The term ‘staycation’ has yet to make it into Webster’s dictionary, but Wikipedia describes it as “a period of time in which an individual or family stays at home and relaxes at home or takes day trips from their home to area attractions”. The reason for a staycation? Money, or lack thereof…
Now I’m all for mini-breaks of weekends away somewhere close, but “relaxing at home”? Not so much. I’d never stop thinking of all those things I ‘should’ be doing, and then feeling guilty that I wasn’t doing them since I was “relaxing at home”. Because travel has become such a big part of my life, I no longer look at it as a luxury. For me, going to new places with my family has given us all uninterrupted quality time together, and dreaming of new places to visit has become a welcome distraction when the busy-ness of work and home gets to be too much. Those first trips when our daughter was a baby gave me the confidence to do more of it, and also the experience to feel confident doing it for less. Safety and comfort are priorities when traveling with small children, and you can still maintain maybe Prosecco taste on a beer budget.
Without a doubt, some destinations cost more than others. And some are super-cheap but cost a fortune to get to. The trick is to find a place that’s easy to get to AND not outrageously expensive once you’re there. And they do exist… In the Caribbean, Cuba and the Dominican Republic offer the biggest bangs for your buck. Mexico is not as cheap as it used to be but there are still ways to stay there inexpensively. Florida can still be done on a budget, and if you fly from the States (if you’re lucky enough to be close-ish to a US airport), fares are so low they’re funny. Pre-baby, my husband and I did a week on the cheap on the beautiful (and notoriously pricey) island of Barbados. The time you invest in researching your trip can save literally thousands, so long as your heart’s not set on a 5-star resort.
All-inclusives are very convenient, but if you add up how much food and alcohol you typically consume (or should consume!), they may not be the most cost-effective option for your family. The least expensive way to stay somewhere is usually in a rented condo or house, but these types of vacation properties are often not centrally located and a rental car would be a necessity. If you’re hoping to avoid the expense of car rental for the duration of your trip, your best bet is to find a small, self-catering hotel near to where you’d be spending the majority of your time. (For us that’s the beach). The Internet is your friend here, as even the smallest motel or b&b often has a website and you can probably find online reviews as well. Self-catering never appealed to me before (who wants to cook on holiday?) but it is so easy when traveling with kids. Grocery shopping in a foreign country is fun and cereal for breakfast and sandwiches for lunch is pretty much the extent of our vacation cooking.
The travel industry is one that was completely revolutionized by the Internet, so use it to your advantage in booking things as well. Packages may be convenient and seem to be good deals, but often, individual hotels offer bonuses and specials that aren’t filtered down to the packages. Most airlines offer web-booking discounts, and sometimes the added bonus of seat pre-selection. Don’t forget about the discount booking engines as well. I was hesitant, but we scored a killer deal on car rental in Florida through Hotwire.com and I extended a business trip in New York City with an amazing hotel deal on Priceline.com. The kicker is you don’t know whom you’ve booked with until you’re paid in full, but since I wasn’t too picky (you pre-select certain requirements), the perceived risk was well worth the money saved. Lastly, if you’ve got reward points or miles, check the balances. I was sure the last time I checked one of mine I had enough points for a car wash. I checked it just now and I have enough for us to fly to New York!
The best part about traveling with your kids, especially when they’re small, is they won’t know (or care about) the corners you’re cutting in order to make the trip happen. On a to Florida when our daughter was a toddler, she was just as happy on the beach with a pail and shovel as she was at the Magic Kingdom, and we all felt better after eating simple meals instead of gorging at a giant buffet three times a day. And the fact that it was just the 3 of us with no distractions from home or work? Priceless…
**edited to add…
This past summer we did a Toronto Staycation, and I will grudgingly admit that we enjoyed ourselves, although we did have to escape for one night to The Fern so we felt we had actually “gotten away”