having a week of Saturday-style days.  We’ve refined the art of staycation over several years and have every idea that the close of this year’s Spring Break will find us rested and relaxed having enjoyed a great week together as a family.  Below are some ways that we make staycations work for us.  What about you? I’d love to know your thoughts!  Please leave a comment with your Spring Break plans and your tips for making staycations a great family experience.  
  1. Decide on a budget for time and money.  My husband and I first decide on how much money we are going to spend on outings and how much time is available for them.  Part of the reason for the staycation is because he is working this week, so our family outing times need to be scheduled in advance.  Another reason for the staycation is to save money now for a summer vacation later.  By discussing this ahead of time, we clarify any limits and avoid disappointment later.
  2. Have a family meeting.  Once we parents have set our limitations, and we’ve also discussed various possibilities for the week, we meet with our kids to get their input.  We don’t ask them to brainstorm with us because that can lead to a lot of disappointment.  We do give them choices between outings that we have pre-approved.  For example, “Would you rather walk along the canal in Indianapolis or hike at Eagle Creek?”  These discussions are a great time to also clarify their expectations about how much time dad will be around and how much (or how little!) money we will have to spend.  We don’t explain our whole budgeting process in this meeting!  But we do say things like, “We were thinking spending about $10 each for our special outing would be just about right.  Here are some activities that fit in that range.  Which would you enjoy?”  
  3. Plan for FUN!  Try to resist the urge to turn your kids’ staycation into the chance to do major work projects around your house everyday now that you have extra help around the house!  I’m all for taking on a project as a family during this time (keep reading), but it’s important to your kids that they have a chance to ENJOY this week.  This doesn’t have to cost a ton of money.  Invite them to help you think of what fun at home means to them.  Movie marathons, cooking together, a daily outdoor time (hiking, tossing a ball, nature scavenger hunt, goofy family photo shoot, kite flying, sidewalk chalk portrait contest), family dance party, indoor flashlight tag…the list goes on!  The important thing is to plan for it and put it on a planning calendar somewhere that everyone can see.  Before everyone goes to bed for the night, they can check the board to see what fun is planned for the next day and will wake up with the expectation that fun is on the schedule, even if beds have to made and dishes put away.  
  4. Think like a tourist.  When we go away for vacation, we often stop by a tourism office to find out what fun activities are in the area.  Well, we can do the same at home.  Visit this website for the Lafayette tourism department by clicking here.    Plan to visit somewhere that you’ve never been to or not been to in awhile.  Keep the plan simple, maybe stop by a local restaurant that is in your price range but still interesting.  There are many to choose from! Click here for ideas!  Don’t forget to take pictures!  That’s a huge part of vacation anywhwere, and there’s no reason why these experiences are any less picture-worthy just because they are happening locally.Just remember to go into it the same way that you would if you had picked out a place to visit while in Florida.  Expect to see something interesting and have fun together.  Chances are, you will!
  5. Focus on ONE family work project.  Let’s face it, one of the benefits to a staycation is that you can get a few extra jobs done around the house.  With the urge to spring clean, we need to resist the urge to assign huge household tasks every day.  If we were in a condo near the beach, we wouldn’t dream of that so let’s try not to do it during our staycation either.  On the other hand, it is a great chance to spend some time working together on a project that can be completed in a reasonable (half-day?) amount of time, helping your child learn a new skill or a new level of work-ethic along the way.  We try to get our family project out of the way early-on in the week so it isn’t looming over our heads.  If you are super caught up on work projects around the house, why not plan to serve somewhere together as a family.  The Eggstravaganza might be your opportunity.  You could also call several shelters, the Salvation Army, or other similar organizations and ask how your family could serve together for half of a day.
  6. Schedule like you are on vacation.  When we go away for a vacation, we keep our schedule very low key.  We even put up our i-gadgets (pods, phones, pads etc.) for major parts of the day.  Plan on doing the same even though you are at home.  We try to pick only one big event for each day, take the mornings slowly, and enjoy the downtime.  This takes planning and a bit of reminding each other, but we always feel more refreshed when we plan like this, especially for staycations.  
  7. Keep it simple.  This is the week to get out the paper plates, plastic cups, frozen dinners, and limit the cooking.  You can limit the laundry too if you want to.  If we aren’t intentional about this, mom’s staycation can become something of a source of bitterness.  Give yourself a little vacation during this time by sharing household tasks that are normally all yours and by lightening them with things like disposable dishware and convenience foods.  I try to make one or two major meals and that’s it!  The rest of the week is sandwiches, soups, frozen pizzas, and leftovers.  My family doesn’t mind.  They enjoy having me with them more this week.  It’s a decent trade-off for them.  Likewise, simple boardgames, reading aloud, playing card games, throwing a ball, or looking through family pictures or videos are all simple, but very meaningful interactions that can be quickly organized and enjoyed for a long time.
  8. Expect to have a great week and make sure everyone else does too!  We try to celebrate the beginning of vacation with a little fanfare.  Blow some party horns, go out for the first evening, make a huge breakfast the first day, do something to announce that the vacation time has started and we are all in vacation mode.  Then, throughout the week, by showing the planning calendar, by saying it outloud, by being sure that laughter is found throughout the day, we remind each other that tho the surroundings are very familiar, this week is anything but ordinary.  It’s a special week, set aside to rest, relax, revive, and relish in each other.  
  9. There’s no substitute for you!  If you are feeling down about staycation, STOP!!!  You are not short-changing your children or providing them with inferior plans.  Of course, the whole world would love to spend a week on a beach with the sun shining and cares of home left behind.  But that’s not what we are doing this year, so get over it and go have fun!  We don’t apologize to our kids for what they are not doing this week.  We celebrate with them for what we do get to do together.  Truly, there is no way to overestimate the value of time spent face-to-face enjoying our kids.  With a little planning, creativity, and attitude check, this can be a very special week together, one that they will remember just as much as when they held the baby alligator at the alligator farm or you jumped the waves at the beach.  

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