A few years ago our finances were particularly tight and our annual cottage trip wasn't an option. Instead of dwelling on what our summer would be lacking we threw our efforts into organizing a fabulous and affordable family staycation. I've since used this tips to make every summer better.
Through planning, flexibility, and old-fashioned exploration we broke out of our familiar routine of neighbourhood parks and visiting our usual attractions to get to love our city, previously Toronto, a little bit better by make amazing memories. Here are the six secrets I discovered to creating an amazing family staycation:
Plan A Park Tour
We visited over 10 new parks outside of our neighbourhood. Google search your city for the best parks for kids or ones with splash pads. If nothing is turning up, use google maps to locate a park in another community within your city. We found one's now fondly nicknamed for their different structures (e.g., Spider Park for the park with the web climbing structure, Mud Park for the mud pit etc).
Fill Your Tummy
I love a good farmers market visit. Talking to farmers, trying new vendors, and choosing our weekly fresh food makes me feel pretty awesome in the healthy mom department. My family chooses to pack a picnic dinner and head to the markets in the early evenings. We pick up something delish to add to our meal and after shopping, we eat and play in the park until dusk. If your city is like mine, the farmers markets are often held in parks. By stepping out of our norm and trying new markets, we discovered a park that is now a family favourite. I'm thinking of you, Dufferin Grove!
Be A Festival Junkie
Summer is festival time. It seems that every week there are festivals and so many of them are free to attend. Grab a local paper or ask your Facebook friends for recommendations. Going to festivals is another fun way to explore new neighbourhoods which may also lead to finding new parks (yay!). Last summer, we attended a Summer Solstice festival and ended the day eating homemade popsicles at a nighttime vintage flea market where our boys found superhero figurines. Everyone went home sticky, tired, and happy.
Act Like A Tourist
Are you guilty of letting your city's main highlights become scenery to you? I knew I was overlooking plenty of Toronto's well-known sites. A family staycation is the perfect time to appreciate what your city has to offer. Head to famous landmarks to experience them through your children's eyes. The teacher side of me likes to do a quick bit of pre-activity google research to give me just enough information to share tidbits with my kids.
Prepare For Fun
It sounds contradictory but plan to be flexible. (Almost) every evening I prepared to-go healthy snacks and filled water bottles. At the front door, I stuffed a reusable bag with picnic blankets, sunscreen, changes of clothes, and sometimes a few toys. Sandy outdoor toys were housed in a separate bag in the car or stroller ready to bring along. There's nothing more tantrum inducing than telling the littles you are going somewhere and them having to wait while you pack snacks or find the picnic blanket. Get out of your house quickly for maximum happiness and sanity for all! Most days I knew where we were going but being prepared allowed us to linger long and stop at a park we unexpectedly found while doing errands.
Create An Itinerary
Waking up each morning without plans can be fun for a few days but soon you'll find yourself wondering where summer has gone. I printed blank calendar's for July and August and wrote in two items each day. One activity each for the morning and afternoon provided just enough routine for us all to eat better and function better. If you have older children consider giving them a day each week to plan an outing within whichever guidelines you set.