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You know the scene in Castaway where an increasingly insane and unkempt Tom Hanks marks off the days he's been stranded at sea, watching the number slowly tick up?
Today, we can oddly relate. After a full two months in quarantine, our family is starting to feel a little marooned and isolated ourselves. I'm personally not sure which I'm jonesing for more - a root touch-up or a beach vacation. But with the stay-at-home rules only just starting to be loosened in some places, we have a feeling it might be a little bit before we're sipping pina coladas in a cabana by the pool.
So, until that glorious day comes, we're making the most of our time at home and doing our best to "get away" on some good old-fashioned staycation activities while sheltering in place with our kids.
I'm not a camper. Bugs and wildlife and public bathrooms that look like scenes from horror films have never been my jam. Add a toddler in the middle of potty training to the mix and you've pretty much got my worst nightmare.
But pitching a tent in your own backyard is the perfect happy medium - all the novelty of a new experience with all the amenities of home. What's not to love about that?
Pick a night when the weather's going to be decent (nothing ruins a camp out like a torrential downpour), find yourself a nice tent and some sleeping bags on Amazon, pack a cooler with camping fare classics - hot dogs, Jiffy Pop, all the fixins for s'mores which you can cook over the grill - and spend some time in the great outdoors. Bring along card games to play, tell scary stories, or try to find the different constellations.
You'll be amazed what a little adventure and change of scenery can do for everyone's spirits. And if at the end of the night everyone winds up back inside in their own beds, we won't judge.
If you're like my family and don't have a yard (which we lament on a regular basis these days), try camping inside instead. No tent? No problem. Blanket and pillow forts happen to be the absolute best sleeping accommodations, in our personal opinion.
You can still have all the camping classics, just made over the stove. Missing the crackle of the fire and chirp of the crickets? There's a soundtrack for that! YouTube alone has several atmospheric noise soundtracks to choose from. For added fun, turn out the lights and use flashlights or camping lanterns to create the effect of actually being outside.
Make a fancy dinner
Has anyone else fallen into a COVID induced cooking rut? We're currently cycling through four mainstays on a weekly basis - mac n' cheese, tacos, pizza, and fish sticks. Yes. Fish sticks. When the already dreaded task of going to the grocery store becomes a stressful maze of one-way aisles and dodging people like Frogger in a 1980s arcade game, we'll do anything to simplify the process.
But nothing exacerbates a boring routine quite like having the same thing for dinner every single week. So make some reservations at that super exclusive new restaurant known as your kitchen. Find a recipe that's a little fancier but can easily be adapted to a kid-friendly version for picky eaters. Get everyone involved in the cooking prep. Break out the nice dishes. Dress up. (Or at least wear regular pants that don't have elastic in the waistband.) Play some fun music.
You'll be on your way to a Michelin star in no time.
Do a drive-in movie
When we were kids, there was one drive-in movie theater a few towns away that my parents would take us to once in a blue moon. It was in the middle of a field and despite its rustic amenities, it was oddly no less expensive than the regular movie theater. But we loved going there. We'd throw open the rear door on my mom's suburban and curl up with a giant blanket, bags of red vines, and boxes of Reese's Pieces. The movie could have been absolute garbage and we wouldn't have cared. We just loved the experience.
Nowadays, it's a nostalgic experience you can easily replicate at home. There are several moderately priced "pocket" projectors on Amazon that you can get for less than $100. And let's be honest, it's not any more than a trip to the movie theater costs you for a family of 4. Hook the projector up to your phone, hang a white bed sheet on your garage door, get tons of snacks, rent the latest blockbuster or family friendly classic, and have a drive-in movie at home.
Go somewhere exotic
Have your kids look at a map and pick a destination they want to "travel" to and then use Amazon and your imagination to bring the destination to you.
Want to go to Hawaii? Buy some cheap grace skirts on Amazon or Etsy and YouTube how-to hula dance. Bust out the blender and make virgin pina coladas with tiny beach umbrellas. Have a Hawaiian inspired menu with pineapple and ham pizzas and kid-friendly poke bowls.
Encourage your kids to research the destination and think of creative ways to bring it home. It'll give them something to actively do that has the added benefit of teaching them about another part of the world.
Create a home spa
While I've started to embrace my Castaway look, I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss the pampering and relaxation of a nice afternoon at the spa. There's not much I wouldn't do these days for a fresh manicure and face mask. But until we're able to go to the salon, have spa days at home. Buy some facial masks online or make your own from scratch. Turn on some soothing music and maybe an essential oil diffuser. If you're feeling really fancy, throw some cucumbers in your water.
Then luxuriate, with your kids or without. There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking an evening to yourself to just decompress. Establish a daily wellness routine to take care of yourself and your kids, if they're willing. Few people are feeling the effects of quarantine quite like us moms, so don't forget to take a little time for you. Pour a glass of wine and soak in a nice bath. Do your nails. Enjoy an hour or two free from the homeschooling and the entertaining and the refereeing and the cleaning and the cooking and the million other things. You've definitely earned it.
Few people are feeling the effects of quarantine quite like us moms, so don't forget to take a little time for you.
Being cooped up is starting to get to all of us. But with a little planning and some creativity, you can create fun experiences at home that the whole family can enjoy. Here's some more trip and spa ideas you can try.