You Could Use A Vacation

Chances are, anyone who reads this post could use a vacation. Whether you’re dealing with cold temperatures where you live, struggling to balance work assignments, going through a difficult parenting phase, or being stressed out by something else, some time away from your regular routine would probably benefit you greatly. However, getting away isn’t always easy. In fact, you may even assume you’ll need to have a lot of time and money set aside to even consider taking a vacation. Well, I’m posting this today to encourage you to dispel that way of thinking and instead join me in celebrating National Plan for Vacation Day.

National Plan for Vacation Day is a unique holiday promoted by the U.S. Travel Association to encourage Americans to make plans for vacation time and not lose the precious days off their employers have given them. Reportedly, hundreds of millions of vacation days go unused every year. Why? It is likely due, in part, to the belief that a real vacation isn’t possible or affordable. But, it is also possibly due to a lack of planning on the part of those who have been given the days off.

This is why a day like today–which takes place in the middle of winter and also less than a month after the beginning of the New Year–is so important; it could actually motivate us to pause from our regular schedules and resolve to plan for a time of refreshment and recreation later in the year. By the way, if you’re a work-from-home or stay-at-home parent, please refrain from thinking this doesn’t apply to you–because it does. You can inspire your spouse, relatives, or friends to schedule their days off and include you in their plans! I already know you could use a vacation; keep reading to find out some ways to make the dream of taking one a reality in 2019.

Plan a Staycation or Nearcation

Staycations and nearcations can make it possible for parents who have time off from work, but not a lot of money for traditional vacations, to still create special memories for their families and themselves. With staycations, parents and children engage in fun activities and excursions throughout the day, but stay in their own homes at night. Nearcations are similar in that families still enjoy participating in a variety of outings during the day, but they stay at a local or nearby hotel at night rather than return home at the end of a busy day.

If a staycation sounds like a good option for your family, begin by making a list of places all of you would like to visit or explore on your days off. Do a bit of research to identify which cultural institutions near you offer free- or discounted-admission times, as well as determine if they will be hosting any special events in the near future. You should check with full-scale art, history and science museums, as well as the colorful, interactive and educational children’s museums located in various cities around the United States. In addition, local library systems often provide members with discounted tickets to a select number of local museums, zoos, and other fun places. So, remember to inquire about discounts available at these types of places, as well, when you’re planning your next trip.

The Kohl Children’s Museum in Glenview, IL, has indoor exhibit areas, as well as this
interactive, landscaped outdoor space.

If you want to stay at a hotel during your days off, a nearcation could be the way to go. And, opting for a hotel brand that offers such perks as free breakfast for children or free parking will help you save money. You may also be able to save a few bucks if you book a hotel room with a mini-refrigerator and microwave, both of which could come in handy if you have leftovers after eating at a restaurant near or inside the hotel or if you need to keep snacks and beverages that you brought with you chilled.

Take a Road Trip

If you have the time and money to venture outside of the city where you reside, consider taking a road trip. One place you can consider visiting is your state’s capitol. For example, Illinois residents traveling to the city of Springfield will find quite a few points of interest within walking distance (or a short car ride) from one another, including President Lincoln’s house, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, and government buildings that one typically only sees on news broadcasts.

Springfield, Illinois–like other state capitols–offers visitors opportunities for cultural enrichment and education.

Another road trip option involves heading leaving your home state and heading toward a city that you can reach in less than a day. Although our family once drove more than 1,800 miles over the course of three days to one of our favorite states (California), you don’t have to travel that far to have a good time with your family. There are likely plenty of interesting destinations within a three- to eight-hour drive of where you live.

This is true for my family whenever we visit the state of Michigan. We’re most familiar with Grand Rapids, Michigan, which Expedia says is “one of America’s Super Cool Cities.” (Click here to read the piece I wrote about Grand Rapids.) However, we’ve also driven further north in the state and visited the charming town of Petoskey, Michigan. While there, we stayed at the historic Stafford’s Perry Hotel which overlooks Traverse Bay and is walking distance from quite a few restaurants, stores and shops including the first Kilwin’s Chocolate shop. The city is also home to a mini-golf establishment, an arts center, and other places that could make a getaway to Petoskey fun.

Historic Stafford’s Perry Hotel in Petoskey, Michigan.
Located in downtown Petoskey, Michigan, the first Kilwin’s Chocolate shop is a favorite spot of locals and tourists alike.

Head Overseas to Explore Another Country

If money and time isn’t an issue, you could spread your vacation wings a little more and take an overseas trip on your days off. This type of vacation will make it possible for you to learn about the history, people, food and, ultimately, the culture of a country that is different from your own.

Before even applying for, or renewing, passports, you should set aside time to jot down a few cities or countries you’d like the family to visit. Then begin writing down some sites you’d like to see in those places and work to identify where you will stay if you end up traveling there. Please consider the age, personality, health, and interests of each person who will be taking the trip as you are making plans. Does your family find archaeological sites and historical museums fascinating? Are you intrigued by the Mediterranean diet? If you answered “yes” to either (or both) of these questions, you should make sure Greece and Italy is on your list.

Athen’s Parthenon is a must-see for families.
What foods would you like to try on your next trip? In Greece, we discovered that chicken kebabs and fried potatoes were quite popular. We also discovered that they are very delicious!
Kourabie Bites, a popular treat in Greece, became a favorite treat of mine thanks to our trip.
Hotels located near waterways can provide amazing views for families as this one did when we were on the island of Patmos (where the Bible’s book of Revelation was penned) in Greece.
Rome’s huge Colosseum is a favorite spot for visitors (as well as people who are trying to sell cold bottles of water and various goods).
If you like fresh pasta, you will love how it tastes in Italy.
Those who love to shop will enjoy spending time in shopping districts like this one in Rome near the Spanish steps.

However, if anyone in your travel group has mobility issues, you may want to pick different destinations. Every outing or excursion we embarked upon in Greece and Rome was characterized by lots of walking and, sometimes, climbing. On the other hand, when my husband and I went to the Netherlands years ago, we visited cultural institutions in Amsterdam and in The Hague, and found these popular cities to be very walk-able. Either way, a travel agent who specializes in international travel would be an invaluable resource for you. So, please don’t hesitate to contact one as you’re planning your trip.

Regardless of which type of trip you decide to take, it’s imperative that you take advantage of resources available through the visitor or tourism bureau of your chosen destination before you leave home. Hopefully, your research will enable you to identify popular, welcoming spots for tourists, as well as fun and safe hangouts preferred by locals. I believe that the right balance of these elements will result in a trip that offers the best of both worlds and increase the likelihood that everyone in your family will have a good time and enjoy the vacation you planned.

Cultural Experiences: I’ve been to each of the countries represented in the below links (the Netherlands, Italy and Greece) and can honestly say that visiting each of them and learning about their respective cultures were life changing. Check out the below links if you and your family are planning on visiting these places and would like to save a bit of money as you’re exploring them. (If you click on any of the below affiliate links and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission.)

THE NETHERLANDS: Skip-the-line Rijksmuseum & Van Gogh Museum Guided Tour

ITALY: Exclusive Access Tickets: Vatican Museum and Colosseum with Gladiator’s Entrance

GREECE: Athens Half-Day Sightseeing Tour

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