It happened by accident, really. I’m like a pig to truffles when it comes to sniffing out travel bargains, so when I caught wind of a too-good-to-pass up deal at a local hotel (two nights for under $100!) we just had to do it. My husband, two daughters and I were overdue for a quick family getaway, and this being a mere half-hour’s journey from home seemed ideal.
The problem was, all the weekend dates were fully booked up. In fact the only dates that were still available were an awkward Sunday/Monday combo. Without really thinking things through, I made a reservation and started packing.
So enthralled with the prospect of a spontaneous family jaunt, I failed to fully realize that the girls were due at school on the Monday and Tuesday of the trip. Granted, we could have just skipped out on the two days without hindering their academic futures, but the more I thought about it, I realized that I had unwittingly hit on a brilliant concept – a “school-day staycation”.
With the rising cost of fuel, the pervasive time-crunch and consumer belt-tightening across the board, sticking close to home on a “staycation” is the latest trend in travel. Why go far a field, proponents say, when there’s no doubt plenty to see and do nearby? Many families are avoiding the lodging expenses and literally staying at home while exploring their towns and local areas on day trips. Other’s are opting to forgo the flights and/or long drives by simply checking the family into a nearby inn, thereby still experiencing the thrill of a sleep-away adventure while forgoing the extensive (and expensive) journey.
Now, we happen to live in Barbados so a thirty-minute radius from our home offers us a spectacular array of staycation options that might not compare to other regions. The problem is that most of the hotels around here are so prohibitively pricey that we’ve never justified a splurge on a night or two in a resort – which is why we were so compelled to jump on this special bargain. This was far from a five star luxury palace, mind you, but it was beach front and did have a pool and restaurant, so all the ingredients for fun family frolic were there. I’m sure most locales have a kid-friendly hotel, motel or B&B that would similarly do the trick – it certainly doesn’t have to be fancy.
Check in was at two o’clock on Sunday, so we had plenty of hours to settle in, explore the area and soak in the family togetherness, capped off with a marathon swim until sundown. There was just enough energy left to handle dinner at the hotel restaurant followed by the usual ritual of bath and bed. Then there was an hour of giggles as the girls struggled to unwind, the two of them feeling rather special and sneaky to be sleeping in a strange hotel bed on a school night.
Early to rise the next morning, we got the girls got dressed, grabbed a quick breakfast, loaded up their backpacks and drove them to school twenty minute down the road. And that’s where the vacation really kicked in for my husband and I! We had a few precious hours of kid-free leisure time with no work, household or telephone distractions to snap us out of vacation mode. It was like having a sitter or kids club at our disposal without the expense or truancy from school. When we picked up the kids at day’s end, they were thrilled to continue their clandestine hotel adventure rather than head home. There were still plenty of daylight hours left to swim, play and enjoy quality family time at this exciting home away from home. Just being somewhere new and different was cool enough for them. The next morning, it was the same deal – the grownups had some well-deserved R&R while the kids were business as usual at school, with the rest of the day set aside for togetherness. It’s amazing how much soul satisfaction and rejuvenation can be packed into such a short escape.
So if you and your family are feeling the need for a little break from routine, don’t overlook a mid-week getaway to a nearby hotel where you can take advantage of the school day child care. I’m sure the kids would rather skip school altogether, but they’ll still think it’s a treat to bounce on the big beds, splash in the pool, order room service and cut loose from the norm – you don’t necessarily need a resort with all the bells and whistles to spend quality time together. The price and availability may be to your advantage, and if you happen to forget something (like we forgot blankie), you’re only a short drive from home.