Call it what you will – a field trip vacation, a day outing, a “stay-cation” – the fact is that in these tough economic times many of us are finding ourselves in the position of having to scale back our vacation plans. If a full-blown vacation is not in the budget this year, here are a few ways to make the most of the money you do have to spend and show the family a good time, even if it’s just for a day.
Parents can learn from teachers who have to plan field trips to engage and enlighten their students throughout the school year. Tips #1-3 below come straight from educators while #4-5 are adapted specifically for families
1. Plan Ahead
Make a list of every interesting place you can think of that is within comfortable driving distance or that is along the route of your preferred mode of transport (bus, train, etc.). Start with your own town or region and work your way out from there. You may be surprised at how much there really is to do close to home. Use local websites and other resources to find out about events that you may have overlooked in the past. Pay special attention to educational and historical sites as these will combine learning with fun.
If you are looking for activities to fill several days, make sure you aren’t outspending in transportation costs what you would be spending on a hotel stay. That just defeats the purpose. Once you have a decent-sized list of places to go, sit down with the family and decide on one (or two, or however many you are looking to plan).
2. Know Your Budget
The amount of money you spend will determine the number of “field trips” you can take, so if you have several days to fill, select several inexpensive destinations. If you only have a day, you have more room to splurge. You might also want to investigate free activities that may be hosted by local communities and incorporate them into your day trip. Many towns offer free concerts, movie nights, outdoor plays and other family-oriented activities as part of their civic calendar, especially in summertime.
3. Be flexible
Try to have some flexibility when it comes to the dates of your field trips. Weather can put a huge damper on your plans. If you have to use a specific day or set of days, consider having two sets of plans that compensate for indoor and outdoor activities or simply plan to go on the spur of the moment when the weather is perfect.
4. Pack a cooler
If you have young children, consider packing your meals and saving the food dollars for fun things like ice cream or other treats. Packing meals will also free up funds for souvenirs and it will relieve the stress of having to seek out “kid friendly” eateries. Make mealtime part of the event. Make a big deal over your picnic. Pack everybody’s favorites and have fun sharing that time together.
5. Most of all, have fun
Keep the atmosphere of your field trip vacation light and positive. You want to walk away from even these simple trips with great memories so that, if your circumstances haven’t improved next year, everyone can still be excited about the time the family gets to spend together.