Making the Most of Your Staycation

Trying to rein in spending this summer? This year, forgo the pricey vacation and opt for the cheap and cheerful staycation. Staycations can be a surprisingly fun alternative, if you put a little planning and effort into it. Dial down the day-to-day drudgery and schedule in loads of exciting activities – and your holiday will be a resounding success!

Drop the Routine:

    • Treat work the same as you would, when out of the country. Can’t avoid being ‘on call’? Keep it to emergencies. Otherwise it isn’t a proper vacation.

    • Take care of household chores beforehand, or afterwards. A relaxing holiday doesn’t include laundry, cleaning and grocery shopping.

    • Clear the family calendar. Take a break from regularly scheduled obligations, classes and sports. Replace with fun-filled, group activities.

  • Set appropriate expectations within your social circle i.e. you’ll be unreachable for the duration, or responding to urgent issues only.

Switch Off Electronics:

    • Utilize ‘out-of-office’ settings on computers and phones. Others will be less likely to panic when you don’t respond instantly.

    • Turn off the idiot box. PVR your favourite programs and catch up afterwards; Or better yet, prove that you can live without TV for a week or two.

    • Ditch the video games. Leave the virtual world behind and enjoy some real fun for a change.

    • Put the smart phone down! Make a pact to minimize calls (work and personal) and set up a fine system for family members that circumvent the rules. Spend the extra cash on holiday adventures.

  • Avoid surfing the net. If you need to look something up, pop online quickly, then shut down. Email and the internet can be all consuming. Don’t get sucked into the vortex.

Focus on Fun:

    • What activities would you suggest to out-of-towners? Grab a local guidebook and re-discover your city’s top attractions.

    • Add a little drama to your life. Attend a summer blockbuster, a drive-in movie, a live theatre show, or devour a much anticipated book.

    • The sporty type? Take in a major league game, find a pool, water park or recreational area, or map out a personalized hiking or biking tour of the city.

    • Enjoy some cerebral relaxation at local museums, art galleries, historic properties, science centres and zoos. In Toronto, free tickets are available at your library.

    • If you’re near open water, consider a boating excursion. Rent kayaks, take sailing lessons, or book a ferry tour, for a great day on the waves.

    • Gather family and friends for a good old-fashioned picnic or BBQ, at a community park. Bring along refreshments, toys and games to keep everyone occupied and content.

    • Foodies will gobble up the chance to visit new/favourite restaurants and social butterflies are likely to appreciate concerts, pub crawls or clubbing.

  • Schedule a daytrip to explore beyond city limits. Find cheap thrills at the amusement park, savour a regional wine tour, bask at a nearby beach, or nibble your way through your local farmers market.

Staycations aren’t synonymous with deprivation. Break from your regular routine, channel your inner tourist and don’t waste a moment! You’ll return to work refreshed and recharged – and still have money in your pocket. It just might be the best vacation you’ve ever had.

Chicago Staycation

Living paycheck to paycheck most definitely means vacations are a luxury of the few. Even a flight to the east coast to visit my own family is out of the question this year, as finances need to be controlled. As a mom I feel guilty for not being able to give my son the experience of traveling to diverse destinations or even the Lake Erie Peninsula of my youth. In the city of Chicago itself, even a typical staycation needs the budget pruned.

Flush the guilt away. What matters most is time spent together. Here are some options to higher cost alternatives.

If you can’t afford to go to a Chicago Bulls game attend a local University’s basketball game, i.e. Depaul, University of Chicago, Loyola, etc. My 8 yr old was just as happy, and it was pizza night at the game, so we saved money on concessions with a slice of free pizza.

Can’t afford the Mexican Resort?- Take your kids to Pilsen the Mexican neighborhood right off the 18th st. pink line train stop. Your kids will be able to experience authentic Mexican culture in America rather than a sterile cruise and resort where everyone speaks English. Get educated at The National Museum of Mexican Art located at 1859 W. 19th St. Visit a Panaderia(Mexican bakery). Let your kids pick a yummy pastry. Don’t forget to pick one out for yourself too!

