Is it bad to say I hate school breaks? I guess that’s not entirely true, I like breaks. I like having the kids home. I like camping in the spring and swimming in the summer. And lucky me married a teacher, so I get to see him every day during those breaks. Those things, I love. What I hate, is my social media feeds plastered with everyone’s vacations for the entire break. Vacations to Hawaii, traveling the country with happy kids (and dog) in tow. A family reunion at a pricey resort, with a quick stop at Disneyland on the way home. A beach trip, a beach trip, and another beach trip. Can you guess where my family’s going this break? Yup. Nowhere.
If you can relate then you have the same question each break that I do. How can my family enjoy this break when we can’t vacation like we want to? Or maybe vacation at all? The answer is, you have to step back and look at what you’re really feeling. Once you understand that, you can tackle the envy head on and get back to enjoying your family time again.
What are you REALLY envious of?
When I see posts of my friends and family on vacations, I don’t typically want to be on that specific vacation. So why am I so jealous that they’re there and I’m not? My reason is because I’m my best self when I’m not hindered by work and other stresses. When does that usually happen? You guessed it, when I’m on vacation. THAT is what I’m jealous of. I want to be carefree, spending fun, memory-making time with my family. But guess what else? Vacation isn’t the only place we can do that.
The Common Ingredient is You.
Believe it or not, kids don’t need expensive vacations to be happy and neither do you. Yes, they’ll talk about the big trips the most, but they aren’t necessarily the ones they remember the most fondly. A child’s happy formula is a lot like ours, if they can laugh with you, have your undivided attention and do something fun and out of the ordinary, that’s all they need.
Here’s some no-cost / low-cost adventures my family went on that gave my kids something to say when the teacher asked, “What did you do over the break?”
Low-Cost High-Adventure Family Time
One of my families favorite no cost adventures is building a movie fort in our family room. We pin and staple sheets and blankets to the ceiling until the entire room is encased. Then we pop some popcorn, bake some cookies and watch a movie or two (or three or four). Some times we even sleep in the fort. The kids love it. It’s also a great activity to invite friends to join in on. Their friends always leave saying, “We never do that at my house.” Which will be a major confidence boost for your child.
This one is great for shorter breaks, like spring or winter break. It’s as simple as having one or two easy activities planned for each day. When your kids wake up (and finish their chores) you hand them their secret mission for the day. Some ideas we’ve done in the past are:
- Boxes, Crayons and Sidewalk Chalk: I load these three into their secret mission box, and their “mission” is to create a town for their scooters and bikes using those items. It keeps them busy ALL day. Then my husband and I go for a tour of their town on one of their scooters when they’re done.
- Making Cookies Blind-folded: This mission works best with older children, that can read. One parent or child is blind-folded, while their partner guides them through making the cookies. Cracking eggs and mixing in flour can get really adventurous! I may have purposely missed the bowl and poured the sugar on the counter before, just to make them laugh.
- A Grocery Shopping Race: Let’s face it, sometimes you still have to get stuff done over the breaks, but why not turn it in to a fun activity for the family? For this one, the family is divided in to two or more teams. Each team has a portion of the grocery list. There’s a designated meeting spot once the team has gathered all the items off their list. Fastest team wins! The winning team gets to choose the family treat – like which flavor of ice cream – but everyone gets to eat it.
- Fake Money and Garage Sale Stickers: Following the grocery store theme, this secret mission was a favorite for my kids when they were little. You give them free reign of the pantry and a room in the house that can be transformed in to a grocery store. They are allowed to stick the garage sale stickers (or any other stickers with prices on them) on the food you already have in your pantry and then go shopping for it to buy with their fake money (Monopoly money is perfect for this). Laundry baskets are great shopping carts, and a stud-finder from the hardware store works great for their food “scanner” since it makes an awesome beeping sound.
- Secret Service: One of the fastest ways for you or your kids to stop being jealous of other’s vacations is to get out and do something nice for someone else. The secret missions in this department are endless! Why not take some of those cookies you made blindfolded to a neighbor (as long as they’re edible)?
Camping is cheap, kids love it, and most parents can handle it for one night! There’s other alternatives too, like setting up the tent in your backyard, sleeping on the trampoline or having a campout in Mom and Dad’s room (you get your comfy bed and the kids will think your floor is an adventure).
Not up for a whole night outdoors? Find a park that will allow you to build a fire and make S’mores or roast hot dogs for dinner. Bonus points from the kids if it’s near water they can throw rocks in!
As weird as it might seem, the final piece of advice is to rehearse with your kids what to say when someone asks them what they did over the break. I know that might sound odd but think about it from their perspective. The main reason that a kid wants to go on a vacation (aside from being with you), is because they want something to tell their friends about. Help them know what to say that they’ll feel proud of. Things like, “I went on a Mission Impossible week.” Or “My Mom made cookies with a blindfold on.” Each one of these scenarios will…
- Get their friends asking questions
- Will help them get the positive attention they’re craving
- Will get you a break full of memories you can afford and… maybe a thing or two you can post on Instagram.
What it all boils down to is that a vacation is not as much about where you go as it is about spending time with your family and getting away from the ordinary. I think it’s about time we take a break from the mindset that going on a vacation means you have to leave home. Get creative, laugh with your kids and I promise this break you’ll have the best family “vacation” you’ve had in a really long time.
Jenner Porter lives in Austin, TX with her husband, four kids and kitchen aid mixer. They spend long, happy hours baking together. Sometimes she hangs out with her husband and kids too. Jenner writes picture books, middle grade novels, magazine articles and short stories. Humor is an important element in her writing and can be seen throughout her works. Her works have appeared in Jack and Jill, Friend, Ensign and Highlights magazines. She also has a picture book featured on storybird.com. Follow Jenner on Twitter here: @slushpilestory
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