It’s a new year, a fresh start! It’s the perfect time to reconnect and exercise those gratitude muscles. Now more than ever, time away from the everyday is critical to maintaining the entire family’s well-being as well as managing stress.
If that vacation time goes unused it can cost more than you know. It’s been proven, those that who don’t take time off find themselves emotionally burnt out, their quality of work takes a dive, and marriage and family life take a hit when depression and poor health sets in. If you need more convincing, skim “The secrets to a truly restorative vacation” from TED Talks. According to the article, studies found that both men and women who did not regularly take time off were at higher risk for heart attacks and coronary heart disease. Psychologist Jessica de Bloom cuts to the chase, “Breaks are like sleep: you need to take them regularly to benefit.”
Whether you can’t wait to get out or traveling is still too risky, we can all start setting some dates to unplug and reconnect. “Getting away” doesn’t mean you have to go anywhere either, one thing we’ve all learned from navigating 2020 is that creativity and adapting can go a long way. Regardless of leaving town or not, you can still reap the same benefits. DIY “staycations” are the sweet spot and there are so many fun ways to start planning.
Step One: Get Creative
Home has evolved into the workplace, classroom, movie theater, take-out restaurant, and more. To start, think of ways to separate your home life from all the rest. Disconnect from your emails, social media, and devices. Set the vibe with a vacation playlist and rework home décor to reflect where you are “going.” Get out fun table settings, organize a foreign menu, hang up new decorations, set out fresh flowers, or even string some simple lights. Small changes can go a long way in how we experience our living spaces.
Be sure to get everyone’s creative juices flowing, each family member should feel a sense of ownership putting together a staycation. Simply getting started with some crafts is a great way to pull your family in before you “get away.” Happy Strong Home (an excellent resource on parenting topics) offers a great list of ideas and walkthroughs to get creativity going, there’s even a dedicated category just for stay-at-home fun.
While you’re crafting, see how much you can do in a fort. This is almost every child’s dream staycation and they will be so excited to participate. See how big you can go so everyone in the family fits in. Ask your kids to be the lead architect. Grab all their favorite pillows, blankets, and anything else they can think of to change the ordinary living room into a secret cave filled with books, snacks, and crafts. Project your favorite movie onto a blanket inside for fort movie night! In case forts haven’t really been your thing, consider grabbing an AirFort, using fort frames, trying out bed tents, and setting up a mini phone projector to get started.
Step Two: Connect Indoors
Now that creativity is flowing and the family is excited for more, start planning your indoor adventures. Honor this time to reconnect with your family by setting specific dates and making creative preparations ahead of time. Pin these suggestions down on the calendar:
- Game Night: There’s nothing like a little competition and teamwork to get everyone together. Go virtual and include a larger family or friend group through video chat or sites that allow multiple players. Be warned, this one might become a regularly scheduled favorite!
- Home Theater: We’ve all had our fair share of screen time lately, but has it been intentional? Dedicate time to your family that pulls everyone in. Whether you pick something new or just an old favorite, be sure everyone is excited about it and can be a part of it.
- Virtual Group Trip: Family outings to the aquarium, zoo, landmarks, or museums may feel like a thing of the past for now but there are still ways to see your favorite places. Many attractions offer a slew of ways to view exhibits or interact online, you can even use the Google Arts & Culture app to plan a virtual visit to historical landmarks. Make a day of it by gathering information ahead of time, creating a list of virtual tour and live stream links, and “visiting” your favorites together.
Step Three: Connect Outdoors
If you’re in an area where restrictions have started to lift more, getting out might be more feasible. This could be, quite literally, the breath of fresh air your family needs. Getting creative applies to outdoor “staycations” too and there are many ways to stay safe and travel smart: Stick to your own car for a road trip, pack your own camping gear, or stay at a vacation rental property that offers ways to reduce contact. You can still sanitize as you go, wash up frequently, wear masks, research outdoor dining options, and use other tricks you’ve learned along the way to minimize risks. Even a short trip an hour or two from your home has benefits:
- Traveling has invaluable educational aspects, research where you are going, and become your family’s own tour guide. Seek out the best restaurants, stores, hidden gems, and sightseeing opportunities. Find out fun facts about the area and a new way of thinking to help freshen up everyone’s perspective.
- Change of scenery is everything when it comes to “resetting” and reconnecting. Research your area as if you’ve never been there before. Take outdoor hikes and find ways to make them a bit different. Scavenger hunts are a family favorite and you can use resources like Parade, Spaceships and Laser Beams, and The Pragmatic Parent to grab some templates.
- Supporting local businesses, and the families that depend on them is crucial right now. Vacation rental properties, local hotels, and tourist spots all strive to go the extra mile to keep everyone safe and keep your business. I personally prefer to stay in a home rental so we can “live like locals” and save money. It can be quieter and more secluded, you can bring and make your own food, and you can pick a house that fits your family size and needs.
- Road trips together offers time to reconnect while enjoying a change of pace and fresh scenery. Have everyone but together an audiobook or song playlist to rotate. Sing out-of-tune together, laugh when it gets ridiculous, and learn something new about each other.
- Camping can be done just about anywhere. If travel isn’t in the cards, take a few steps to the perfect camping spot in your own backyard, patio, or even deck. Early into the pandemic, my family was starving to get back in touch with the outdoors. We grabbed our things and went backyard camping. My wife and I honored this time together as a true staycation and set some fun rules: stay outside all night, eat over a campfire, and bring air mattresses and tents to sleep in.
- There are endless resources geared towards outdoor family adventures, connecting with like-minded parents, and getting creative. The Big Outside offers planning tools like trip logistics, inspirational topics, and even packing advice. Outdoor Families Magazine also has an excellent 101 Series to help you prepare. Kids Unplugged serves as a nature club geared towards taking a break from technology and everyday life. Family Days Out has a simple menu-based search to make plans tailored to your specific interests.
By prioritizing family adventures together I’ve learned a few things: These trips have given us precious time with only each other for entertainment, they’ve brought us closer together, and they’ve provided some of our richest and most treasured memories. I’ve come to realize it’s one of the best gifts I’ve given to my family. I know they’ve made such an impression in my children’s lives that they will surely be remembered and passed on.
Step Four: Save the Date and Capture the Moment
Can you believe that the US Travel Association estimated over 700 million days of employee vacation time in 2018 alone was never even used? Imagine what those numbers look like now, after everyone has had to balance stay-at-home orders. If you’ve been lucky enough to maintain your career, while juggling distance learning and all the other nuances of parenting today, most employers still have “use-it-or-lose-it” policies. Unplug, take those unused vacation days, and honor those family moments. You deserve it and your family does as well!
Being able to watch your kids in a new place, trying new foods or new activities, is so extraordinary. It’s a great reminder of how smart and curious they are, something you’ll never want to forget. Capture these memories in photographs and journal notes as they happen! One day you and your kids can look back on all those family adventures, carved out of unprecedented times, and remember how you used time wisely by valuing each other and reconnecting in amazing ways.
Legacy Journal is all about honoring time with family, reconnecting, and capturing those cherished moments. Start the habit of connection and save photos, journal entries, videos, and more all in our time-saving app.