What to do on your staycation

August 1, 2013

By Sheryl Smolkin


I am convinced that there are two kinds of people in this world. The first group includes workaholics who never use up all of their paid vacation days. The second group carefully plans how each vacation day will be used and yearns for more.

This dichotomy was recently illustrated in the results of the 2013 Vacation Deprivation Survey which revealed that employed Canadians forfeit an average of two days of vacation per year which could be used to relax or travel. This amounts to 32 million untaken days and $5.1 billion in wages handed back to employers.

Yet many Canadians show a strong desire to take time off, with one in five employed Canadians saying they would take a lower salary for more vacation time (22 per cent). Also, “an extra vacation day” tops the list of perks employees would like to receive as a reward for company loyalty.

In many organizations vacation days cannot be carried over to the next year, so it’s “use it or lose it.” But even if you can’t afford to take expensive trips to exotic locations, there are plenty of good options for taking a staycation close to home.

Wikipedia describes a staycation as “a period in which you or your family stays home and participates in leisure activities within driving distance, sleeping in your own beds at night.” You might make day trips to local tourist sites, swimming venues or engage in activities such as horseback riding, paintball or visiting museums.

The benefits of staycations are that they are far less costly than a vacation involving travel. There are no lodging costs and travel expenses are minimal. However, to make it feel like a vacation, budget for local trips, one or two meals out and tickets to local attractions.

Since 2011 the Government of Saskatchewan has funded the “Saskatchewanderer” project. One creative, energetic and motivated student has been hired each summer to discover everything that makes Saskatchewan great. Their job was to visit, video and blog about special events, little known gems and remote locations in the province.

You can learn from their experience. Andrew’s 2011 Adventure, Jeff’s 2012 Adventure and Caitlin’s 2013 Adventure include lots of terrific ideas about things to do on your staycation regardless of what part of the province you live in. Also check out the The Saskatchewanderer on Facebook.

Already this summer, a few of the places and events Caitlin has visited include Regina’s 46th Annual Mosaic: A Festival of Cultures; the PotashCorp Children’s Festival in Saskatoon; Grasslands National Park; and Hudson Bay, SK.

In contrast, Jonathan Chevreau, the editor of Moneysense and author of Findependence Day has a different take on staycations. In a blog posted on June 17th, he says one type of staycation is where you continue to work, but on your own projects rather than for your employer. You can also tackle various chores or home improvement projects.

If you still have a day job but have reached the point where you have several weeks of paid vacation a year, Chevreau says you may find a working staycation is an excellent trial run for retirement. He wrote the first edition of Findependence Day in the summer of 2008 during paid vacation weeks from his newspaper staff columnist job.

Whether you decide to travel on your vacation or spend the time working on pet projects closer to home, don’t forfeit paid vacation days. In years to come, no one will have fond memories of the extra time you put in at the office. But your children and your grandchildren will remember your quality time together, even if you went no further than the pup tent pitched in the front yard.

Do you have tips for people planning staycations? Share your tips with us at and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card. And remember to put a dollar in the retirement savings jar every time you use one of our money-saving ideas.

If you would like to send us other money saving ideas, here are the themes for the next three weeks:

8-Aug Garage sales How to make money on your garage sale
15-Aug Back to school Back to school shopping: A teachable moment
22-Aug College/University Stay at home or go away to school?

Summer activities for kids on a budget

June 27, 2013

By Sheryl Smolkin


Planning economical summer activities for children can be a challenge, particularly for working parents. Daycares typically close for a week or two during the summer months.

Community classes and summer camps fill up fast and private programs can be very costly.

Parents often cobble together a series of informal solutions including calling on grandparents, hiring responsible older teenagers and taking accrued vacation together or separately during the summer months.

But whoever is taking care of the kids, without the structure imposed by the school year, it doesn’t take long before boredom sets in. Here are some ideas for cheap things you or your children’s caregivers can do to take advantage of the beautiful weather and create special memories.

  1.  Staycation: Regardless of where you live, there are many places you may never have visited or have not visited recently. Zoos, science centres, museums, art galleries and historical sites can all make great family outings. Coupon books often sold by charitable groups may offer discounts, particularly if you visit during the week instead of on weekends.
  2. Fitness challenge: Challenge yourself and your children to be active every day. Chart your progress on a blackboard or a calendar posted on the fridge. Give small treats or outings as a reward for meeting milestones. Even if both parents work during the day, long bright evenings mean more time to walk, swim and bike.
  3. Local library: Your community library is a treasure trove of books, DVDs and even toys that can be borrowed. Children’s programs include story time, puppet shows and movies. There may also be special programs with children’s authors and illustrators.
  4. Parks tour: Public parks in your city or town often have different resources and equipment. Find out where the best wading pools, splash pads and climbing equipment are. Plan outings to different parks and conservation areas, and pack a lunch to take with you.
  5. Public transit: If the family car is your primary means of transportation, take a day trip using another mode of transportation like bus, train or even a ferry. Kids will enjoy learning about public transportation, planning the route and seeing new sites along the way.
  6. Pajama party: If the weather report calls for rain, have an all day pajama party. Stay in pjs all day, make breakfast food like pancakes for lunch and watch classic children’s movies available from Netflix or the library.
  7. Water play: Beaches and pools beckon in sizzling weather. If neither are available, then improvise. Turn on the sprinklers and let your children have fun while you water the lawn. You can also pick up a few plastic water guns so kids can soak each other in the backyard.
  8. Local produce: The fruit and vegetables grown and picked locally are entirely different from the pallid tomatoes and tasteless berries available off season in supermarkets. A visit to a farm where you can pick your own produce will educate your children about where their food comes from and how it should really taste.
  9. Board games: Remember playing Monopoly, Scrabble and Clue? Turn off the TV, unplug the computer and introduce your children to a family games night. Board games are enjoying a renaissance even among adults because instead of staring at a screen, the eyes of board gamers are on each other.
  10. Backyard camping: If you can’t get away, set up a campsite in the back yard. A tent, a flashlight and a sleeping bag can be fun for kids even if their own room is only a few steps away. And marshmallows taste just as good when they are made over the barbecue as when they are cooked over an open campfire.

Do you have ideas about cheap summer activities for you and your children? Send an email to so*********@sa*********.com and share your ideas with us. If your story is posted, your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card. And remember to put a dollar in the retirement savings jar every time you use one of our money-saving ideas.

If you would like to send us other money saving ideas, here are the themes for the next three weeks:

4-Jul Summer vacation Visit Canada. Take a road trip.
11-Jul Travel insurance What you need to know about travel insurance
18-Jul Buying a home Mortgage insurance vs life insurance