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How to have a staycation and not break the bank

Many schools have now broken up for the long summer break and lots of families are already packing the cars and heading off for the holidays.

The amazing thing about New Zealand however is that you don’t actually have to go anywhere to have a ‘holiday’. We are incredibly blessed with this beautiful country, surrounded by lakes and beaches, mountains, volcano’s and incredible bush walks and waterfalls. But, let’s face it…most of us have probably spent more time exploring places far away from home than we have the sites on our own doorstep.

So, this holiday…rather than thinking about where you are going to escape to…why not plan a staycation (i.e. a holiday at home) for the family and treat your local area like you were visiting it as a tourist for the first time.

There are some great benefits for having a staycation rather than going away:

  • Save money – no airfare, hotel or rental car cost
  • No wasted travel days and don’t fight the traffic
  • If the weather is lousy – no problem – just adjust your plans for the day
  • Your holiday can’t be disrupted by travel issues

The trick to a really good staycation is to make sure you deviate from daily routines to truly make it a holiday.  Eg If you enjoy eating out on your holiday, do the same on your staycation.  Don’t let yourself get caught up in the drudge of household chores.  Instead, truly make the effort to do things you wouldn’t normally do in your day-to-day life. Relax, have fun and explore and you’ll find a staycation just as relaxing (and a lot less costly) than going on a holiday somewhere else.

Here’s some tips and ideas to get you started:

  1. Be a tourist in your own town. Think about or look up what attractions are recommended to visitors. Make a list and do them. Eg it could be the local museum, zoo or sheep-farm, a stunning waterfall, a nearby winery, a fun water-park, theme park, a well-known bush walk or mountain or even a marine reserve.
  1. Plan a day’s fishing trip. Buy some cheap fishing rods and get yourself to the local beach or lake and spend the day there fishing, scouring for shellfish, burying your toes in the sand for tua tuas or pipis or even just finding shells for the younger kids. If you have an inflatable (lilo or large blow-up tyre or other inflatable), then the kids can sit in that happily with their fishing rods). Take a picnic and togs to break up the day and to cool off every so often.
  1. Have a watersports day – as a family get down to the water and learn a new skill. It could be how to paddle-board or how to surf/ fly-fish/windsurf or waterski
  1. Make ‘dinner’ or lunch an entertainment in itself each day of the ‘holiday staycation’ eg pizza and wine on the beach one night, fish n chips in the park another night, portable bbqs on the beach or lake another day…or go for a bike ride to a café and restaurant and get dinner out….
  1. Pack up the car and go for a drive somewhere – you don’t even need to know where you are headed. See what you pass along the way. It’s amazing but if you drive anywhere in NZ you’ll pass something interesting…it could be a vineyard, a maze in the middle of nowhere…a sheepfarm…a lake….
  1. Go on an ‘adventure’ trek for the day.

-most young children hate the idea of going for a walk but if you dress it up as an outing or adventure they are much more inclined to want to join in. Tell them you are going ‘exploring’ – it’s all about the language you use to ‘dress up’ the walk. So…’exploring a volcano’ is much more likely to resonate than ‘going for a walk up a hill’. We are surrounded by beautiful bush, waterfalls, extinct volcanos and hills. The promise of an ice-cream or treat at the end of the adventure is sure to keep them going up the steepest hill…..

  1. Go for a family bike-ride. Pack the bag for the day with togs, towels, sunblock and snacks and head out on the bikes. There are some great trails around. Make sure you bike with a destination in mind – a park or beach is ideal so they get to break up the bike ride with some play-time. Ride along the beach, have a swim and an ice-cream before biking home for a shower and a movie…
  1. Get out on the water. – The water always makes you feel like you are on holiday so do a boat trip, hire some kayaks, get a ferry or water-taxi to a nearby destination and have lunch at the other end. Or get a harbour cruise if you can.
  1. Have a ‘camp-out’ in the back-garden. You don’t need to actually go far to have a fun camping experience. Everyone knows someone who’s got a tent. Just borrow one if you don’t have your own, grab the sleeping bags and the torches, build a little bonfire and toast marshmallows and go to sleep under the stars sharing stories. (just make sure you’ve got the mozzy repellent handy!)
  1. A Family/friend kids Olympics. Get a group of families together for running races, egg and spoon races etc. homemade medals or certificates for best sportsmanship, attitude too so that everyone can win. Get everyone to bring a shared plate and make a day of it.

11. Go to an outdoor movie night. There are lots of outdoor cinemas around in summer so pack the blankets and the picnic and go grab a family movie together under the stars. Or if the weather’s particularly bad, go to one of the 3D cinemas and grab an indoor movie night.

12. See a show – go as a family to see a show – it could be a favourite band or singer/ it could be an ice-skating or dancing or musical or a play at the theatre. Make a day/night of it. Eg go see a matinee then go out for dinner after.

13. See a sporting event. Go to the cricket for the day or the tennis or another ball tournament and watch the pros.

14. Do a hop-on-hop-off bus tour around the local attractions for a day.

15. Play golf as a family – could be pitch n putt or crazy golf – lots of fun.

Written by

Jacqui Lockington is a working mum. Jacqui works full-time for an advertising agency in New Zealand and juggles life at work with being mum to two young children, Jack and Sasha. Jacqui is married to John and has published her first book with co-author, Nat - If Only They'd Told Me. She does public speaking and regularly blogs and records podcasts. Jacqui trained in journalism in London and worked in radio, newspapers, public relations and advertising before moving to New Zealand where she currently lives with her family. You can contact Jacqui at