If last week taught us anything, it was that we were right to choose to stay reasonably close to home and not spend a lot of money on a family vacation. We love supporting local lesser known attractions, being able to sleep in our own beds, keep our kids on a schedule that is close to normal, and not spending a ton of money. A staycation is perfect for us, and just might be for you too.
Just like anything we do, we set out to have as much fun as we could on a budget. We didn’t feel that camping for several days would be worth the effort with our kids right now, so instead we decided on a few day trips, timing the drives with nap schedules and keeping bedtime around the same time each night. We also spaced the trips out, allowing for a day off in between to let the kids have a “normal” day, and allow us to unpack and repack the van for the next trip. Here is what we did, and how it went:
This was top of our list of places to visit. Not only is it very close by, it has free parking, both our kids (2.5 years old and 9 months old) were free, and adults are only $5 each. We spent about an hour wandering around looking at the 60 cars and a few motorcycles. Our son loved it, he ran from car to car asking “Daddy! Daddy! What’s this one called?” He couldn’t get over the old fire truck that they had, and kept going back to it again and again. It was a great way to kill the time between nap and dinner on a quiet weekday. If you are a car nut, it is worth the visit, as the cars range from the late 1800 to the 1980s. Even if you are just taking a toddler who likes cars, it was still enjoyable, I’m really glad we checked it out. I wish it could get more funding, and a larger space so you could walk around the cars, and maybe even sit in some.
Warplane Heritage Museum
This was really neat, I wish we could have enjoyed it more, and got to look at all the planes. Our son was super excited about it, but once we got there, he enjoyed looking in the gift shop more than the actual museum. The size of the planes intimidated him a bit, and he got scared when some school kids got noisy (the planes are set up in a hanger; lots of echos!). Scared to the point we had to leave and calm him down in the parking lot for 15 minutes. We finally convinced him to go back in, and even got him to play in the cockpit simulator and the one plane you were allowed to sit in. Was it worth the $24 admission (adults are $12 each, kids 5 and under are free)? Yes. Would I go back? Yes! Especially once the kids are older and would enjoy it more. I would love to be able to spend more time reading about each plane, which you can’t really do when you are chasing a toddler around. The gift shop is really awesome, and the kid scored a Canadian Air Force shirt and toy plane. It was great to be back in Hamilton too, though don’t tell my husband I said that. He went to University there, and is always wanting to go back and visit, so just being in the city was worth it. We were also planning on heading down to the waterfront for a trolley ride and tour, but the kids were in dire need of naps, so we called it a day and drove home.
My son doesn’t like sand, and he is just starting to enjoy water, so this probably wasn’t the best choice of a place to go, but we figured he would eventually love it. He cried for about the first 45 minutes when we got there; sand in his sandals (he refused to take them off) and his shorts got wet (he refused to put his bathing suit on) but once we got a snack in him, and building sand castles, he didn’t want to leave. We splashed in the water, chased seagulls, built sandcastle, destroyed the sandcastles with buckets of water, and ate lunch. But he started to crash, and so did the baby so we left. Four hours in the car (2 there, 2 back) to spend 3 hours at the beach! Thankfully we only spent $16 to get in, and brought lunch and snacks…it’s the $45 in gas that kills me. Even with the crying when we first got there, this was well worth it. I love the sun and the sand, and playing in the shallow water is the best. I cannot wait till the kids are older and will enjoy this even more. The park also has tons of great camp sites, and I’m sure we will set up camp for a few days in the years to come.
We love getting to spend time with our families, and we don’t get up to my brother-in-laws cottage nearly enough. I also don’t think we will go back again any time soon. Packing, and planning, and driving all that way, and all my son wanted to do was play with his cousins toys inside. Fishing? We finally convinced him to try it, and he loved it, but only for a few minutes. Canoe ride? Not a chance. Camp fire? Didn’t care about it, only wanted his marshmallow untoasted, and just wanted to play in the sand box. Any outdoor activity he was content doing was only for only a few minutes at a time, and he really just wanted back inside to play with the rescue heros. And to top it off, the kids fought and screamed for an hour on the drive home. They were clearly telling us they were done with being strapped in their seats.
If I could go back in time and re-do our family vacation, I don’t think I would bother with most of what we did. It was a great experience, because we now know that we do understand our kids really well. We pretty much predicted exactly how they would act in each environment. Would I bother with the 2+ hour drives again? Not when they are this young. They aren’t even going to remember this past week! Yes we have some great pictures from it, but all I am going to remember is how stressful it was, how much work it was, and how many meltdowns we had. I feel strongly about kids this young not needing vacations, or tons of activities to entertain them, and I think this week proved me right. Even feeling this way, we still felt like we needed to do something with our kids, but might have just been better off visiting new playgrounds in the area. I don’t get people who take their kids on planes to resorts or cruises. I am really glad we didn’t fly or even drive anywhere really far. And I am really glad we didn’t spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars. My son probably enjoyed watching the trucks on the highway as much as any of the places we went. He probably had the most fun at the local splash pad that we randomly decided to stop at one day. I keep getting the feeling, based on other parents comments to me, that they think we are bad parents for not taking our kids on extravagant vacations, or constantly going to water parks and amusement parks with them. My son would honestly have more fun looking at Star Wars toys at the local toy store (which he asked to do today), than spending an entire day at an amusement park. I would rather take my kids on a great family vacation when they are older and can appreciate it and actually remember it. My husband has more time off work booked for this fall; I think we will just be relaxing at home that week.
Do you take your kids on vacations? Did you go on vacations when you were really little? I would love to hear what other people think about this. People keep telling me that this is the time to travel and do things, because young kids are usually free at places, but I still can’t justify it all that often. And this week totally proved my gut instincts right.