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How Family Vacations Will Change in 2020: A Few Ideas for Salvaging the Tradition in a Trying Year

Marcy is a school counselor at an alternative school in Illinois and a part-time bartender who loves writing in her spare time.

Salvaging 2020 With Some Kind Of Family Vacation

The family vacation is a tradition for many families. Moms and dads and kids alike look forward to the carefree summer months when they can embark on the annual bonding session. With all of the chaos happening in the world today due to COVID-19, family vacations are taking a backseat in terms of priorities. Some people's lives have been so devastated they are trying to pay necessary bills and have the bare essentials. They are not looking to spend extra money on a vacation.

These financial hardships are real for some families, and my heart goes out to them. Yet, this hard-luck might be just the reason to salvage a little normalcy and to try and have a family vacation, even if it's not traditional. For these families, I offer a few suggestions.

Kids love to explore the outdoors.

Kids love to explore the outdoors.

Camping is Social Distancing in the Woods

Many families know camping is tons of fun and do it regularly with or without social distancing restrictions. People who have not tapped into the camping secret might want to this year. The way I look at it, camping is just social distancing in the woods. Some might argue that camping is expensive if you have to buy all the essentials. However, I would argue vacations, in general, are expensive. That stay at the Holiday Inn Express for a family of four is going to cost you somewhere around $130 a night. How much is a tent, or two and the campground fees? Comparable? I think so. And if you are one of the lucky ones who have a camper, you are practically ready. Pack up some essentials for a few days, and see what Mother Nature has to offer.

Camping is not just having a tent and a place to pitch it, I know. Still, it is a refreshing option to traditional vacations. True, camping might not be for everyone. But I would say, it could be a top pick for anyone who wants or needs a family get-a-way this summer.

The popularity of camping this year can be seen in RV and camper sales across the country. Now that summer is here, this spike in interest has some campgrounds turning people away. Be sure to call ahead and book a reservation. The link below is a website that lists hundreds of US campgrounds and has updated availability. You simply type in the city and state where you want to camp, and it will give you campgrounds, their fees, and their availability.

Search for US Campgrounds

Going out on the river. By the way, I lost those sunglasses in the water that day.

Going out on the river. By the way, I lost those sunglasses in the water that day.

Kayaking, Trails, and Parks

I live in the Mid-west. In my neck of the woods, there are ample places to walk trails and get on the rivers and lakes. Kayaking and paddleboarding are two popular water activities that don't take a lot of equipment or skill. As with camper sales, kayaks are hard to come by in stores and online these days. Scout around your area for lakes and that rent kayaks and paddleboards. Make a day of it with a picnic and a hike. Or maybe plan to camp as well.

There are also some state parks with river access that have tubes and kayaks to rent. Take the family out for a "lazy river" float on an actual river. They will love it. The rivers are not usually very deep, and the kids can collect rocks and shells on the banks, and get acquainted with small creatures like frogs and minnows in the shallow water. Be sure to pack sunscreen and bug repellant to ensure a happy day.

Be sure to call ahead for reservations. Some camping sites and river excursions might be booked entirely or running at partial capacity.

The Unplanned Road Trip

Have you ever just gotten in the car and headed out into the unknown? 2020 might be the year of the Ultimate Road Trip. If this idea sounds appealing, do a little research in the area you plan to travel. You should be able to find roadside attractions to view. Kids love different activities. They don't have to be sophisticated and high-tech. And on the technology note, to get maximum satisfaction out of the random road-trip, limit the earphones and devices for at least part of the trip. Maybe create a game to play along the way like a scavenger hunt you can do while looking out the windows. Children usually find these straightforward activities fun, and they are far more engaging than everyone glued to a device.

Make sure to pack a stocked cooler with drinks, snacks, and other food or plan on stopping at convenience stores for snacks. Your passengers will be more open to trying new things with their bellies full. Find a beautiful spot to pull over and enjoy a roadside picnic along your journey. Children love eating outdoors, and they will think it's great even if it's not a big expensive vacation. Also, be sure to pack sunscreen and bug repellent, or your enjoyable day might end up being a flop.

