Spending vacation time in your home city can be both fun and economical

family on bikes

So here’s the scoop:

You’ve got kids, you’re tired and you want a family vacation. The problem is, you don’t have the funds to do it the way you’d like to. As a matter of fact, money’s pretty tight all around and you’re dreading having to tell the kids that their dreams of an unrestrained Disneyland vacation will have to wait until your finances are just a tad healthier.

Instead of feeling guilty followed by sheepishly telling your kids that their fantasies will have to wait, how about putting on your game face and let the family know that you’re going to tear up the town on your staycation?

That’s right - The family’s going to enjoy their respite from their daily routine by looking at their hometown, city, province or state through new eyes. The “staycation” - the vacation that’s just a few steps from home - is an increasingly popular alternative to the expensive and often stressful family vacations that we at once embrace and dread (for financial reasons and more). Surprisingly, there are a number of things that can be found close to home that are both interesting and entertaining.

Following is advice about How to Have a Great Staycation: Top 10 Tips For Parents

1) Do your research - Of course, start with our old standby, Google, but don’t stop there. Ask friends, read local write-ups, review online sites for your destinations and find out what’s on the go. Oftentimes, there are seasonally-focused programs or events occurring which may fit in perfectly with your family staycation. Gather your information together, enter your coupon codes and go!

2) Prime your Kids - It’s important to set the stage and let the kids know that this year’s family holiday is going to be a little different. Get them ready and let them know that this staycation is going to be just as exciting as any trip abroad. Rally the troops and get them primed for their time in their home city.

3) Have and Agenda - Don’t “let the chips fall where they may” and take for granted that you’re in familiar surroundings. Like any other vacation, have a plan of attack, map out your days and have focal points of interest where you’ll be visiting. Make every day of your staycation count by having a full schedule of things to do that will be of interest to both the older and younger members of the family.

4) Mix it up - To keep things interesting, mix up your staycation with days where you’re enjoying culture and other days where you’re having some good, old-fashioned fun. One day could be a day where the destinations are of an educational bent, another could be cultural. The key is to make it interesting by planning a diverse schedule that will keep everybody entertained.

5) Consider a Theme - If you have some extended time off, consider having themes that are followed as part of your staycation. For example, one week could be dedicated to leisure, e.g. a beach visit, the following week could be focused on culture, etc. If you have a shorter period of time, consider daily themes that will change things up and make the kids more engaged.

6) Check Your Finances - Have a budget allocated and stick to it. Most cities have day passes or weekly passes for transit; as well, there are a number of free festivals and events for families. Daily deal websites and group discounts or special offers are there for the taking - just do your research and you’ll find that there are savings to be had. You can also make the most of your budget by limiting your staycation to a finite number of days. For example, why not do a few two or three-day local excursions as part of your vacation? Consider getting a professional to help you plan a local staycation jaunt so that you can get the most “bang” for your buck.

7) Be One With Nature - The “family staycation” is a perfect opportunity to appreciate nature and to get the kids outside. Venture into the great outdoors by visiting parks, going for walks, and if you’re lucky enough to be close to water, enjoying the waterfront. Have a picnic with the family, go bike riding, plan a scenic hike with the kids. The key is to stop and smell the roses in your hometown - literally and figuratively.

8) Have a “Plan B” - Mother Nature can be a real drag sometimes. Because of this, make sure to have a contingency plan. Inclement weather, illness or otherwise could put a damper on your staycation.  For these reasons, make sure that you have a backup plan regarding your itinerary. So, for example, what will you do if it’s pouring rain when you have a walking tour of the city planned? What if one of your kids comes down with a fever or cold? In the first instance, you may want to consider some of your options that are indoor, e.g. museums, galleries, etc. In the latter case, consider splitting up if you can: one parent could take one or two of the kids out for the day while the other is on nursing duty at home. Whatever the case, make sure to be prepared.

9) Act Like a Tourist - You are on vacation after all, so do the things you don’t normally do at home. These include eating at that new popular restaurant in your city, taking a guided tour of some of your town’s landmarks and buying souvenirs. Take pictures of those historical buildings and look at your city through the eyes of a tourist. You’ll be surprised at what you see.

10) Unplug - You’re on vacation, remember? For this reason alone, give technology a break, and other than taking pictures of your good times, forget about email, texting and the computer for a while. Turn off the tech, tell everyone that you’re on holidays and relax.

As Dorothy said in the Wizard of Oz, “There’s no place like home!”

Are you going on a staycation with your family? Have you gone on one with the kids? What additional advice and tips would you offer? Answer in the comments section below!

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Monday Musings - City or Suburbs?

by Samantha on January 1, 2013

Question mark clip art

City or suburbs? Where is it best to raise a child?

Ask any city dweller and they’ll tell you that there’s nothing like being in the heart of the action. Excitement - or so it seems - is just around the corner and easily accessed by foot. No driving for city folk, no - the subways, buses and other forms of public transportation add to what makes the city so interesting.

But it’s not a Utopia by any stretch. Housing is often much more expensive in urban areas, and a lot smaller than homes that are outside of the downtown or central core. Crime, congestion and the lack of space and privacy can certainly wear on a person - and on families with kids.

Suburbia? Well, it has its appeal as well.

