How to Survive School Vacation Week Without Breaking the Bank

This post written by Sarah Fernandez. Photo Credit: Alex Cao/Getty Images

It's school vacation week for my kids and thousands and thousands of kids elsewhere too. This would be great if we were going somewhere, but that isn't even anywhere close to being in the realm of possibility, er, I mean budget, and not much else is either. So what am I going to do for five days (two of which have rain in the forecast) to keep my kids busy, get my work done (no vacation for me), and maintain my sanity without spending a fortune?

Our February break started off ok as we went to visit my parents for two days, but as soon as we got home things went downhill fast, really fast. My four year old really likes to know what we're going to do after his sister wakes up from her nap, after dinner, tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, and what about the next day? He is like that every day, not just on school vacation days, but at least I can say he's going to school when I don't have another answer. I had no plan in February, and I spent a lot of time answering questions and sometimes getting aggravated about doing so. I realized last Friday that I was about to enter that zone again, and again I had no real plan.

So first step, make a plan. Just having one thing a day to do is good enough, but there is nothing worse than not having a plan. But what do you do when your budget is nil? Driving an hour to the aquarium in the big city is out of the question. Trips to the toy store to pick out something new to keep them entertained are too, and honestly those are pretty short lived anyway.

Luckily, I have started to get pretty good at this, and now what started out as an overwhelming sense of dread has turned into me looking forward to this vacation week too. First, we are going to take advantage of the fact that all of our friends that aren't on the same school schedule as us are off this week too, and we can finally play together! That's great for both me and the kids because we both get to see our friends so we'll try to have at least one play date each day whether it is with one friend or a whole a bunch of them.

We are lucky to live in a place where there are great beaches (although it's not warm), nature trails, and interesting architecture that makes going for walks fun so we will spend at least a portion of one day going on an "adventure". Whether you live in the country, the city or anywhere in between, there are always places to enjoy nature and create a "game" of it with a scavenger hunt or anything else that will keep your kids motivated and on the move.

A trip to the local animal shelter to visit will put them over the moon as my two year old loves woof-woofs and kitties, and my son looks at each of them and says, "awww." We also have a petting zoo nearby and the kids can feed the animals for only 25-cents per cup. If those aren't options, head to your local pond to feed the ducks, and maybe take your own picnic. Eating lunch out of the house is always more fun even if it's the same food.

My four year old loves to do jobs, and while my two year makes getting any jobs done around the house impossible, while she's napping, I plan on getting some projects done with my son's help. Even if he decides he doesn't wasn't to help in the end, it usually is enough to get him to pull out his "tools" and play Handy Manny which means he's entertained for a bit.

Lastly, I'm in luck with the Easter holiday coming up this weekend. A friend planted a seed in my ear to organize an egg hunt so being that planning events is what I like to do, I've added organize an egg hunt for our friends to our list of things to do. While it would be fun to do next weekend, I think doing it when all of us moms are looking to entertain the kids late in the week makes more sense, and it gives the kids something to look forward to all week. The cost is nothing more than some plastic eggs and candy to put inside. Each kid can bring their own Easter basket for collecting their prizes. And again, my four year old will love helping me fill all the eggs to prep them for hiding. I will also create jobs for him to do to help me do some advanced preparations for Easter dinner. We can set the table, cut flowers, make the baked goods, he can color place cards for each of our guests, and I'm sure I can find some other Easter crafts for him to do.

It looks like I may actually need a vacation after this vacation. It's gone from rather dull to splendidly busy with just a little planning. Of course, I'll still be very much looking forward to Saturday when daddy doesn't have to work and can give me some reprieve!

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