Get Away Without Going Away

Get Away Without Going Away

Family vacations are a great way to bond and take a step back from the hectic schedules that accompany everyday life, but sometimes time or money (or both) make planning an elaborate trip a non-starter.

However, a staycation – a vacation you take right in your hometown (or nearby) – can be much less expensive and fit into nearly any amount of available time with the added bonus of skipping out on potentially stressful travel.

Consider these staycation ideas to take advantage of your local area’s attractions and prove you don’t have to go far to spend quality time together.

Visit local landmarks. Just because it’s not a traditional vacation doesn’t mean you can’t pretend to be tourists. Start by visiting the places you recommend to friends and family from out of town or pick up a city guidebook to uncover hidden spots you may not even know exist. Make a plan to seek out historic sites, visit local landmarks like museums or try an out-of-the-way restaurant (or two) you’ve never eaten at before.

Camp out in the backyard. Camping doesn’t have to be done far from home. In fact, it can be done right in your own backyard. Pitch a tent to sleep under the stars and plan a night full of traditional camping activities like roasting s’mores, telling spooky stories by flashlight and trying to identify stars and constellations.

Set up a picnic in the park. Pack a basket with sandwiches, fruit and other treats and head to the park. You can enjoy a casual meal then take advantage of the open space for a family walk or game of tag before retreating to the playground to let the little ones expel any leftover energy.

Have a home spa day. If you’re looking for some relaxation but don’t want to splurge on the full spa treatment, plan an at-home oasis instead. Light some candles, run a bubble bath and break out the facial masks and fingernail polish.

 Visit an amusement park. No matter where you live, there’s probably an amusement or water park within driving distance. A quick online search before you arrive can help prepare a strategy for hitting the most popular thrill rides and waterslides while skipping those that may not provide quite the same entertainment value.

Find more tips and tricks for enjoying family time together at 

Celebrating Tradition

Celebrating Tradition

Traditions are actions we repeat yearly, monthly, or daily. They help to keep us grounded and connected to the past; they can be elaborate celebrations or simple endeavors. These customs enrich our lives and create lasting memories. They take an ordinary activity and turn it into something meaningful and special. Family traditions are especially important for children because they help to shape the child’s identity and belief system. When a tradition is connected to a family’s culture or history, the child grows up with a stronger image of who he or she is which leads to having higher confidence levels and feeling more secure.

Doing the same thing every night or every second Saturday of the month or every winter may at first glance seem monotonous or boring. However, if the action is intentional, meaningful, and dependable, the event can be comforting and reassuring. There are so many things in life you can’t count on; but something as simple as pizza every Friday night, or as special as a night out on your birthday or anniversary will give you something to look forward to.

Traditions are also important because they impart and perpetuate family values. When children are read a bedtime story each night, they learn that reading is delightful entertainment and education is important. When younger generations learn how to cook meals from their grandmother, they learn more than how not to burn the biscuits. They learn family customs and heritage, as well as how to connect the past to the present. Even chores can become a tradition. When families have “work day” on Saturday mornings, children learn to pick up after themselves and to be accountable. I remember sweeping the front porch with my grandmother every weekend. Now, when I sweep my porch, I remember our sweet time together. These seemingly small traditions strengthen family ties. Accidental events can also lead to beloved rituals. A young child may innocently change the words to a well-known song; adults may sing along until the “new words” become accepted as customary. Hardships can also lead to cherished memories and traditions. As a young wife and mother, there was not much money to spare in our household—especially during the Christmas holiday. There was however, a mountain full of pine trees on our property. Each Thanksgiving Day we trekked out to find a Christmas tree to cut down, bring inside, and decorate. What began as a way to save money became a fun outing each year. Our “Charlie Brown” trees were not impressive to others, but to our family, they were magnificent.

Christmas, Hanukkah, and the Winter Solstice are traditionally the perfect time to start and continue traditions. These cold-weather celebrations usually include some sort of fire (bonfires and candles), food (sugar cookies and turkey), songs (Jingle Bells and Greensleeves), and decorations (paper snowflakes and live poinsettias). Clothing is also used as a sign of celebration. My young children came up with their own scheme; each Christmas Eve they wore red and green pajamas. If one wore a red top and green bottoms, the other wore a green top with red bottoms. The sweet part of this tradition is that they came up with the idea on their own and kept it alive for many years.

Another meaningful tradition is to have a “releasing ceremony.” This is an intentional effort to release goals and dreams for the upcoming year, or to release regrets of the past year. It’s often accomplished by writing your intentions or regrets on a slip of paper or block of wood, and then burning it. The visual of watching the paper or wood burn as the smoke rises is a powerful image. It symbolically
releases the dream—or the burden—allowing you to begin the new year with clarity and resolve.

Traditions that have a purpose and are personal to your family make wonderful memories—whether they are simple or extravagant. This busy time of gathering and feasting is balanced with simple traditions of quietly watching sunsets and sipping hot chocolate. Whatever your traditions are and whatever new traditions you begin, I hope your holiday is merry!