• Stay, Go Local, Go Away!

    Decided On Summer Vacation Plans Yet? Our Guide To Travelling With The Family—From Staycations To Adventurous Road Trips

    By New York Family

    You’re probably familiar with this year’s summer buzzword: staycation. 

    In his new book, The Great American Staycation,Matt Wixon, who enjoys taking staycations with his wife and three young boys, offers practical tips for making a vacation at home worthwhile.

    STAYTRIPPING 

    Are more families looking into staycations this year?

    Right now, people are realizing that in order to be responsible, a vacation may not be a viable option. At the same time, you don’t want to take two weeks off and not do anything fun. That’s why staycations are such a good option.

    What tips do you have for getting the most out of a family staycation? 

    We always set a start and an end date to our staycation. Then, we try to get everything done beforehand so that we don’t have to worry about things like mowing the lawn and taking care of the car. We really try to treat it as a true vacation. After that, we pack the schedule and have something fun to do each day. Also, people are going to choose staycations for budget reasons, but I encourage people to splurge a little bit. Go to a restaurant that you have never been to; do fun things that you wouldn’t normally do. You don’t want to penny-pinch during your vacation. 

    In my book, I liken it to going on a cruise and starting your diet—you would make yourself miserable.

    How can parents make a staycation special for their kids?

    Train trips are great—whether it’s a half-hour trip or a couple of hours—especially for younger kids. Another thing to do with kids is educational trips—observatories, planetariums, tours of fire and police stations, factory tours. You can make a tour out of anything. You can visit your local movie theater and see how a projector works. My kids and I once saw pinsetters in a bowling alley, and their eyes were so wide with amazement. All I did was ask the manager if he had a couple of minutes to show us around.—Kristin Jones

    HITTING THE ROAD

    Considering taking a road trip with your family? Whether you’re thinking cross-country or a neighboring city, here are four great destinations, as well as some tips for keeping kids entertained along the way.

    Three Great Family Road Trips: 

    Northeast

    It’s A Shore Thing: Drive Route 1 from Portland, ME, to Acadia National Park. Stops could include Freeport for L.L. Bean and the outlet malls, Popham Beach State Park or Reid State Park for a swim, Round Pond for lobsters, and Rockland or Camden for a tall ship windjammer cruise.

    Mid-Atlantic

    A Capital Idea: Start your vacation in Washington, DC, making sure to visit the monuments and kid-friendly museums, like the Air and Space Museum. Then, drive down to the beach in Cape Hatteras, NC, stopping at Colonial Williamsburg and Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, VA, and spots throughout North Carolina’s Outer Banks.

    West Coast 

    Cinematic California
    Coast: Drive California’s Coastal Highway 1 from Santa Barbara to Santa
    Cruz, often called the best road trip in America. Among other things,
    take a tour of Hearst Castle, enjoy Big Sur’s dramatic coastline, and
    plan to spend plenty of time on the Monterey Peninsula, where you can
    visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium. In Santa Cruz, Cowell Beach is a great
    place for kids to take surfing lessons.  
    —Nancy Schretter,
    managing editor of the Family Travel Network (familytravelnetwork.com.)

    TIPS FOR A SMOOTH RIDE

    1. Bring Goodies. Especially bring small toys, both old
    reliables and new ones, that kids can hold and play with while sitting
    in a car seat. Travel games are good too. For added effect, you might
    want to distribute the new toys somewhat strategically as rewards for
    good behavior.

    2. Share the Responsibilities. Consider
    appointing older kids “resident (travel site) experts” so that they can
    act as “tour guides” when you arrive at something of interest. This will
    take some preparation, but the Internet makes that easy. Younger
    children can also be prepped; it’ll enhance their experience as well.

    3. Remember the Tried
    and True.
    No-tech games like “Twenty Questions,” “License Plate
    Game,” and “Name That Tune” almost never fail if the parents themselves
    are enthusiastic. And, of course, high-tech games like Gameboy, a
    portable DVD player, or even the GPS system can distract like nothing
    else.

    4. Be a Muse. Prompt kids to create poems from words on
    billboards, tell a story about the people in a nearby car, or make up
    jokes inspired by a road sign.

