July 3, 2008

Staycations: Play Together, Save Money!

(Part four of a five-part series this week)

One of the very best parts of a staycation is that you can gather family, friends, and neighbors together and spread the cost - and work - of some great adventures. Hosting a progressive picnic, having a street dance, even a large-group camping trip can all save money, bring a new dimension to your fun, and build a sense of community that will last long past your stay-at-home vacation time.
Let's look at a few ideas where getting a group together will make a big difference. First, almost any activity that costs can cost less for a group. Say, two or three families - maybe twenty people total -have been talking about trying that new Thai restaurant in town. ASK! Contact the manager and ask about a group rate for a sampling lunch, dinner on their least busy night, or some other money-saving idea they may suggest. Always deal with the person who has the power/authority to make these kinds of decisions.
Same goes for local attractions, concerts, fairs and festivals. ASK! You'd be amazed how eager organizers can be to just get people through the front gate of their event and how willing they can be to steeply discount admissions for a group. This can apply to everything from horseback riding to astonomy programs at the local observatory.
But the best way to save some money this summer is to get together with others for at-home activities. Maybe you plan your own neighborhood field day with three-legged races, balloon tosses, penny pitches, a cake walk and such. Maybe you organize a contra or square dance checking with your local dance group to see if they'd help organize, maybe provide callers, even suggest cheap music sources. How's about a night at the drive-in, a movie shown outdoors in someone's big back yard, complete with popcorn and brown cows (the kind you drink, not the moo-ey ones).
If you plan to do anything substantial outdoors, be sure to invite/let all the neighbors know ahead of time, AND be sure to check in with your town hall, both as a courtesy and to be sure no permits are needed.
When my siblings and I were young, all the kids in the neighborhood put on a play or variety show every summer in a borrowed barn owned by one of the neighbors. I don't really remember much adult oversight, where we got our ideas, how it all worked out with kids of such a wide age range, but I do so remember all the neighbors of every age sitting on the benches in Mr. Flibbert's dusty barn, buying our lemonade, and howling with laughter at whatever we were presenting.
While today's kids may go to theater camp, I can't forget the variety show a totally nuts group of us pulled together a few years ago. One fellow who hadn't played his saxophone since high school - a long time ago - performed pretty darned credibly, one adorable little girl tap-danced, the five high school boys with their garage band were thrilled to have everyone - anyone -actually listen to them, and one of our town's oldest citizens decided to do some magic tricks. Well, every single one of those tricks came undone, fell apart somehow leaving the audience absolutely limp with laughter!
And so, anything that gathers a group, whether old friends or ones-to-be-made, can add a whole new depth to your staycation. Please let me know when the ice cream soical is as I'd love to stop by!
Tomorrow: Now, let's spend some money, a little anyway, on this stay-at-home vacation.

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