A family vacation doesn’t have to include fancy flights to far off places or ritzy resorts to reap meaningful rewards. So clear the calendar, craft a budget and consider these five ideas that won’t break the bank.
1. Go for it
Plan to participate in a 10k, hike the canyon or camp in the backcountry. This is the year to research, plan and execute that big idea you’ve been talking about but never had time to organize. Declare it a family affair and make the training and preparations part of the fun.
2. Trade houses
Find a friend or family member in a nearby neighborhood who is willing to join in the fun. Think about it: new toys in the closet, bikes in the garage, play sets in the back yard and snacks in the cupboard. (Agree up front on what is included in the deal.) Trade information about local walking paths, parks, museums, restaurants and movie theaters. Then enjoy the new view.
3. Commit to a weekend ‘away’
Part of the holiday mindset includes saying no to checking work email, sending text messages or posting on Instagram. If not for a week, agree to make family the focus for one whole weekend.
Visit a new restaurant, go to a ballgame, take a long bike ride, float down the local river in an inner tube or break out some new board games at home. Check out the local farmers markets for fresh food or trek to the newest ice cream shop for a special sweet treat. If duty calls, let folks know your family is on vacation.
The north country is home to a variety of sights and just a day drive away. If there’s something you’ve been meaning to visit, now is the time to go. Some ideas to get you started: the Frederic Remington Art Museum in Ogdensburg, the Zoo New York in Watertown, the Adirondack Fish Hatchery in Saranac Lake or the Minna Anthony Common Nature Center near Alexandria Bay.
Grandparents can also provide parents a separate vacation by taking the grand kids to see the local sites for the day or weekend.
4. Focus on free
Museums, festivals, lectures, parks, concerts and libraries are all sources of family fun where the admission is often gratis. Check local websites and create your no-cost itinerary for the length of your “vacation.”
The Syracuse University Art Museum is one that offers free admission for visitors. The Everson Museum of Art, also in Syracuse, offers free admission for children 12 and younger and for military members with an ID. Other discounts are available. Check out everson.org/visit for details.
Create your own day-long bike tour or scavenger hunt with special stops that will appeal to each member of your family. There are also many places to take a city hikes in the north country, such as trails at Ives Park in Canton, the Whitewater Park in Watertown or the Sackets Harbor State Historic Site.
Organizations like Free Tours by Foot offer guided tours in cities across the country at no charge. You have the option to compensate your guide based on your satisfaction with the experience. Find out more: www.FreeToursbyFoot.com.
5. Book last-minute and local
Check travel web sites and tourism bureaus for last-minute deals in your home town or in a nearby city. Without air and significant gas charges, taking advantage of these down-to-the-wire deals can be worth the minimum expense. You’ll enjoy the travel treat knowing you’ve kept expenses in check.
Lynn O’Rourke Hayes (LOHayes.com) is an author, family travel expert and enthusiastic explorer. Gather more travel intel on Twitter lohayes, Facebook, or via FamilyTravel.com.