Actually relaxing

Screw Vacation, Give Me A Staycation

I don’t want to be a travel agent, trip planner, and cruise director. I want to sit on the couch.

staycation mother and daughter having beauty treatment at home
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I don’t know about you, but the thought of taking my kids on vacation exhausts me to my core. Long gone are the days when I could schedule a mani/pedi, hair appointment, get a spray tan, and take time overpacking for a week away. Once you’re a mom, you become the travel agent, trip planner, and cruise director — plus the one who makes sure your youngest doesn’t forget to pack their security blanket so everyone can get some sleep.

Sure, I’m up for a vacation every one in a while — I just need to mentally prepare and space them out in order to make a full recovery in between — but I prefer a staycation any day. Here’s why:

1. It’s so good for everyone to slow down for a week.

Leaving home for a week and going on different adventures is fun, but it’s also exhausting and you always need a vacation after your vacation.

Regular life is jam-packed with schedules and to-do lists, and it’s so refreshing to have a week where you can do as much or as little as you want. Sleeping in and rolling out to your favorite diner for breakfast then relaxing with a good book on your sofa is incredibly rejuvenating. If you ask me, that never gets old.

My teens make it very clear how much they like the unstructured time at home, as well. It’s rare and very appreciated when it happens.

2. I feel more bonded to my kids.

We get along better when they can retreat to their own space and I can retreat to mine. I also love not having the pressure of trying to pack it all in when we go somewhere. The truth is, when you pay good money to go on a trip, you want to get your money’s worth and take it all in.

We’ve had trips when I’ve forced us all to go do something because I felt like I should, when none of us wanted to and we all ended up bickering the entire time. #Familyfunatitsfinest.

When we are home and do some things together — and some things apart — we like each other a lot more.

3. Traveling is exhausting and stressful.

I can do without trying to fit all of our luggage in the trunk, making sure all my kids have everything they need, the long car rides, and hours on a plane. I’ll take the comfort of my own home where I know where everything is, and I can sleep in my own bed.

4. Staying home is way more relaxing.

Maybe some people think staycations are boring. To me, they are the most relaxing way to spend some time off. I always feel refreshed and recharged. It’s much better than the dreadful feeling of coming home to loads of dirty laundry, luggages to unpack, and a house in complete chaos, knowing you have to get right back to school and work.

5. Kids end up fizzling out pretty fast.

A few years ago, I took my kids to an indoor water park for a long weekend during winter break. I’m not kidding when I tell you they had fun for one night. The next morning, just before lunch, they were done with the water park. They were exhausted and cranky. We went out to explore the town and it ended up in disaster.

My youngest said he didn't feel like walking and refused to get out of the car. I'd already promised my daughter we'd hit some of the shops and she was excited. He was too young to be left in the car and I tried bribing him for a half hour. Then, my daughter started crying. By the time we were on our way back to the hotel room, we were all crying.

I'd lost my temper and gone to the local ice cream shop and gotten myself an ice cream and didn't get my kids one. I ended up driving back to get them a cone to make peace, but I was so angry at them for not having the great time I was forcing on them, I couldn't see straight.

That night we stayed in our hotel room, ordered room service, and watched a movie. I gave up on trying to get them to do anything else. We could have stayed home to do the same thing and I would have ended up with a lot more money in my checking account.

But even if you aren’t going anywhere or doing much, you can still get a lot out of your staycation. Here are things I’ve done with my kids for years that are always fun and allow us to bond:

Stay overnight in a hotel nearby. It’s always fun to get out of the house, but knowing you are going to return soon makes it better. Not to mention, leaving for one night is grounds for letting your kids do all their own packing.

Take a day and explore a new town. We always do this. Even if we only stay a few hours to get lunch and check out a few shops, it’s a nice day.

Plan a few meals out to our favorite places. I let each of my kids pick the place they want to go to and we spread it out during the week.

Find a good show to binge-watch together. We usually do this after dinner or on a rainy day. I especially love this because I know it’s a scheduled time when my kids will be with me.

Get involved in their hobbies. For example, my daughter loves animals so we’ll go to the animal shelter, visit a farm, and take a trip to the local farming store since there will be baby ducklings and chickens to watch. My son is an avid gardener so we’ll go to the local nursery, and gather any supplies he needs for his gardens.

So many of my family’s favorite memories are from being home together without a huge plan or expectations, doing things like ordering pizza and watching movies late into the night, taking a random walk in the rain, and rearranging the living room furniture together. I’ll take a staycation over a hectic, planned-out week of travel, any day.

Katie Bingham-Smith is a full-time freelance writer living in Maine with her three teens and two ducks. When she’s not writing she’s probably spending too much money online and drinking Coke Zero.