Activities on a vacation don’t have to cost a lot.  Here are some ideas from our recent vacation to the Oregon coast:

*Shop online for affordable lodging.  Hub used the site VRBO.com (Vacation Rentals by Owner) to find us a house to rent near the beach.  VRBO is the same site we use to rent our Moab condo to vacationers.  Our needs were simple.  We didn’t require a hot tub or a game room.  Balconies and garden paths were luxuries not needed.  We were looking for a place near the beach that could sleep nine people and had a kitchen so that we could cook most of our meals ourselves.  The house we rented fit the bill.  It wasn’t fancy or big, but that didn’t matter.  It cost us under $800.00 to rent it for an entire week.  Run the numbers, you can’t find hotel lodging for nine people for that price.  

*We saved money by using the kitchen of our little beach house.  Had we stayed in a hotel we would have had to eat out for our meals.  By renting a house and visiting the local grocery store, we cut our vacation costs down.  Because the kids were allowed to make requests for meals, they didn’t mind not going out to restaurants.  Breakfasts were cereal, waffles, fruit, and bacon and eggs.  Lunches were usually sandwiches.  Some days we planned “day activities” that required us to pack a picnic lunch.  Dinners were spaghetti, stir-fry, lasagna, grilled cheese sandwiches and soups.  As long as the kids bellies are full, they don’t mind where the meal comes from.

*Take advantage of the location of your lodging.  We purposely chose a house near the beach because our kids love the beach.  We knew we would be spending lots of time there.  The beach was within easy walking distance.  In fact, we could see the beach from the house.  We used the beach for many of our activities.  And it was free!  Explore the area within walking distance of where you are staying.  You never know what you might find.  One afternoon Hoob and I took a walk around our temporary neighborhood and picked up fliers advertising the other vacation homes in the area.  We imagined what it would be like to stay in each house.  We talked about the features we liked most.  It was fun to walk it together.  (And it was gratifying to see that most of the houses were renting for $3,000 – $4,300 per week–Hub really did find us a good deal!)

Our little beach house.

Our little beach house.

*Look for free souvenirs.  We didn’t spend a dime on souvenirs this vacation.  The beach is a great place to find interesting things to bring home.  The kids loaded up on sea shells, pretty rocks, bits of sea weed and sea glass.  If  you are staying near the woods, allow the kids to find pine cones and pretty flowers to press.  Look for pamphlets of the places you visit.  My son gathered pamphlets with great pictures of one of the museums and some of the other sites we visited.  I once read a story in a magazine about a woman who collects the dirt from each of her vacation spots.  She had sand from different beaches, red soil from her jeeping experiences, dark soil from the woods, all stored in little decorative bottles on her fireplace mantel.  There are numerous ideas for free souvenirs.

*Pictures!  Pictures can be some of the greatest souvenirs, and with a digital camera, you can take as many pictures as you want and then delete those that don’t make the cut.  Make sure to get lots of candid shots along with the posed pictures.  Let the kids decide some of the shots and make sure your pictures tell a story.  Take shots of the scenery, the silly people you see, and local sites you aren’t likely to see again.  The kids loved bringing the laptop to Grandma’s house two days after we returned home from our vacation and showing their grandparents and cousins the pictures from our vacation.  Once the vacation is over, the kids can choose some of their favorites to print out  and maybe even frame.  One of the gifts I gave to Hoob for her birthday was a new frame with the picture of her jumping on the beach (see my last post).

Scenery:  A lighthouse we visited.

Scenery: A lighthouse we visited.

*Before the vacation, do some online research to find out what there is to do in the area.  As I researched for our Oregon vacation I learned that the breezes on Oregon beaches make kite flying ideal.  I shopped around for a couple of months before the vacation and found kites for $1.99 for each of us.  We made sure to spend one afternoon flying our kites on the beach.

Putting the kites together.

Putting the kites together.

Four of the kites in the air.

Four of the kites in the air.

*A bonfire and s’mores.  Keeping with our desires to spend a lot of time on the beach, and wanting to do the typical “beachy” things, we built a fire on the beach and made s’mores on our last night in Oregon–an inexpensive activity that all enjoyed.

Yum...s'mores!

Yum...s'mores!

*Use your imagination.  While shopping for kites I found canisters of glow-in-the-dark bracelets (15 ct.) for $1.00.  I bought two canisters and we used the bracelets to play glow-in-the-dark-tag on the beach one night.  It was fun to see the different, creative ways the kids affixed the bracelets to their bodies before starting the game.  And then we all laughed at how funny it looked to see the “glowies” bouncing around and racing all over the beach.  This game isn’t limited to the beach.  It could be played in a field, an empty parking lot, or even a large backyard.
Getting ready for glow-in-the-dark-tag.

Getting ready for glow-in-the-dark-tag.

*Find the free places.  Nearby where we were staying there was an overlook with a display all about whales.  It had big windows with views of the ocean and binoculars we could use to look for whales.  It was free.  In the same town there was a science center that had displays about marine life and tide-pool tables at which the kids could touch various marine animals.  This was also free.  We visited both places and the kids not only had a good time, they learned a few things as well.
*Hang on to traditions.  It has become a tradition for me and the girls to paint our fingernails in the same shade before we all go on vacation together.  It creates bonding.  This year things were so crazy before we left (Huh’s graduation, filling a vinyl lettering order, packing) that we didn’t get around to painting our nails before we left.  I packed the fingernail polish–shades of green and blue this year to represent Oregon–and let the girls know that I had brought the polish.  On one rainy afternoon we stayed indoors and painted our fingernails and toenails and watched episodes of “House” (a cable station was showing multiple episodes of the show).  The boys joined us in the t.v. watching but not the nail painting.  🙂  It was a nice, quiet activity on a gloomy day that didn’t cost much.  I think the nail polish cost me $3.50 for three bottles.  And, we kept our tradition alive.
Lovely nail painting job.

Lovely nail painting job.

**I included the above picture to show the shade of green I chose for my toenails.  But, the REAL reason the picture was taken was to show my wet pant leg after I’d gotten caught in a wave while tide-pooling.  The entire family was trying to reach an outcropping of rocks and we were timing the waves.  Both Hoob and I got caught in one.  I got one leg wet, she got both of hers wet.  We were the only two that got caught by the wave.
 
Many of the ideas presented in this post can be adapted for “Staycations” or even “Family Nights.”  The point to any activity with your family, whether it be a vacation or a night at home, is to relax and make the most of it.
Enjoy!
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