How being broke made me appreciate staycations

With a love-hate relationship for family "staycations," Jennifer Pinarski manages to both save money and have fun by playing tourist in her own hometown.

staycation The view of the Pinarski family's recent vacation spot -- home. Photo: Jennifer Pinarski

Follow along as Jennifer Pinarski shares her experiences about giving up her big city job and lifestyle to live in rural Ontario with her husband, while staying home to raise their two young children.

“I really wish we were in Maui or Grand Cayman right now,” moaned my six-year-old son last week. “It was more fun there than here,” he added, jerking his head towards the window where our house looks out at arguably the nicest scenery in all of the Kawarthas.

Not that our family vacations were ever extravagant, but we'd always managed to get away every few years to a sunny destination. However, our recent financial situation put the brakes on all vacations this year. Pine trees compared to palm trees are probably downright dull to my kids, and even though we pointed out that people often come to our town for vacation had little positive effect — especially since we’d spent the summer telling our kids we couldn't go for ice cream or the zoo or the science centre. Besides, living in a tourist town, we actually spend most of our summer hiding out in our cottage home to avoid traffic and packed beaches. I used to think that "staycations" were evil marketing ploys by people who actually never staycationed with their kids.

But with just a few days left of summer vacation, our family embraced the staycation and became tourists in our own hometown. Expecting a staycation to be more like Family Feud, we were surprised that it ended up being more like The Amazing Race — we discovered new places and met new people all the time!

  • We went for ice cream on a Friday night at Kawartha Dairy. Instead of giving the stink eye to people who couldn’t decide between Wolf Paws or Moose Tracks, we struck up conversations with tourists, hopefully making them feel more welcome.
  • We went berry picking. It's usually a battle to get the kids to put more berries in the basket than they do in their bellies, but now they’re now old enough to know they should just sample a few.
  • We watched boats go through the locks on the Trent-Severn Waterway while drinking iced coffees from our local cafe. There’s nothing more touristy than that!
  • We practically lived at the farmer’s markets, with nearly all of our food coming from there this summer.
  • We made dozens of sandcastles together. Finally, my daughter is old enough to not stomp on her brother’s elaborate creations which makes beach days more enjoyable.
  • And last but not least, we had campfires, banana boats and marshmallows in our backyard. A staple of any kids' summer, we were usually too tired by the end of the day to even dream of letting the kids stay up late and filling them full of sugar. But building the campfire and fixing banana boats together with my husband and children is by far my favourite summer memory.

Did you staycation this summer? Tweet me about it @jenpinarski.

This article was originally published on Aug 28, 2013

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