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Encouraging Heroes. You can be one too.

With today’s tough economy, a lot of parents are finding that they have to pare back the expenses. Since vacations are considered a luxury (and are expensive!), they are among the first to be put off until later.

But family time together is important time. Getting out of the house and off of Facebook, Twitter or whatever hot new video game has your kids’ attention at the moment is a crucial way to refresh, reconnect and revitalize family bonds. When we, as a society, set our expectations for getaways as something that takes an airplane ride or a couple days in the car to get to, we can forget that there are almost certainly a myriad of perfectly good destinations within a few hours’ drive.

Fun, Frugal-Style

If you live in or near a large city, take a look at local attractions. Most cities have parks, museums, nature trails, tours, historical sites, perhaps even a zoo. Admission for children usually is less than that of a full-price adult ticket, and very young children often get in free. Usually, your local paper will advertise upcoming events for the week or month in a weekend edition. We like to look for kid-friendly, family-oriented events and mark them on the calendar as possibilities. We try to plan for no more than two hours in the car one-way; for day trips, the less time spend traveling, the better!  The less time in the car, the more fun we can be having at where we want to be.

Skimpy on the Wallet, Big on the Fun

By choosing local destinations, we don’t have to fuss and muss about with bulky items like suitcases and changes of clothing. We reserve activities that might require a lot of equipment for special occasions; getting up and going is a lot easier without lugging a lot of stuff with us. When we do get ready, we keep the kids busy by helping out with making lunch or bringing items to the car. It keeps them involved, contains their natural excitement, and lets us all leave that much faster!

We also do the following:

  • Minimize dining costs by packing our own food. A soft-sided cooler can hold an easy-to-make picnic lunch and not take a up a lot of space in the car.
  • Bring easy to carry snacks for munching on the go. Cut up vegetables are great for this purchase. No wrappers, no sticky fingers and very healthy!
  • Think “space-savers” when choosing what to bring. If we’re going camping in the nearby state park, we’ll bring a tent and an inflatable boat instead of renting a boat at the park or pulling a trailer. Both fold up very neatly and can fit in the trunk or car top carrier.
  • Choose a backup destination so that weather or other situational changes don’t force your family to totally cancel plans. We find having an indoor and outdoor plan works well for us.

Once we’re there, we always make sure we have a “meet here” plan in case we become separated. We do bring cellphones for emergencies and absolute must-take phone calls when out of the house, but we’re always sure to turn it onto vibrate, so that we don’t disturb others with the annoying jangling of a phone and we let calls that aren’t urgent go to voice mail. By letting go of the “instant communication/must answer” mentality of home brought about by the ability to text, IM and have a phone with us no matter where we go, we can focus on what’s most important – having fun together as a family.

Melissa Cameron is a married mother of two and an avid blogger. When she’s not rolling up a tent or inflatable pontoon boat to go camping with the family, she spends her time crafting, writing stories, surfing the web, and planning their next family adventure

Photo provided by More Good Foundation via Creative Commons license, some rights reserved.

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