There's No Place Like Home

ST. LOUIS — Is today’s tight economy is putting a squeeze on your summer travel plans? While far away trips might beyond this year’s budget, families don’t have to scrap the idea of a vacation.

Ken Haller, M.D., associate professor of pediatrics at Saint Louis University School of Medicine and a SLUCare pediatrician, says vacation fun could be in your own back yard.

“Once school is out, summer’s the time to step back and take a different view of life,” Haller says. “As families try to stretch their budget, many are considering ‘staycations’ or looking at our community as a vacation spot.”

Enjoy a “Staycation” this summer

Staying home for vacation may mean an adjustment in your thinking — making lemons out of lemonade, which is a good lesson to teach children. Looking at things from a fresh perspective helps you become more flexible.

“Look at your city as a visitor would and ask yourself, ‘What have we not done around town that tourists typically enjoy?” Haller says.

“For instance, when I was a kid growing up on Long Island, we never went to the Statue of Liberty. There probably are many St. Louis children who have never been to the top of the Arch.”

Haller acknowledges there are some tricks to making an in-town vacation work for your family. Here are a few of his top tips:

  • Consider checking into a hotel. It’s easier to enter the vacation mode if you change your environment, even if it’s pitching a tent in your backyard. “If you are in the house and see all the things that need to be done — the lawn that needs mowing, the stack of bills that need to be paid, the piles of dirty laundry — it’s hard to give yourself permission to leave it all behind,” Haller says. “If you can afford it, go to a family-friendly resort — maybe even close to an amusement park — or a hotel with a pool and take day trips from there. Eat out at restaurants or pack a quick picnic instead of spending a lot of time cooking.” 
  • Change your schedule. Parents have to take off the time from work. Children have to be willing to skip swim lessons or baseball games. “If you were out of town, you wouldn’t be able to catch a 30-minute lesson at the pool or sit in for a staff meeting,” Haller says.
  • Plan ahead. If you were going out of town, you’d nail down the sights you want to see and things you want to do long before your car pulled out of the driveway. “Check state and local tourism websites to glean your wish list of things you want to do,” Haller says.
  • Give your children a voice in deciding what to do. Let your children participate in the planning. “If your children are old enough, put them to work doing research on the activities to consider during vacation.”
  • Realize you are going to spend money. You are, after all, on vacation and vacations are not free. “Think of all the money you’re saving by not paying plane fare. And checking out last-minute deals on hotel reservation websites and using online restaurant coupons can really make this economical,” Haller says. “Still stick to your budget so you don’t feel spenders’ remorse at the end of the summer.”