Sunday, 14 September 2014

Staycation Planner

If you're lucky enough to live somewhere that has plenty to offer children and adults for entertainment, then you'll struggle to not come up with ideas to fill a two week 'Staycation'.

We started a few months before the holidays by thinking of fun things to do, to add to the 'Staycation List'. I kept a running list on my iPhone on Evernote, which we rapidly expanded over the course of a few weeks.

Simply driving around your local area, you're likely to come across potential activities that are usually too expensive, take too long, or that simply don't make the hard priority for activities on a weekend.

Activity list being prioritised
A few weeks before the holidays started, we took the list and attempted to decide which would make the cut, and which would be left over for either later in the year or odd days in the future. This proved difficult to achieve around the kitchen table, so we all together devised a process for prioritization. A simple grid was drawn up in MS Excel with all the activities listed and a column for each child to place their priority from 1 to 10.  In fact we ranked all activities, so it was 1 to 26!

The scores were totalled and the list re-ordered into lowest scores first and highest scores last. But this did create some malcontent, which was resolved by ordering the activities by 'number of top 10 scores'.  This created a well prioritized list, and allowed us to draw a provisional line under the top 12 activities. We figured that we would need 12 activities to fill the days, with a few rest days thrown in too.

Then came the 'Scheduling'.

A number of activities required optimal weather conditions, e.g. flying lessons, beach day, lake day, etc... whilst some were best reserved for rainy days (we have plenty of those in an English summer!). So some care and attention was taken to book weather critical days earlier in the period than later, to allow for weather-driven re-arrangements.

Our final Staycation planner

Because of our working schedules, we ended up needing to fill 3 weeks of Staycation not 2 - which allowed us to go deeper into the prioritized list, and fit in some more great activities. In the end we completed 21 activites in 3 weeks!

Now... I hear you thinking... "3 weeks of daily activities with my kids? Ugh!". But, believe me, these were the best 3 weeks of my summer by far. Having activities to focus on, and avoiding the "What are we doing today Dad?" questions was priceless.

Our schedule chopped and changed throughout the whole process, but we treated the schedule like a moving target, and it really helped us stay on track to get everything done.

On the list were a couple of major, pre-booked events.  The Red Bull Air Race tickets had been bought months before for the first Sunday of the Staycation. Thinking about that event inspired me to look into flying lessons for the kids. Those had then been booked for the begining of the second week, giving a nice 'Aviation Theme' to the holiday. We could have added other themed events, such as paper aeroplane competition and a flight simulator day, but frankly... we had too much on the list already.

Some of the activities were only good for a few hours, and we could fit two into a day. We tried to keep the joint activities linked in some way. For example, we wanted to go indoor climbing and also visit the indoor trampoline zone. So we called that 'Superhero Day'. I wanted to spend the day dressed as Spiderman with the kids as other superheroes. But that idea was vitoed on grounds of high embarrassment factor. But we did climb like Spiderman, and somersault like Jedis!

The decision to not book the flying lessons right at the end of the holiday paid off, as the weather closed in on the Tuesday, and it had to be moved back a few days.

It was important to keep a few days clear as 'rest days', for us to stay around the house, get chores done and generally relax. I still shudder to remember a 14 day Florida Theme Park holiday involving theme parks on 13 of those days. We came back exhausted! So 'rest days' were necessary and actually very enjoyable.

Although we planned all the activities as a family, we did invite various friends and families to join us when appropriate. That really helped to alter the family dynamic of 3 children, and gave both children and adults a break to have fun with their peers.

One other point to mention is that the holiday finished as school started. So we left a couple of empty of 'light' days to allow for school preparations. Buying shoes/sneakers/cleats/uniform/books, etc... Especially as middle child was starting a new school. We got to the first school day well rested, well organised, and ready to learn!

Follow some of the above advice, and you'll have no difficulty planning a thoroughly entertaining, enriching and rewarding Staycation. And don't forget to plan some time afterwards to create the 'Staycation Video' !!! - The introduction to ours is here...

A couple of final notes, that I'm sure are worth mentioning...

1. We slept in our own comfy beds, every night. Bliss!
2. We spent far less than we would have spent on just airplane flights to somewhere hot!

What's not to love about a UK Staycation!!!

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