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Staycation Ideas for Families

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For several years, we didn’t take big trips as a family.  I had returned to graduate school and I didn’t have much time off.  We were able to slip in a few trips on weekends or school holidays, but personal circumstances forced some tough decisions.  With precious little time, where did we go?  Much of the family’s budget was allocated to tuition, books, conferences, and research travel.  Where could we go that would be cost effective?  Where do you go when you only have a few days (or even one day)?

During those years, we focused on discovering our own area.  We learned how to find places in Texas that were either (a) completely touristy things to do, or (b) out of the way, unique locations that most locals don’t know about.  Utilizing these two methods, we kept ourselves entertained for several years!  Now, with so many families experiencing limited time and budgets, trips like these have a more “official” name—the Staycation.

If we were limited to a short overnight trip (1-2 nights), we started our trip planning with How far are we willing to drive?  Usually, we limited those trips to a few hours.  Four or five hours is enough when you are only staying one or two nights.  We didn’t want to wear ourselves out with the drive.  There were times that we couldn’t spend a night, but we needed to get away from reality.  These trips took more thought (but not necessarily more planning).

How do you find things to do?  Where do you go?  The internet is your friend, baby!  Search the internet for your destination, but don’t forget to search the travel route as well.  Most of our trips began with a search of “what to do in…” but also included “unusual things in…” or “history of…” searches.  We have found some amazing historical sites and interesting tidbits that are mostly forgotten or overlooked.

Two very helpful sources I’ve found are a book, Weird Texas, and a web resource, The Handbook of Texas Online, published by the Texas State Historical Association.  The authors of Weird Texas have also written a book about the United States, as well as books about several other individual states.  Look for websites in your state or area to find places of interest for your staycation.

You can also incorporate other hobbies into your travel that lead you to unique destinations.  Geocaching and letterboxing are two similar hobbies, but have different rules and requirements.  Two main sites are Atlas Quest and Letterboxing USA. If you decide to experiment with either hobby, please responsibly adhere to their standards.  We have found places we never imagined in our own backyard, such as Civil War cemeteries and Indian burial grounds!  Both hobbies focus on getting outdoors and are perfect for spending time with your family without spending a fortune.

A little planning can mean a vacation (or staycation) is right around the corner—literally!  Be creative and willing to travel the unexplored road.  You have a series of mini-vacations right in your own backyard!

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Heather and her family were born and raised in east Texas, where she is an assistant principal. Her husband teaches high school chemistry and her daughters are…

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