Wide open spaces. Sprawling properties. Backyards with room for a swing set, slide and, if you’d like, a pool. Less crime, or so it appears to some, and the chance to get to know your neighbors. This is because the local coffee shop or main strip is not a hop, skip and a jump away; you have to drive there. Hence, people in the suburbs probably stay home a lot more often and, accordingly, know who has moved in next door.

The line is drawn in the sand when it comes to city vs. suburbs and even more so when kids come into the picture. As a matter of fact, this is often the time when people really start to examine their ideals, values and lifestyle choices because their decisions in these areas will drastically affect their kids.

Full disclosure: I’m a city dweller myself, though I’ve lived in the suburbs. While I can appreciate the value of both locales, I do love the convenience of living downtown, though it’s not without it’s problems.

So my question this week is:

Where is the best place to raise a child? In the city or in the suburbs? Why?


VIDEO: Petula Clark - Downtown

VIDEO: The Beatles - Penny Lane

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City Slicker or Suburban Soccer Mom?

by Samantha on June 30, 2011

Where is the best place to raise a child?


“Urban life cannot be replicated” state those who have a penchant for fresh lattes from the corner Starbucks on a lazy Sunday morning. A five minute walk will cure last night’s hangover with that first sip of java, tasted just a few minutes after rolling out of bed. Parents who plead more mundane reasons for fatigue such as interrupted sleep due to a feverish and demanding child still need their daily hit of Joe as well. No worries, their double mocha latte is waiting for them as well, just a hop, skip and a jump from home. It’ll be ready, just as soon as they saunter a couple of steps down the street to their favourite coffee shop. Such is life in the big city.

There’s no place like home, especially when home includes a sprawling square footage of property that includes three or four bathrooms (the kids have their own), a family room, finished basement that includes a full recreation area, wet bar and pool table, and a master bedroom that is evocative of the palaces at Versailles. The sprawling expanse that is the backyard of such residences can easily accommodate the neighbors, their friends and their families. Barbecues or pool parties are the name of the game because space is not a problem, so hey - why not?

Said home’s walk-in closet is the size of some city homes’ bedrooms. No joke.

City vs suburbs. Urban vs. suburban.To move or not to move. That is the question.
Is it any wonder that we all get our backs up about this topic, regardless of which side of the city limits we live on? People can get downright nasty when they talk about the merits of each location. In speaking with various parents, it has become very clear that there are definitely two camps of home devotees out there, and they are very passionate about their choices.The city lovers love their way of life, and cite the following as reasons for their refusal to leave their respective urban enclaves:
  • The ability to walk to their favourite restaurant, coffee shop or movie theatre
  • The ability to get by without a car
  • The sense of community resulting from living in close proximity to your neighbours
  • The “cool” factor

Those living in their suburban paradises wouldn’t dream of life in the big city and embrace the space provided by the nether regions of the city limits. While space is clearly one of the key reasons that many families decide to move to the suburbs, there are other factors as well:

  • More affordable housing costs
  • The perception of a more “safe” living environment for the family, particularly children
  • The opportunity to have a newer and in some people’s estimation, a “nicer” home
  • Peace and quiet - all night raves are less common beyond the city limits
The Urbanites vs. the Suburbanites may sound like a “B” movie from the ’50’s but the two camps are very real. And camps they are. Ask any dweller in either area how they feel about their choice of residence and you will likely get a passionate discourse on the merits of their particular area code. Similarly, they often slip in a not-so-subtle “dig” at those who don’t live in their chosen part of town. Hence, comments such as “I can’t imagine living in such a small place with all of my kids,” or “It’s a great house, lots of space, but boy is it ugly!” (I’ve heard both of these comments regarding choice of residence). What gives?

We all make choice that we feel are best for us and our families, but despite this truism, people still get their backs up about those who choose to make a decision that does not jive with our own. I know I’ve been guilty of this at times, in spite of myself. Is it human nature to do this? Is it a subconscious way of making peace with ourselves about a decision that we have made that we are, perhaps, not altogether completely comfortable with?
Many urban dwellers would give up their tiny digs for a bigger living area, but just can’t for a variety of reasons, including proximity to work, lack of a vehicle and/or resources to purchase a new one,  financial considerations or other reasons.

I know of many friends who have moved to the suburbs purely due to the need for more space, a limited pool of financial resources and perhaps, a new baby on the way. Many did so begrudgingly, not wanting to cross what they saw as that defining line that labeled them as a Soccer Mom, Suburbanite, or (in their eyes) worse.

Why are we so sensitive about the three digits that precede our phone number? It’s as if something as simple as this defines our very being. Ditto for someone’s zip code or postal code. What gives?
Perhaps it’s human nature to want to define and label those we encounter and heck - determining someone’s worth based on their proximity to the downtown core makes a lot of sense doesn’t it (insert sarcasm here)? Furthermore, there is often a faint odour of superiority when those who want to convey their seemingly correct choice of residence discusses the poor folks in the _____ (insert the word “city” or “suburbs” here).
Each location is valid. We all make choices that we feel are best for our families. Yet when others do the same, e.g. deciding where to live, we feel that we can denigrate their decision with no consideration to the factors that led to their choice. And so the war between the city and the suburbs continues. Unnecessarily.
City or suburbs? Urban or suburban? What’s your choice and why? 
How do you feel about those who live in the City or the Suburbs? 

Not exactly “City vs Suburbs,” more like “City vs Country” but I used to love this show. Food for thought, anyway…

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