The school year is ending soon and it’s time to enjoy the good weather and time together. Unfortunately, many young families are forced to split vacation time to cover care for their children over the summer. Mother uses her three weeks’ vacation in July, while Father cashes his in during the month of August – all to avoid the exorbitant cost of daycares and summer camps for the two months school is out.
Even if you could align your holidays, the cost of flying a family-of-four anywhere is unattainable for many Canadians. Unfortunately, the last-minute all-inclusive you could easily book as a single individual or as a couple is a thing of a past. The more modest trip is now four times more expensive. Trekking your whole family to a third-world resort is no longer worth the risk of traveller’s bowel, nor the chunk of your annual income.
So what are the alternatives for families who cannot afford a vacation?
Just because you cannot afford an exotic trip does not mean that you do not deserve a break. Instead, make the most of what is available to you.
1. Enjoy a staycation
Becoming a tourist in your own city is fun, affordable and teaches your children how to appreciate what is in their own backyard, so to speak. It’s the perfect opportunity to take pride in your town and discover what it has to offer.
Introduce your children to go-karts, mini-putt, pools, water slides, or horse-riding. Become regular visitors of the local farms, zoos, and museums. Sure, it will cost a bit of money to indulge in these activities, but much less than would have been spent if you had travelled faraway to do the same sort of thing.
Would you prefer free activities? Dust off your old bike and get moving! Cycle through your city as a family and enjoy picnics in the park – maybe even feed the ducks.
2. Keep track of discounts
You can save a bundle on your outings by surveying promotions and discounts in the local newspapers or at specific establishments. For example, kids-eat-free-on-Wednesday deals, dinner and movie combinations, or half-off Tuesdays add up over the course of a summer.
3. Join the community
Are you looking for more structured time? Join your local YMCA where the whole family can enjoy planned activities together at a reasonable rate. Or register for a local class at the community college to indulge a hobby that you may not have time for during the regular school-year routine.
4. Enjoy the outdoors
If you are still hoping to get away on the cheap, consider the great outdoors! Camping is very affordable and will help breed precious family memories surrounding swimming in the lake, playing sports, enjoying the evening campfire, eating s’mores and perhaps a bit of star-gazing.
5. House swap
This year my family and I are conducting a house swap to ensure an affordable vacation. If you are new to the idea, as we were, start with someone you know – perhaps an old friend or a distant relative. Exchanging homes allows each of you to experience a new city or country with free accommodations and the ability to focus your budget on local tourism.
No matter what you choose to do this summer, your family will have a great time. What makes a vacation fun is the time to relax, extraordinary activities and condensed quality time as a family.