This article was published in the local Patch in 2010 in response to the question: How do you create a “staycation” for your family?
I find the best way to create a vacation at home is to set up the expectation with my children that we don’t — as a rule — jet off. Any. Where. I like to tell them tales of being stuck on winter runways. For four hours. IN CANADA. That usually scares them off wanting any kind of airport travel until mid-July.
My children aren’t allowed to watch television during the school week, so watching two consecutive episodes of “Mythbusters,” starting at 8 a.m., is a real treat in these parts. (PARENTAL WARNING: Feed child(ren) healthy, mid-episode snacks so as to avoid crazy, blood-sugar-plummeting, post-TV violence).
When the kids get a little nutty inside the house and the weather is frigid and windy, I like to use this method to force them outside:
ME: “You guys have crazy energy. You need to go outside. NOW!”
THEM (in unison): “NO!!!! It’s freezing outside! We can’t go out there.”
ME: “Outside or I start throwing away special toys.” (I like to go directly to threatening, because reasoning with children about weather I myself would never go out in doesn’t work.)
THEM: “Like, which toys?”
ME (Losing cred): “Uh, The Most Special Ones!”
THEM: “Like our stuffed animals?”
ME (Ha ha! Suckahs!): “Exactly!”
THEM: “Okay, okay! We’re going! How long do we have to stay out?”
And so it goes…
No matter how desperate I am for an activity, I never, ever, never set up any messy craft projects. Fifteen minutes to set it all up, 20 minutes to fight with them about cleaning it up, five minutes to pull from the garbage all the recyclables that they’ve mistakenly thrown away, just for an activity that takes 10 minutes to complete, a full day to dry and a seeming lifetime to busy up my fridge? No thank you!
Instead, I like to bring them to a toy store and pretend it’s a museum, as in, “We’re JUST LOOKING. NO TOUCH!” This can easily kill a good hour or so without a single monetary expenditure. Or a hideous collage on my fridge for the next three months. Just kidding!
Probably my Best School Vacation Trick ever is to say, “No,” to the arcade every single day until, at long last, I say, “Yes,” and they know that Life Is Good and that the poor kids traveling in Mexico this week don’t even “have arcades.”
When all else fails, I encourage my kids to buddy up to someone with known “jetting off” plans and see if they get themselves invited along for the next school vacation.