Staycation Travels

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​As we wound down our staycation, I kept trying to make things interesting. We were all a little depressed that we weren’t able to go away this year, and really, after the wonderful time we had in Ireland last year with family, there really was no way to attempt to equal that, but I did want the kids to feel that they’d gotten a break before school returns next week.

I gave them each a journal, and began to dictate topics to start them off. They were not thrilled.

Then I hit up the I Love NY app, and found a perfect (on paper) idea to both give us a tourist opportunity, and remind us of our Irish adventure.

We discovered the Irish-American Heritage Museum. I had misread the website, so there really isn’t a large exhibit space. They typically have events, and in fact, later that week, they were hosting a Celtic cruise on the Hudson. They did have a display of Saratoga Race Track Travers’ Race posters by Greg Montgomery.


They also had a couple of small spaces of interest, both in current Irish-American life, history, and the diaspora. There was a table of Kennedy family photos, which I thought their prominence so clear that there was no label as to who they were. I did recognize one photo of the President and his mother.
Another section told the story of the Ancient Order of Hibernians Honor Guard, and still another was some religious items and artifacts, including a relic of St. Columba.

All along the walls depicted the history of the Irish-American beginnings especially in the Albany-Saratoga region with several track photos as well as Honorary Diplomas from the Educational Institute of Scotland for both Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan.

We spent a lovely hour looking around and asking questions.

Admission is by donation, and there was also a little gift shop.

After that, we stopped at a local Irish pub for lunch.


It really was a nice way to end our summer before going back to work and school, and offer homage to our once in a lifetime trip last year, which still calls to my heart.
Next week, I will surprise the kids with Irish candy as a before school treat. It’s been too hot to get it even the short distance to the Irish shop in town.

What adventures have you found this summer?

August – Vacation/Staycation – Photo/Art

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A variety of road trips, top to bottom: rental car, Celtic shield pin, Days Inn motel sign, Via Aquarium entrance, pansies on the path, crosswalk, Ballycraigy welcome sign, Erie Canal Cruises. (c)2018

August: Vacation/Staycation

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August comes in like a lion and out like a lamb.

That’s April.

That’s not right.

March is the lion and the lamb.

August is hot.

It has no personality of its own.

It’s school supplies already gathering dust.

It’s vacation.

It’s my wedding anniversary.

It’s an oven that doesn’t work, but if it did work, I’d complain that I’d have to turn it on in August.
It’s lazy and hazy and the air is muddy like April’s boots.

It’s melancholy and lethargic.

Or is that just me?

But it’s not all that bad, I suppose.

The birds are noisy, the grass is green.

The spices are fragrant.

The whirr of the air conditioner.

The hosta petals on the ground, and bunny prints in the drying rain.

I guess we’ll give August a chance.
Let’s go.

Is a Stay-Cation Right for You?

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After 9/11 there was a national phenomenon that was dubbed nesting. It wasn’t planned; it just happened. No one wanted to leave their homes; we, as a nation stopped going out to dinner; we cooked more, and specialty food markets began cropping up in the next year or so. We rented movies instead of going to the theatre. The Kindle market exploded and birthed an entire industry.

This, rising gas prices, and two economic downturns later have given us a new term for leisure in our modern world: stay-cation; the vacation that you spend at home.

Our first personal experience with a staycation happened for us in 2009. Our family unexpectedly had one when our car’s transmission stranded us on the highway three weeks before our planned summer getaway to Niagara Falls. We couldn’t afford to fix the transmission and go on vacation, and obviously, the car was our priority for our limited funds. With everything else going on in our lives, we really didn’t want to disappoint our kids who were looking forward to their first real vacation in their memory.

That first year we used the money we would have spent on gas and hotels and had a couple of nice family days locally, choosing to go to places we wouldn’t ordinarily go to because in our everyday budget, they were simply too costly. (In our case, a brewery restaurant in the capital and an Aqua Duck tour). As I said, it was a little more expensive than what we would normally do on a weekend, but for us this was more than a weekend; it was vacation. Sort of.