The week after, visit Chinatown! When the weather is warmer take the kids to Ping Tom Park. The possibilities of touring the world within Chicago are endless.

Resort activities- How about taking your kids and doing Zumba together? This works better for children 7 and older. I took my son to a Zumba class with the permission of the teacher. Set the example for your kids that movement is wonderful.

How about family karaoke? A great place to do karaoke with the family over dinner is at Hiromi’s located on 3609 W. Lawrence. It’s a quaint family run Filipino/Japanese karaoke restaurant. No stage needed. You can sit right at the table and sing your heart out with the kids.

Tour boats in Chicago can be expensive. Have you ever thought of Chicago’s Water Taxi? An All day pass is $10.00 for the weekend. You can get on and off at various points in downtown Chicago as well as Ping Tom Park in Chinatown.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the wonderful museums. A favorite museum of both tourists and Chicagoans alike is the Museum of Science and Industry. A highlyinteractive museum that will keep the kids busy for hours.

You can build memories that last a lifetime without an expensive vacation. Enjoy the city and most importantly, the time spent with your family.

Take A Day Trip To A Blueberry Farm

Take A Day Trip To A Blueberry FarmJuly is when blueberries come into season, both wild and cultivated high bush. Depending on how the weather has been and which part of the country you live in, it can be anytime from the beginning of the month through the first few weeks. Here are some tips for visiting a blueberry farm.

Call Before You Leave/Check the Website

If you aren’t sure what the hours of the farm are, or what the weather might be like, or if they can accommodate your Uncle Charlie’s wheelchair, call first. There is nothing more disappointing then driving there, especially if you have to drive a long way, only to find out you made your trip in vain. The farm is more than happy to answer whatever questions you have before hand on the phone. Weather is a fickle thing and it might not be raining at your house, but an hour away it could be pouring buckets. On a similar note check to see if the farm has a website, or a Facebook page. Often times the information you need is going to be listed right on the page. They will tell you what their policies are, what the weather conditions are, what they are currently picking and what their hours are.

Leave Your Strollers/Large Bags/Pets/Buckets at Home

Strollers are awkward to maneuver through the rows of a blueberry farm, and often the terrain is rough. It also makes it hard for the farm staff to keep an eye on potential “shoplifters”. The same is true for large bags. If you must bring a large bag, plan on leaving it secured in the trunk of your car while you are picking.

Most farms have a no-pets policy. This is for the safety of the visitors, and any animals they may have on their farm. Please leave your dogs at home.

You bought the cute berry picking baskets from the local basket making company. You have pails that your great-aunt Sheila picked in when she was a girl. Your family has been using the same buckets for decades. Keep them at home and put them on display, or take them hiking and use them to pick wild berries. Most pick your own farms provide you with pails to use and have policies that prevent you from using your own.

Visit Early In the Day

Blueberries thrive in hot, sunny conditions, and the fields they grow in offer very little shade. The temperature might only read 82*f on the thermostat, but out in the sun of the field it is going to feel a lot hotter. On top of that, the bushes hold the heat and it is easy on a really hot day to get overheated. The best time for picking is in the morning, before the berries get too hot. After noontime on a day when the temperatures soar into the high 80’s and 90’s, the berries will be hot and soft and once you get home they won’t keep as well.

Wear a Hat and Bring Water

A large floppy hat that keeps the sun off of your face and neck is the best choice. If all you have is a baseball cap that will certainly work as well. The goal is to keep the sun off of your head and provide you with a little bit of shade and coolness. Picking blueberries is not hard work, but on a hot day you can quickly become dehydrated in the heat of the field. Drinking lots of water will keep you safe and allow you to enjoy your time at the farm.

Leave the Bag in the Bucket

If your farm hands you a pail with a plastic bag in it, please keep it there. You may have read Blueberries for Sal with your children before you left, and they want to hear the “plink, plink, plink” like in the book, but after a handful or two of berries, they aren’t going to plink anyhow. The bag is there to help the staff weigh your berries when you are finished picking, and for you to get your berries home safely and easily. Those pails may have been on the farm for a long time and could be a little dirty and rusty. You don’t want your hard picked berries right in them now, do you?

