FIRST-PERSON: With gas prices rising, 'staycations' more popular
Whether you have a few days or a full week off; an empty nest or a houseful of kids; or a spouse or a party of one, staycationing is a fabulous way to enjoy a vacation that can be as simple or extravagant as you choose. And you save a bundle over the cost of a typical getaway.
While this article is geared toward families with children, the staycationing ideas can be adapted for any household. Here are some ideas:
-- Plan ahead. Decide on activities and/or outings for each day. Allow input from all family members as to preferred restaurants, nearby places to see and activities to enjoy.
For your reading, listening or viewing pleasure, visit your local library -- online -- for books, audio books and movies. Most library systems have a website with a listing of their entire inventory. Choose items from other branches and have them ready for pickup at your local branch.
You can also check out your state tourism departmentís website to see what will be happening in your area. Many sites include free downloadable brochures and more. Youíll find all state tourism websites listed alphabetically at: http://bargainomics.com/tourism.htm.
-- Schedule one trip per day. You may choose not to leave the house on some days, but when you do, donít break up the day with or waste fuel on several excursions. Plan one trip to one attraction or park and one restaurant.
-- Create your own "waterworld." For the price of a dayís admission to an average water park, you can stock up on your own water gadgets: slides, sprinklers, water guns and the like. No time to shop? Online stores like www.PoolRafts.com offer terrific selections.
If you have a swimming pool, then add some new games like water basketball or even soccer. Keep the experience fresh by putting out only one new item daily.
-- Indulge your taste buds. A huge part of vacationing is enjoying new foods. Why not do a "world tour" with each day featuring a meal from a different ethnic cuisine? One day Chinese, the next Mexican, another Thai and then Italian, etc.
And set aside time for grilling, making homemade ice cream and indulging in other special treats. Turn eating a watermelon into an event by letting everyone carve watermelon "teeth" and holding a seed-spitting contest.
-- Host a picnic. Picnicking has become such a lost "art" that many adults and youngsters have never even experienced it. Even if you choose to buy the entire meal already prepared, include some outdoor dining at home and in nearby parks.
-- Find, buy and borrow. Dig out games and craft items that you havenít used in ages. Buy some new ones. Borrow some from friends and, in return, offer to loan yours.
-- Perform. Have an assortment of old clothes ready for costuming, and let your kids write and perform their own play. Or how about using those craft items to make puppets?
-- Lose the phones and e-mail. Once your staycation begins, turn the ringers off on all home phones and let the answering machine or voice mail deal with callers. Switch cell phones to silent mode, and create an "Iím on vacation" answering message. Return only those calls that are absolutely necessary. Set up an "away" message on your e-mail.
-- Include worship. Donít teach your kids that weíre to vacation from church. Attend church services as usual, and maintain your daily Bible study and quiet time. If you donít already do family devotionals, then your staycation is the perfect time to get started.
-- Leave the laundry and unnecessary cleanup. Unless a typical household chore absolutely has to be done, donít do it. Then, at the end of your staycation -- unless you do this already -- splurge for a cleaning service to help put things back to normal.
Judy Woodward Bates is an author, speaker and TV personality. Visit her website at www.Bargainomics.com.