Over the years, as our income stagnated (or went down due to health insurance and health care costs increasing and the cost of raising three growing kids), we’ve continued to have our own version of staycations; of concentrated family time during mid-season school breaks and summer recess at those times when we weren’t visiting extended family or had other things scheduled.

I’ve found that as much as kids, and adults say they want free time, that they just want to sit around and rest and relax, they (and we) get bored very quickly. It becomes the same old, same old and that’s when the fighting starts. He took my…. She touched my…. He’s looking at me! My daughter in particular will find her way into the kitchen, snacking on everything from cheese sticks to corn flakes, both of which she typically scoffs at. It is sometimes a little frightening, reminding me that as far-fetched as a zombie apocalypse is, she will be ready to eat anything. Anything.

Or they spend all day wired up to the Disney channel or their tablets. While tablets have their good points, learning-type games and library e-books, the school’s website even, it is sometimes too much screen-time, even for me: a recovering TV-holic.

Everyone likes to have planned activities and obligations interspersed with relaxation, and the stay-cation is the perfect avenue for that. Unlike a vacation, there isn’t that pressure to get things done because we’re spending so much money on having fun and relaxing. Have fun! Now! It becomes stressful, not to mention kids’ behavioral issues that are perfectly normal at home will add on a significant strain when the wall next to you is shared by another family trying to get away from it all, or worse yet, a business traveler. The constant behaving your best is not relaxing; for anyone.

Being home has its benefits.

Some of our fun can be adapted in anyone’s neighborhood including:

Food Tastings– choose a few foods that the kids have never had or have been asking to try, and try them. We’ve tried donut peaches, pink grapefruit, anchovies, Ugli fruit, blood oranges, yellow tomatoes, prickly pears, plums, dates, mandarin oranges, avocado, homemade guacamole, and the list goes on and on.

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Let’s “Go” to the Movies – Lights out, DVD, popcorn, a packet of M&Ms. We recommend Despicable Me (both movies plus the Minion shorts), Guardians of the Galaxy, Brave, Cars, and Netflix is always a good investment especially during summer vacation.

Chuck E. Cheese – it’s free to get in, the arcade is for all ages, they offer discounts on tokens, always have coupons online and they make an excellent pizza if you’re in the mood to spend money on lunch.

Your local library almost always has special programs scheduled for Winter and Spring breaks. We’ve gone to readings for service animals, science experiments, cooking classes for kids, not to mention taking out books that interest your kids and just getting out of your own four walls. (Not to mention, during the summer months, their air conditioning is free.)

Last summer, we did a typography project at the dining room table using fabric, buttons, charms, glue and pushpins on a thin corkboard (four for $5 at Target).

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AAA is an excellent investment, if only for their roadside assistance, but they also provide maps and tour books free. Every year, I go back for the updated book of my state. They also offer discounts on admissions and retail shops. We live near the capital so there is always something to do, but we also live near the National Bottle Museum and the Museum of Firefighting, smaller venues that we might not see if we went on vacation.  Remember that your vacation destinations are someone else’s local attractions. Check out what tourists are coming to your area for, and you might discover something amazing in your own backyard.

Speaking of your own backyard, scavenger hunts and nature walks are a perfect way to get outside and enjoy the sunshine in any kind of weather, including snowy. Afterwards, you can bring in your bounty and glue collages or make table centerpieces by arranging nature in a clear bowl or vase.

When my kids were younger and we lived in an apartment, we put together a sand box for them to play in. It was inside a plastic bin, and much less expensive than Little Tykes or Fisher Price that you’d need a backyard to enjoy. It was also portable for trips to Grandma’s.

Baking bread, cookies and apples are also good ways to spend the day. Delicious, too.

Plan it out like you would for a traveling vacation. Put the effort in just like you did when you drove two hundred miles or visited the biggest ball of twine; or the Corn Palace.

Whatever your budget, whatever your interests, a stay-cation can be for anyone.