Even if it is just a day-trip, getting out and enjoying unfamiliar sights could be the change of pace your family needs after being cooped up for so long. If you want to make the fun last a little longer, consider staying at a hotel with a pool for the kids to burn off a little energy. Food delivery options will be available as well as drive thru's. Sure, you might not get to explore traditional tourist attractions, but if you keep your scope narrowed and plan a little, the random road trip can be a ton of fun.

The Stay-cation

Well, most people are probably thinking, The last 2 months have been a Stay-cation. I'm ready to get out. But, let's face it. Finances will prevent some families from enjoying a family vacation this year. Maybe what some families need is a Stay-cation with some time together and some time apart.

There are tons 'back to basics' activities the whole family can enjoy in the back yard, and they don't cost much cash. For example, yard games are a popular activity for the whole family. Whether it's one of those giant Jenga games, corn hole, or just good ole' whiffle ball, the whole family will have fun. If going somewhere is not an option, you might as well make the most of it.

Additionally, once everyone gets back to work, getting vacation time might be difficult. If you can't go anywhere, and you need more of a getaway than games in the backyard, maybe this is the year you get that family pool, a boat, or one of those big outdoor projectors to watch movies under the stars. Or, perhaps you tackle a family project like building a treehouse or giant swing set for the kids. The adults need some stay-cation time and space, too. This could be the year you upgrade your outdoor space with a fire feature and outdoor bar. My sister-in-law and her husband built an impressive ninja warrior course in their backyard, and everyone in the family loves it. The point is that part of the fun is imagining the project and then building it. Then you get to enjoy it afterward, too.

Stay-cation idea: We are going to upgrade the fire pit this year and enjoy several nights on the patio.

Stay-cation idea: We are going to upgrade the fire pit this year and enjoy several nights on the patio.

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Nontraditional Vacations Can Offer More Than We Think

Sure, if you go on that vacation you planned this year, it will be riddled with restrictions. However, you might as well make the most of it. It will still be a change of pace and quality time spent with family. Likewise, if a vacation is not in your sights, you do not have to let that ruin your traditional family time. The vacation ideas and alternatives offered here are just a few of the many activities families can do to salvage their vacation this year. Some creativity and a positive attitude will make your 2020 family vacation one to remember. The important thing is you are together, and you are having fun. This year, a non-traditional vacation might teach you and your family lessons you didn't know you needed.

© 2020 Marcy Bialeschki


Marcy Bialeschki (author) from Cerro Gordo, IL on April 27, 2020:

Thanks for the comment, Abril. Best, to you as well.

Abril Williams from Mendoza, Argentina on April 27, 2020:

All of them great options to connect with family and nature.

We must seek new ways to enjoy in 2020!


Marcy Bialeschki (author) from Cerro Gordo, IL on April 26, 2020:

I went tubing at Turkey Run last year with some girlfriends. We had a blast. You will love it! I say this is the year you kick that bucket list item!!

Jason Navratil on April 26, 2020:

Kayaking and camping are the best summer getaways.. for the weekend or extended stays. Starved Rock is gorgeous but feels like becoming overrun and more commercial. Never been to Turkey Run (bucket list). Great stuff as always!

Marcy Bialeschki (author) from Cerro Gordo, IL on April 26, 2020:

I know several families who plan to do more camping and outdoor activities. I wish I had more access to the beach, but I live in land-locked Illinois, USA. We have beautiful lakes and rivers galore!

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on April 26, 2020:

Interesting! Altogether, families may spend more time outdoors so they could enjoy more space. As for me, I like the beach but not enough to measure distances in the water,

Marcy Bialeschki (author) from Cerro Gordo, IL on April 24, 2020:

I think families will find ways to get creative. Thanks for the comment, Liz.

Liz Westwood from UK on April 24, 2020:

I have read your article with interest. Just recently I was saying that friends who have small RVs are in a good place to take vacations post lockdown, as they can drive somewhere, be self contained and practice social distancing.

Marcy Bialeschki (author) from Cerro Gordo, IL on April 23, 2020:

Great! I was inspired by the fact that our planned vacation will probably be canceled, so I'm going to need an alternate.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on April 23, 2020:

Great stuff here. Right on! I am cogitating a day trip as I write.Thanks.

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