As the last bell rings for the school year and the kids head out the doors gleefully chanting, “No more school,” their cares are left behind and replaced with thoughts of staying up late, sleeping till noon, hanging out at the beach, and just “chillin” with friends. Unfortunately, for most of us parents, our worries and homework have just begun. Our once toyed with ideas for this year’s perfect summer family vacation must NOW turn into a planned, scheduled, and booked reality. The struggle for most of us is not the vacation itself, but ultimately providing a memorable experience for the entire family that doesn’t deplete the savings account or burn the numbers off our credit cards.
So, how do we create the perfect blend of quantity and quality, while remaining fiscally responsible? Actually, it’s easier than we think. As busy, intelligent, organized overachievers, we tend to overcomplicate and overplan everything, including the family summer hiatus. So, let’s begin by thinking outside of the proverbial box and get back to some old fashioned basics; the availability of limited technology and the K.I.S.S. principle.
Today’s technology has undermined the true definition of vacation. Think back to a time when you couldn’t be called, emailed, texted or posted while away from the office or the house. To really allow yourself and your family to take a quality break from everyday modern life and the sophistication that accompanies it, make a family pact to leave technology behind. Bring one cell phone, designated only for emergencies, and put an “on vacation” voicemail message on the remaining phones and an auto reply on emails.
With technology in check, let’s begin planning a vacation that both our budget and family will love! This is where the K.I.S.S. principle applies – keep your adventure uncomplicated. The challenge is to find age-appropriate activities that aren’t mind-numbing for adults or boring for kids. The ultimate family vacation choice is one that provides a simple mix of physical activity, education, and sightseeing opportunities. So, after doing a bit of homework, here are my top three frugal, yet memorable family summer vacation ideas to get you going.
- The Road Trip Vacation
Even with higher gas prices, the All-American family road trip is still one of the least expensive options. Choose an ultimate destination (e.g. Washington D.C., Black Hills, South Dakota, Las Vegas or any of our incredible National Parks) and then plan a route which offers interesting, fun stops along the way. When making your lodging reservations, don’t forget discounts provided by membership organizations and be sure to ask for budget-conscious deals and/or accommodations where kids stay free. To reduce food costs, look for restaurants with kid’s menus or where kids eat free. Another option is to book a room with a refrigerator or kitchenette. By preparing some meals yourself, you can reduce your restaurant costs. So, grab your GPS, pack a large cooler, stop at grocery stores along the way, sing silly songs, play I Spy and the License Plate Game, watch the sun rise and set, and make some wonderful memories.
- The Close to Home Vacation
Living in Florida provides a multitude of day trip opportunities. Make your home your hub. Depending on the number of vacation days, take in as many local attractions as possible. Some great suggestions might include spending the day at one of Florida’s beautiful natural springs, venturing out to an unfamiliar beach spot, a trip to the zoo (I’m partial to the Jacksonville Zoo) or even spending the day at one of your family’s favorite theme or water parks. There are two important prerequisites to make the close to home vacation an enjoyable one. First and foremost, remember this is a vacation – have a plan with a predetermined schedule of events. Remind yourself that memorable family quality time doesn’t include cleaning out closets, landscaping the yard or painting the house. Second, as stated earlier, make a family pact to keep this time technology free.
- The Camping Vacation
This can be the traditional camping experience, vacationing at any of the many Florida or National state or private parks or the innovative summer “family camp” programs. Like summer camps for kids, a “family camp” experience comes complete with beautiful settings, simple lodging, meals, campfires and an assortment of imagination stretching activities. Now if you’re feeling really adventurous, this can be combined with the Road Trip vacation.
Although the Road Trip, the Close to Home, and the Camping vacations are my top picks, I’m sure there are many more great ideas out there. If you have a personal favorite, let me know – I’d love to hear from you! In the meantime, remember that family vacations are important. There’s the quality time spent together away from life’s distractions, the laughter and fun and most importantly, memories that will last a lifetime. So, start Googling, begin planning, and have a wonderful vacation!