    5. Be Flexible (Or Not).
    Allow extra time for offroad fun, whether a half hour to play in a
    McDonald’s Funland or an impromptu Frisbee toss at a grassy rest stop.
    On the other hand, if sticking to your timetable allows you to visit the
    largest ball of string, talk it up as your incentive for staying on
    track. 
    —Nancy
    O’Brien-Bastock

    THE BASICS OF RENTING A SUMMER HOME (PLUS, AN UPDATE ON THE HAMPTONS) 

    Renting a home for the
    summer, or even just a week or two, requires a lot of research,
    especially if you’re a first-time renter. Starting out knowing the kind
    of home you’re looking for is key. Marcella O’Callaghan, a senior vice
    president at Corcoran Group Real Estate, advises that the first thing to
    decide on—once you’ve decided on a town to rent in—is what part of town
    you’d like to be in. “Think about if you want to be in a village
    atmosphere, in the woods, or by the ocean,” advises O’Callaghan. The
    second question a family needs to ask is how many bedrooms they will
    need for the summer and also what special features they would like the
    house to include. Parents should consider how important it is to have a
    pool, tennis court, central air conditioning, and/or space for the
    children to play. The deciding factor, however, is how much you can
    afford. For families considering renting a home in the Hamptons this
    summer, experts say not to expect the economy to deeply influence rental
    prices, which can still range anywhere from $25,000 to $50,000 per
    summer for a standard 3- or 4-bedroom home. “In general, the prices the
    owners are asking are, by and large, in line with where they were the
    last year or two,” says John Gicking, senior vice president at Sotheby’s
    International Realty. “The difference is that owners are more flexible
    in accepting a lower offer from a qualified tenant.” If you do find a
    rental home you love, it’s best to act sooner rather than later. 

    “If
    a family sees a house they like when they come out, they should take
    it,” says O’Callaghan. “They shouldn’t wait, thinking maybe the price is
    going to drop or a better house will come onto the market.” 
    — Theodora Guliadis

    LOCAL FAMILY ADVENTURES

    Alison
    Lowenstein, author of the new book, “City Weekends: Greatest Escapes and
    Weekend Getaways in and Around New York City,” shared her top picks for
    family adventures both in and outside the city.

    Family Weekends In The
    City:

    %uFFFD Cycling on Governor’s
    Island:
    We love to rent bikes from the folks at Bike and Roll on
    Governor’s Island and cycle on this quiet island with stunning views of
    the city. If your child isn’t old enough to bike, they have bike seats
    and bike trailers, so your little one can enjoy the sites without
    breaking a sweat. They also have helmets. Being a native New Yorker, I
    grew up seeing the island but never having access to it. Now that it’s
    open to the public, I’m thrilled.

    %uFFFD Camping in the city: The
    New York City Department of Parks and Recreation hosts free Family
    Camping sessions at parks in NYC. It’s a one-night campout (either
    Friday or Saturday), and they provide you with the tent, the
    food, and a nature walk—all for free! All you need is a sleeping bag. My
    daughter and I went to the one on Alley Pond Park in Queens and had a
    blast! It was the first time my daughter saw stars in the city. Quick
    tip—you must call the Monday before you want to camp to reserve a spot;
    call early, because they fill up fast.

    %uFFFD Touring the Chinatowns
    of the city:
    All city kids should check out the Chinatowns of NYC.
    We love to walk around the crowded, vibrant streets of downtown
    Manhattan’s Chinatown or to walk through the Flushing Mall in Queens,
    which has no American chain stores.

    Since we are from Brooklyn,
    we often get dim sum on 8th Avenue in Sunset Park, which is Brooklyn’s
    Chinatown. Sometimes we get to see a wedding or special event at the
    restaurant, and my kids love seeing everyone dressed up.

    Family Getaways Outside The
    City:

    %uFFFD
    Brandywine Valley, PA:
    Getting away from the urban grind is good for
    all family members. We love to head to the Brandywine Valley, where we
    can get some fresh air while teaching our kids about American history.

    Spend
    a day touring large gardens and old homes from the industrial
    revolution. Many of the museums, like the Hagley Museum, have great
    kids’ rooms filled with kidcentric exhibits.

    %uFFFD Philadelphia,
    PA:
    You don’t even need a car to escape to this kid-friendly gem of a
    city located just two hours from Manhattan. With science, children’s
    and art museums, and an amazing zoo, this is a great place to take kids
    of any age. There are also good eats and nice parks.

    Enjoy
    browsing markets and feasting on cheese steaks and pretzels.

    %uFFFD Mystic, CT: From
    wooden sailing ships at a historic port to an operational cider mill,
    the Mystic area has tons of attractions for families. We love walking
    through the quaint Mystic Village and also dining on some fresh seafood.
    There are also extremely kid-friendly beaches just minutes from Mystic
    that are quiet and timeless.  
    —Alison Lowenstein


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