Financial struggles, a weakened economy and a shift of personal priorities have encouraged many families to discover inexpensive vacation options for their next family get-away. Reduced flight fares, discounted lodging and free activities are abundant across the United States
. Families need only set their budget and plan their trip.
A "staycation" is a recently-coined term that refers to staying in one's local area for the duration of the vacation. Oftentimes, families are so busy with work, school and extra-curricular activities, that they rarely discover what's in their own back yard. Staycationers save on lodging, travel and additional expenses (such as boarding a pet). Therefore more money can go towards bills and savings, while the family can enjoy the experiences their own city has to offer. Plan at least two days to spend outside, discovering hiking trails, swimming, fishing and kayaking, biking around town or playing at the park. Reserve a few days' time to unearth the treasures of your city---museums, sporting events, zoos and theme parks---and plan on eating out at least three meals (after all, parents are on vacation, too!). Schedule a Game Night at home, take the kids to the movies and then out for ice cream. Coordinate a staycation with local festivals and craft shows, such as the Washington D.C. Cherry Blossom Festival, for added entertainment options. Look for short day trips in the area, such as touring ghost towns, going horseback riding or picking strawberries at a nearby farm. Check the local newspaper for free classes, such as craft, music or dance, that are offered to the community. Staycations allow for much-needed rest, provide the opportunity to tackle home projects, develop a greater understanding of your city, offer money-savings and high-quality family time.
When the housing market is in crisis, families can take advantage of slashed prices on vacation rentals. According to a recent article in the Columbia State Newspaper, rentals along the South Carolina coasts have recently cut rental fees by as much as 25 percent (see Resources). Hot-spot family beach areas such as Florida's Gulf Coast and Hilton Head have plentiful 3-bedroom homes available for less than $2,000 weekly. Deeper discounts are even offered for last-minute travelers. Look for vacation homes within walking distance to the beach (rather than waterfront) to save on costs, and leave your pooch with friends or family to avoid added pet cleaning fees. Added tip? Travel during an off-peak time, shop around the market (do not have your heart set on just one option to promote negotiation) and consider less-familiar beach vacation spots (such as the Outer Banks). Shop for groceries and cook at the rental and enjoy leisurely days at the beach to save on money. Looking for a unique vacation rental? Contemplate boycotting the beach and hitting the mountains during off-season vacations. Places like Asheville (North Carolina), Pidgeon Forge (Tennessee) and Blue Ridge (Georgia) offer quaint towns and villages amidst spectacular scenery. These options may prove best for families enthusiastic about the outdoors, as hiking and fishing opportunities are abundant. Budget low but you still want to skip town? Discover our nation's state parks by staying on the grounds. Many states offer multi-person rustic cabin rentals on park property for as little as $35 to $100/night, according to a recent CNN Travel article (see Resources). Families looking for an inexpensive escape can certainly find options in vacation rentals throughout the country.
Looking for diverse family activities, heightened socialization, budget entertainment and outdoor experiences? Family camps are a new wave of low-cost vacation enjoyment. Consider Medomak Camp in Maine, YMCA varieties and Camp-of-the-Woods in upstate New York. Families enjoy cabin lodging on the grounds, mess-hall dining and the traditional camp experience (for as low as $2,000 a week). The 215 percent influx of family camps was recently reported by the Boston Globe, citing the plethora of activities for each child age group (such as swimming and archery) and parents (including yoga and hiking). As some camps have religious affiliations, adequate research should be completed before attending. Family camps allow for both group bonding and individual time, but introverts should note that camps are often packed with families (especially children). However, those game for a fun, social camp adventure can sing songs around a fire, eating s'mores.