My husband’s job as a chef has never allowed us to have a ‘normal’ schedule. Those week-long vacations to far away places that other families seem to enjoy have always been outside our realm of possibility. For us, vacations consist of leaving after I get out of the office at 2p, and then coming back when he has to go to work the next day at 2p. We dubbed these trips the “Mini Vacation” some odd years ago, and have become pretty masterful at making those 24 hours seem like a grand trip for our family!
The basic idea is that you don’t need to spend hundreds, hop on an airplane, or drive 3 hours, to have a great trip. The point of taking vacation, after all, is to simply “vacate” from your normal routine – it’s ok to go only half an hour from your house!
Here’s how we plan our trips: We personally like to discover new local restaurants, so we build our “vacation” around a dinner place we’ve wanted to try. Then we find a hotel or resort online – with a pool for our son that’s also on the inexpensive side. I’ll look around the area to see if there’s a family-friendly activity, like a children’s museum that we wouldn’t normally go to, and there it is, our full itinerary:
- Drive and arrive for Check-in
- Go to dinner
- Swim in the pool
- Sleep at the hotel (usually let our son watch cartoons in bed – VERY out of the ordinary for him!)
- In the morning maybe swim again, go on a little adventure in the area, or find a local diner for breakfast.
- Check out, and drive home.
Mini Vacation Packing
When you’re going away for a couple of days, you might end up packing your child(ren) two outfits for each day (just in case of spills), activities for each day, two swimsuits (what if one’s wet?!), and then the grownup suitcase, snacks – the list goes on!
Let me introduce you to mini-vacay serenity. Make it easy on yourself – you’re going less than an hour away, and you’re taking the car, so a laundry basket will suffice. Throw in one day’s worth of clothes and toiletries, and there it is – an easy carry in/carry out, and, bonus, the dirty laundry will be seamlessly transferred when you get home. Plus, if you need to add something last minute, just toss it in, rather than trying to find the space to shove it in a suitcase.
Where to Go
As for the where, we are SO lucky to live in New England, where everything is close! An hour away could mean a whole other state. You might start by typing into Hotels.com: ‘Hotel under $X amount of dollars, with a pool’, maybe check the ‘breakfast included’ box, and see what pops up – It could be that the next town over from you has an escape you didn’t even consider! Or you could focus on a certain destination – Here are some ideas for places close by:
- Mid-Cape (Hyannis and Yarmouth are personal, and frequent, favorites of ours)
- Mystic Seaport
- Salem, MA
- The Narragansett area
- Springfield, MA (Check out their Museum Campus!)
- Sturbridge Village
- New Haven, CT
- Providence and Boston (Their children’s museums and food are worth the trip alone!)
Into the Car
When it’s time for the trip, the thing to remember about mini vacations is that they start the second you’re in the car! The journey is part of the fun – try putting the iPads down and turning off the car TV. Talk! This is great from ages 2 to 12 (questions like: what’s your favorite candy bar, if you could be an animal which one, etc. Kids give the best answers!) Play games from when you were a kid – spot the license plate or I spy. Borrow books on CD from the library. Have a small new toy, book, or sticker book waiting in their seat when you pile into the car. Make a stop for that special treat they’re always asking for, but that you generally don’t give in to (in our case it’s munchkins for him and a latte for me). Remember this is a vacation from “normal”, so the little things become big deals! Also remember this is YOUR vacation too – it’s ok to just have fun, be silly, and take a break from your own routine.
When we started doing these trips, it was out of necessity – we couldn’t take the time off or spend the hefty price tag for a big vacation. We’ve continued the mini vacation due to the ease, calming effect, and genuine fun we get out of sneaking away for 24 hours as a family.
If you try your own mini vacation, let me know where you went – we’re always looking for another grand adventure!