It’s Pick Your Own, Not Self-Serve

Of course, you need to taste a FEW of the berries to make sure that you like the variety that you are picking, especially if you have multiple varieties to pick from. Selling berries is the farmer’s livelihood, and if you eat as many berries as you pick, you are essentially stealing from them. Pick to your hearts delight, then take your berries home and enjoy them.

Top Tips for Getting Away From It All, Without Actually Getting Away

I have just booked a holiday, the kind of holiday I have never booked before… an all inclusive week long spa break. I have almost always gone away in search of something; adventure, creativity, exploration (of self and the world), romance, culture, learning… but now I know all this is available on my own doorstep I feel less of a need for a holiday and strangely, I feel like I need to need this kind of holiday!

This got me thinking and in a recent survey I did in my own head, it seems that many people reach a certain point, let’s call it a breaking point, and decide they need a holiday. The ten main reasons for going on holiday, according to the aforementioned survey, were as follows;

1) Need to get away from work/life stress

2) To relax

3) To get quality time with loved ones

4) Habit – “we always get away at this time of year.”

5) A break from the norm

6) A new experience/different culture

7) To have some fun – nightlife, a sporting event, or just an adventure.

8) To get some sun/a tan (so that you can feel happy/look healthy)

9) It’s on my bucket list – “I’ve always wanted to go there.”

10) Facebook is showing that everyone else is doing it and I need some new pics to get everyone jealous.

The funny thing about holidays is that sometimes booking them seems to add stress. For example, people often book their two week break, and then spend months telling others (before and after) that they can’t afford anything else because they have just paid for/been on their holidays (which of course must include a whole new wardrobe and toiletry stock up). There are also those that worry about their work, either before they go, desperately trying to tie up ALL lose ends (they can’t possibly delegate), or whilst away, or when they come back to hundreds of emails. This kind of thinking is what makes some believe they can’t take a break at all.

So how can you get the same results that a holiday gives you, without actually going on holiday?

Here are my top tips for getting away from it all, without actually getting away:

1) Make the most of your free time – don’t just come home on a Friday night and eat dinner in front of the TV. Plan a date night; a quick drink after work or a dinner date does not cut into your chill out time, it’s part of it!

2) Schedule in a couple of hours at the weekend or an evening in the week to do something for you. Get creative, read a book quietly in a cafe, or simply sit in a warm bath. Make sure other people are aware this is happening and it’s for you… not to get away from them, but to reconnect with yourself. Equally, schedule in quality time with loved ones – a lift to football practice or food shopping with your partner does not count!

3) Think good thoughts and you really don’t notice the rain… and share that with others, smile at strangers.

4) Have a themed night in. Mexico, Italy, France, Asia..get everyone to bring a dish using unusual fruit and veg, get dressed up, find some tunes, decorate the dining room, rent a relevant movie… bring the culture to you.

5) Once a month turn a weekend into an adventure – jump on a random bus, stick your finger on a map, make a list of places you want to go and can get to, put the ideas in a hat and pick one, or simply take a walk and get off the beaten track. The key here is to be excited about what you might discover.

6) Have a night out with the girls – slap on some fake tan and bust out the summer time tunes as you get glammed up.

7) Focus on what you have got – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, grateful people are so much happier than those always chasing something else. Write a gratitude dairy every couple of days and reflect when needed.

8) Relax – meditate, swim, do a yoga/mindfulness class, have a lay in… whatever works for you, do it… and do it often.

9) Really look at things around you in wonder – see things differently and you will find many wonders already in your world.

10) Be silly – letting your hair down isn’t just for children or when alcohol is involved. Go dance in the kitchen and sing in the street!

BONUS TIP – Love what you do. (And if you don’t love what you do, get a coach. OK, so I’m biased, but some of the most successful people I know have had help to unpack their suitcase full of overwhelm and feel free without having to take flight.)