Families find vacation-style fun close to home on ‘staycation’
by Jessica Langdon
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — When Betty Ann Battson looks back on this summer, she’ll have a memory full of fantastic adventures with her husband Brian and their four kids.
And one of the best parts? These parishioners of St. Patrick Parish in Kansas City, Kan., never had to leave town for a moment of it.
Betty Ann, Brian, and their kids — 12-year-old Libby, 9-year-old Justin, 4-year-old Faith and 10-month-old Patrick — had more of a “staycation” this year than a vacation.
They are saving up their money and travel plans to visit family in Ohio for the holidays.
Brian works in the hotel industry, so his busiest times hit when most people are on vacation — like during the summer. Plus with four under 13 and Brian settling into a new job, it made sense this year to stick close to home.
High gas prices, a sluggish economy and busy schedules have combined to make other families consider the same.
But that doesn’t mean the fun has to stay tucked away with the unused luggage.
The Battsons have had a blast this summer, and there are still a few weeks of vacation left for families to make every moment count.
“It really comes down to just being creative and doing something outside the norm,” said Betty Ann.
For example, Brian found a newspaper article about the Boulevard Drive-In in Kansas City, Kan., and he and Betty Ann remembered the fun they had watching drive-in movies when they were kids.
Their four youngsters didn’t know where they were going when the family piled into the car; they were thrilled with the surprise.
Now that they’ve made several return trips, they know exactly where they’re heading each time — and still love it!
The kids have also enjoyed several family-friendly movies — at family-friendly prices — at several theaters around town. The kids often got to invite their friends and stop for a quick lunch afterward.
They’ve also enjoyed several different swimming pools, and Betty Ann has particularly loved watching the two older children play with the younger ones in the park.
Vacation at home
With the right combination of planning and imagination, the kids might not even notice they didn’t go anywhere for vacation.
That’s what the Battsons have found during their frequent camping “trips,” which don’t require traveling any farther than the living room.
“The kids get out their sleeping bags and we make popcorn and watch a movie as a family,” Betty Ann said. “The kids love the idea of ‘camping out.’”
And they spend hours on end playing with neighbors across the street.
Every once in a while, Betty Ann will hear one of them shout something like, “Don’t jump in the creek because there are piranhas in there!” — although, of course, there’s no creek in sight.
“They’re in the driveway,” she said. “When you let a kid’s imagination go, who knows what they’re going to come up with?”
The Internet has been their friend as they search for fun, financially feasible things to do as a family — and things that will please everyone from a baby to a 12-year-old.
New and different
Betty Ann loves finding new and different things for the kids to do, whether they’re passing time on long, hot summer days or giving gifts.
On the website www.pinterest.com, she found the idea to paint “We ‘heart’ Daddy” on the kids’ feet for Father’s Day.
“My husband absolutely loved it,” she said. “He’s got it in a frame up at work.”
And thanks to all the fun they’ve had on their summer “staycation,” they’ve added plenty of other family pictures to their collection.
“I think it’s just being open to different ideas and thinking outside the box,” said Betty Ann.
Fun, family and faith
Their church offers some activities they’ve taken advantage of, too. But the highlight this summer was definitely the 50th anniversary celebration of the ordination of their parish pastor, Msgr. Mike Mullen.
Betty Ann loved seeing the kids’ faces light up as they took part in their pastor’s milestone — especially because Msgr. Mullen was the one who celebrated Brian and Betty Ann’s wedding.
They find lots of ways to keep their faith alive when they’re away from church, too.
“I think it’s finding your faith in little things,” said Betty Ann. “We look for faith in movies. We look for faith in other people.”
• Camp out with the family in the living room
• Visit local museums, parks and other tourist destinations in your own town
• Find family movie specials at local theaters
• Take the family to Mass somewhere different — consider visiting the Cathedral of St. Peter in Kansas City, Kan., or another church you’ve never been to
• Don’t be afraid to borrow ideas from others. Betty Ann Battson found a creative project for the kids to surprise their dad on the website at: www.pinterest.com
• Take a day trip somewhere within the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas (it covers 21 counties!) and visit some of the remarkable sites — see the beauty of St. Mary Parish in St. Benedict (in Nemaha County); take a tour of St. Benedict’s Abbey in Atchison; or check out the Shrine of St. Philippine Duchesne at 727 Main in Mound City, and then the park dedicated to her 12 miles northwest of the church on 1525 Road in Linn County.