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Staycations: Taking Leave and Going Nowhere

As the last few weeks of summer prepare to fly by, perhaps, like us, you’re looking for one more summer hurrah. One more relaxing long weekend with the family before the chaos that is back-to-school, organized sports and parent-teacher conferences hits.

Or, as deployment orders come down, maybe you feel the need to gather your family together and make some memories as you start taking inventory of the holidays, moments and milestones you’ll spend apart over the next year.

For most of us, an extra vacation is just not in the budget. Hotel stays, rental cars and days of eating out take a toll on the wallet, and as a family, we usually only splurge once a year on a big trip.

However, that doesn’t mean we can’t make the most of those leave days right here at home.

5 Great Staycation Ideas

Camp in sight of the kitchen window. Are you a family of outdoorsmen? Instead of spending time and money to rent an RV and drive to a designated camping location, look no further than your backyard. Camp under the stars, and next to the swing set for a few nights. Roast marshmallows on the grill, let the kids run through the sprinkler at 10 p.m., and take turns telling scary stories.

Movie marathons. Who needs a movie night, when you can have a movie marathon week? Make a plan to binge all eight ‘Harry Potter’ films, or the ‘Lord of the Ring’ series. Or go with a theme, such as having everyone pick their favorite baseball (‘Sandlot’, obviously), or underdog film (‘Cool Runnings’). Take a quick trip to the store for everyone to stock up on their favorite snacks, and snuggle in for some quality family time.

International cook-off competition. Vacations, at least for me, are all about the food. I love seeing the sights and being a tourist, but finding the best, most authentic food for the area we’re exploring is always a treat. For your staycation, pick a culture you’re interested in and commit to finding recipes that honor that culture. Nothing brings a family together like amazing smells coming from the kitchen.

Video game education. We have all become so accustomed to playing mini games on our smartphones or complex games with realistic graphics on the latest gaming system, that we completely overlook the simplicity of the originals. Spend the weekend playing old school video games like Super Mario Bros., Sonic the Hedgehog, Crash Bandicoot and Pac Man. While playing a video game that looks like you’re watching a real NFL game is one perk of living in 2016, Mario and Luigi will always, always be king.

Epic battles. Get into the competitive spirit, and see who is the best at Monopoly, Clue and Life. Grab a deck of cards and play Old Maid, Kings Corners and War. Boys against girls, parents against kids, summer birthdays against winter birthdays. Keep score, indulge in some good-natured ribbing. Not every game requires an HD screen and awesome graphics.

These are the moments that your kids will look back on and say, “Remember that time I beat you and mom so hard at Monopoly?!” or “Remember when we read the recipe wrong and put 12 tablespoons of salt in the homemade cookies instead of one and a half?”

In the military, you make the most out of the time you have together by spending it with the people you love, even if that means taking a week off to camp next to your bedroom window with the family.

Take leave. Go nowhere. Make memories that will last forever.

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