Tired of going shoulder to shoulder in long airport lines for your place in the sun or on the slopes? Does the idea of setting out on a six-hour drive in wintry weather to your vacation destination leave you wanting to crawl into that warm cup of cocoa you left in the sink instead? Thinking there might be a better place (like a savings account or college fund) for that annual company bonus? Or how about enjoying the challenge of planning something multi-generational that parents, kids, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and others can enjoy together, without renting the Caribbean Star’s Lido deck (plus a dozen state rooms) for an entire week?
Instead of leaving town, creating your very own “staycation” filled with fun and festive events close to home, where adults and kids have a hand in the decision-making and planning, can result in the kind of holiday break no one ever wants to end–and certainly no one will forget. Christmas lights sightseeing tours, holiday movie night, home spa day, yuletide theater night, snow sculpting contests, scavenger hunts indoors or out in the snow, and festive team cookie baking competitions are just some of the activities families will love to do together!
For starters, why not gather as many family members as possible, fire up the popcorn, and have a planning night where everyone has a say in what they like to do best and wish to see on the staycation agenda. While your staycation should be relaxed and fun, having a list of well thought-out activities for each day and evening will prevent the tendency to lapse into old habits like interminable hours playing video games, texting marathons, attacking piles of laundry, and anything you are tempted to do just because you’re at home. Keep in mind an effective staycation is meant to provide a real break from the daily grind, just as the family would experience at a resort, in the mountains, on a cruise ship, etc. Try and get your work and house in order ahead of time so you are free and can feel good about spending this time focusing on having fun with one another.
If your brood is impervious to the cold and snow, and activities like ice hockey, skating, skiing and the like are part of your traditional winter season, an intricate holiday-themed outdoor scavenger hunt for hidden ornaments in the snow can turn up the heat on winter holiday fun (just be sure to bundle up in waterproof layers for extra insulation). Other outdoor activities can include elaborate snow sculpting contests for which individuals or teams may want to spend a little advance time cutting out photos of masterpieces they may want to attempt: anything from the Taj Mahal to Rodin’s “The Thinker” to Santa’s castle! Judging can be done by an impartial panel of neighbors, with the winner getting to choose the yuletide-themed movies for a pizza movie night by a crackling fire. After all, who wouldn’t want to zone out in front of “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” “Home Alone,” or the classic “It’s A Wonderful Life” after a long day spent building architectural marvels?!
For a little splurge on some holiday comfort, you might want to have a local esthetician come to your home for colorful mani’s and pedi’s. Crank up the fire and conjure up a tub of rich eggnog and some festive snacks, and turn the afternoon into a luxurious spa-style winter escape.
Also, just as you might tackle Broadway on a trip to NYC, why not put your family’s thespian talents to work. For Christmas theater night, depending on your proclivity toward lean or lavish, many holiday books lend themselves to fun and exciting living room stage productions which can be as simple or elaborate as you’d like. With kids, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins involved, there’s no telling what can come of “A Christmas Carol,” “The Night Before Christmas,” or “The Polar Express,” and who says lines have to be memorized when reading them out loud together is just as much fun. Assembling colorful costumes and building sets from rugs, chairs, curtains, and items you may find in the attic or garage (a line of chairs, ottomans or stools with a whistle hung in front makes for a perfect train) only adds to the anticipation and creativity.
If all-star Christmas cookies are what sweeten your holiday, try dividing extended family members into teams and awarding prizes for the most original holiday cookies, the most chocolaty, most sparkly, etc. Follow up your baking bonanza with an after-dark tour to find the homes with the brightest holiday decorations in your city, caroling all the way!
Finally, while the season is all about festivities and a holiday staycation is about taking a break and having fun together, the holidays are also a time to reflect on what we have. No one says you can’t design a family activity around making someone else’s life a bit brighter at this time of year, such as making a pot of rich, hot peppermint chocolate to enjoy while assembling boxes of outgrown or no longer needed warm clothing for your local church or charity. The idea is to make this time something to share and remember, as a family, something you will smile about well into the coming year.