Something that has surprised me in my recent meetings with families is that there are many people who are not used to spending their vacations close to home. This was evident with the number of requests I had to discuss developing “staycation plans” in family meetings with me. Since I am presently on vacation myself, I decided that I could plan my own time away from work at the same time as I helped these families. Maybe what I learned will help you plan your summer vacation too!

Naturally, having spent almost twenty-five years in school, my first strategy was to do research – our most successful habits die hard! I found this great article in the Guardian that provided two important facts. First, the article demonstrated that global tourism has increased exponentially since 1950, so it’s pretty obvious that many people may not know how to spend time at home. Except, a second important fact is that, while there were 1.4 billion international travellers last year, 80% of people travel within their own region. Nonetheless, people, it seems, are travelling.

The families I speak with, however, are going to spend this year around home and they are wondering what to do. So, what would you do to make it feel more like a holiday – what will I do, since this is my problem RIGHT NOW?

What a family gets from being on holiday together is increased understanding of each other and closer relationships. To do this, the family members must do something different and then they can observe how that different activity affects each member of the family. For example, who really thought James would enjoy hiking so much when he won’t even eat outside at home? Are you sure you want to try sushi? Are we even allowed to have a fire in the backyard? (By the way, the answer could be “no” to this question, so check to be sure.)

In addition to trying something different, another rule is: NO Working while on vacation! NO, you shouldn’t send that report to your office or check your email. Not working is generally fairly easy although, true story, it’s the second day of my vacation and I have written a work-related letter. But let’s give your family a harder task. Often the work for some members of a family is work like cooking or cleaning – think of ways that this DOES NOT happen on THEIR vacation.

Another good plan is to rest a lot. Sleep in, do nothing, get bored. If you’re not having fun, stop. If your family thinks they’ve always wanted to try fishing, but when they do, it’s excruciating, then stop. The beauty of a vacation at home is that you can just go home.

These, then, are the three themes I am using when I talk to families about their summer vacations:

  1. Try something different.
  2. NO work.
  3. Rest a lot.

When I think of my own vacation at home, I think of a play that was popular in the early 1980’s called Balconville. The play was set in Pointe-St-Charles, a working class neighbourhood in Montreal, in the summer of 1978. Written by David Fennario, Balconville was Canada’s first bilingual play, reflecting that French and English Canadians both live in Pointe-St-Charles. The title comes from one neighbour’s answer to another’s question about where they will spend their vacation. That will be my answer to the same question this week.

(This is an image of the small school my mother attended until Grade 9 in Mount St. Patrick, Ontario. On one of the first days of my holiday, we drove out to look at the town and to try to find the farm where she had grown up. The drive helped me to remember summer vacation days spent with her family in other towns nearby.)

2 thoughts on “How to Have a Great Vacation at Home

  1. Deborah McMullen says:

    I grew up in Point St. Charles in Montreal, and if it weren’t for the fact that my grandparents rented a cottage in Rawdon every summer, my summer vacation would have been totally in Balconville!

    1. drgailbeck says:

      My family lived for one year in Rawdon, in a house in the woods. It was beautiful.

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