Friday, August 1, 2003

Get away from it all - without the getaway

Not able to take a family trip this summer? With a little bit of preparation, you can have a vacation in your own back yard

By Doreen Nagle
Gannett News Service

Families deserve a weekend at the shore or cool days in the mountains. No time or money for a vacation? You can fake it without even leaving home. Here's how:

• Beach it at home. Even if you don't have a pool, you can still create a weekend at the "shore."

What you'll need: Go to your local discount store and grab an inflatable wading pool and one of those flat slides you can wet down and slip around on your tummy. Other fun summer toys include water T-ball, foam balls and bats. Check out the plethora of characters you can attach to your hose and sprinkle the kids with. Let the kids loose in the dollar store. Let each child choose two items to play with. Don't forget the sun block.

What you'll do: Set up your purchases and let everyone loose. For added ambience, pop in a CD of ocean or lake-lapping sounds.

If you don't have a yard, patio or deck, cover the kitchen or other washable-surface floor with plastic tarps and follow the above directions for a good time indoors. (Make certain the structure can support the extra weight of a pool and water.)

• Armchair travel. See the world, from the comfort of your own home.

What you'll need: Rent or buy videos of places your family would like to travel to. The library is bound to have a good selection: Check out the National Geographic series. Intersperse your travel videos with "learn-to" videos such as learn to Jet Ski, sail or dive. Put plenty of popcorn on the shopping list.

What you'll do: Gather the family and make sure each member has a video of a destination they like. After viewing several, choose one location and prepare a meal from there. Give your regular chef a night off and order out from a favorite restaurant.

Dress in the mood: Remember, when in Rome... Later, look up more info about the destination online. Learn at least two words in the language of your family's favorite dream vacation.

• Book an at-home campsite. You always can find an available site in your back yard, living room or family room.

What you'll need: Tent, sleeping bags, pads, pillows, flashlights, camp stove, barbecue or backyard fire pit. Buy fixings for s'mores: marshmallows, chocolate bars and graham crackers.

What you'll do: Set up your tent outside if possible so you get the full flavor of sleeping under the stars. Have a cookout on the grill and then finish up with s'mores. Get into your sleeping bags early and tell each other jokes, stories or intimate thoughts by flashlight. Camp rules say no loud noises past 10 p.m. ... Oh, don't forget to shut off the sprinklers if they are set for the morning.

• Going-nowhere-and-happy-about-it weekend. Sometimes a lazy, unplanned weekend on the home front can be the best time with the family.

What you'll need: Whatever you want - books, toys, music, DVDs, food.

To make it special, you might want to let each family member buy a new pair of pajamas to lounge about in.

What you'll do: Stay in your jammies all day. Eat dessert for breakfast. Have a family board game marathon. Treat yourselves to a housekeeper when the stay-at-home getaway is over.

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