Last month, someone posted a comment on my blog criticizing me for encouraging readers to ‘travel’ during the current difficult economic times.
I realized that she like many other people regarded ‘travel’ like an expensive affair that involved long haul flights, distant locations, and extended hotel stays.
Although that might be the definition of some, there other ways you can ‘travel’ closer to home quite inexpensively, and still have a good time.
In fact, the way I see it, there are many advantages to having ‘stay-cations’: like reduced planning, minimal packing (day bag) and a more affordable price tag. Moreover, they enable you to achieve the benefits of exposing your child to new experiences at a slower, more manageable pace.
You should research local newspapers, magazines, and the internet for places within a fifty-mile radius that you know will hold your child’s attention for at least an hour or two.
Next, check the place’s operating hours if there is the possibility of booking ahead and whether any accommodations for persons with special needs can be arranged.
Be sure to allocate extra arrival and departure time in your plan for unforeseen meltdowns or mishaps.
Prepare a day bag that includes a first aid kit, insect repellent, sun protection gear, snack, and the extra set of clothes.
Remember to take a regular camera and video camera to record your trip memories. Pictures and videos not only make for inexpensive memorable souvenirs but serve as an educational reminder for your kid’s adventures.
If your child is six or older, you might want to consider teaching them how to take pictures that can later be shared with classmates.
Pick up as many colorful brochures and maps as you can prior and during your visit to your chosen destination as they can be tools to start a collection or to create a scrapbook with your child.
Where to go and what to do
Take a few neighbor parents and kids to go to a local art museum.
Nowadays, Many places have hands on sections in which young patrons can experiment making their Art or even try on period costumes like the Getty Center in Los Angeles.
Then, have a BBQ/Art block party with the kids painting or sculpting and later exhibiting their masterpieces for the entire neighborhood.
Unknown to many, some yearly Zoo and Aquarium memberships offer reciprocity and can be used in other cities too, which is an extra bonus.
When they were younger, my kids loved watching the feeding time at the local zoo followed by our picnic in the nearby park.
Visit a local historic home or cemetery and learn about its unique story.
Most places have retired people that volunteer as docents who are thrilled to share their stories with any visitors.
Around Halloween time many places share stories of ghost sighting and other paranormal activities with the public that you can visit with your family.
Walk around an ethnic neighborhood exploring the miscellaneous goods and foods, followed by a lunch stop at a local restaurant.
If you are not acquainted with the items on the menu, ask the server for personal recommendations or proceed to order several appetizers to share.
Some ‘mom and pop’ places might even agree to give you the grand tour of the kitchen if you ask to politely so you can learn how they prepare the food.
One of our all-time favorite Sunday pass times is to go and have Dim-Sum in the Chinatown area of Los Angeles, where the kids order items from the servers with their traditional rolling carts.
Make good use of your nearby beaches, lakes or pools; you might need to join the YMCA or pay a small set fee to enter, but then you can spend as long as you wish and practice your swim moves.
Some beach areas will even permit camping for the night so you can get to witness a sunrise or sunset.
If your child is both a thrill seeker and water lover, you might want to consider getting a season’s pass to the local water park since multiple visits are bound to cost more.
The new Geocaching while hiking in the mountains is so much better than our childhood version of searching grandma’s dusty attic.
Talk about multi-tasking; you get to hike the great outdoors, teach your kid basic navigation skills and find a treasure before returning home for dinner.
Those less physically active can still participate by going to alternate places with a friendlier terrain; just remember to bring your GPS instrument along to help you find the hidden treasures..
Have a transportation adventure day; ride that metro line you’ve been curious about, or climb aboard that ferry boat you’ve been watching in the harbor.
Nowadays, with many kids raised in suburban areas, riding the city bus might seem exotic to some. I still remember the first time my kids took their first bus ride and were utterly surprised to find out that unlike private vehicles, there were no seat belts.
Visit a fair or festival and participate in every possible activity, no matter how childish and embarrassing it sounds.
Some County Fairs are so elaborate you might find out that need more than just one day to explore all the booths and activities.
If you and your family are food lovers; bear in mind that fairs are the place to find the newest and strangest ones-anyone care for a serving of deep fried coke?
How do they do that?
Take a backstage tour in an area factory or media provider building such as a TV station, radio or local newspaper.
Many businesses encourage the locals to visit their facilities’ by providing free guided tours or holding ‘Open House’ events.
For travel theme tour visits a nearby famous hotel or airport and watch the planes taking off or landing.
To this day, my kids remember visiting the Jelly Belly in Fairfield, Northern California and sampling their colorful products.
Old fashioned theme parks
Find local old fashioned ‘Luna Parks’ and theme parks that offer milder nature rides than today’s stomach-churning variety, plenty of vintage charm and tend to be cheaper.
Some charge an entrance with a separate fee for each ride while others sell a discounted ticket for a set number of rides.
Many places still feature wooden carousels that are a marvel to examine and photograph, especially with giggling little kids riding.
Best of all, even, in the worst-case, scenario the crowds are bound to be smaller than in their newer fancier counterparts.
Lastly, Be flexible and don’t despair if the day does not go as planned, it seldom does.