By Maggie Vink
With skyrocketing gas prices, and the subsequently rising costs of food and what seems like everything else, most people just don't have quite as much room in their budget for vacations as they used to.
It's no surprise that staycation seems to be a major buzzword this year. This summer, my son and I are sticking quite close to home. If you ask my son, his favorite "vacations" of this summer may be the camping trips we've had in our own backyard.
I know it sounds silly, but there's something about setting up the tent and bringing out all the gear that's just thrilling for a kid. Even if the scenery is the same thing you see every day, somehow it looks new through the mesh window of a tent.
With a little creativity, you can make this no-cost activity actually feel like a vacation. Just think of the things you would do if you were camping away from home, then recreate the experience as much as possible. I'll share some ideas after the break.
- Set up your campsite. Involve all members of the family in the process. Blow up the air mattress, roll out the sleeping bags, and set the whole site up just as you would at a campground.
- Unplug. Of course you're still going to use your bathroom, but let go of other things, if possible. Turn off the computer, pack a cooler with supplies, and ignore the ringing of the phone. As much as possible, treat the night or weekend as if you're away from home.
- Light your fire. If it's allowed where you live, start a campfire in a traditional or portable fire pit. If you can't have the real thing, you can still create the ambiance with a fake campfire.
- Take day trips. Don't go back to "normal" life during the daylight. Instead, visit areas of your town and engage in activities that a campground might offer. Some ideas: Try a game of tetherball at the local playground, go fishing in a stream, hike along a wooded trail, or go swimming in a lake.
- Outdoor dining. Be creative and come up with meals that you can enjoy outdoors. Even if you can't have a real campfire, you can still enjoy some traditional camping favorites; use your outdoor grill to cook hot dogs and burgers, and make s'mores in the microwave.
Maybe your neighbors will wonder what you're doing. So what? Your kids will appreciate the creative effort you put into the weekend. Best of all, you'll have created a fun family vacation -- and memories that last a lifetime -- with little or no cost.