By: Chandrea Serebro
Whether you’re staying at home or vacationing on a budget, here are some great ideas to make your time off more enjoyable
Travel is overrated. Yeah, right. Anyone who believes that is fooling themselves. This year, the costs of travel and leisure are at an all-time high. For many, going away is just not an option. But that doesn’t mean you have to stay at home lamenting the passing of your once-a-year break. It just might be possible to fool yourself into the best trip yet. And best of all? It is all but free.
The ultimate stay-cation
This doesn’t mean staying at home spring cleaning your cupboards. Budget for each day, research the local attractions, free concerts, discount times and days (like Sunday night bowling), and upcoming events and plan your itinerary accordingly. Rather than daily outings which can add up quickly, convince the family to do one “big” outing per week, with “big” being relative to what you can afford. Try some picnic dinners in safe parks (eg. Mushroom Park). Pretend that you’re a visiting tourist and be prepared to discover a world of adventure in your own backyard. And be sure to take photos of whatever you do so that it’ll feel like a real vacation.
Nothing beats a good ol’ braai. Invite some friends (I’m sure there will plenty who didn’t go on that dream vacation, either), play some good tunes, open your favourite packet of chips, and watch the beautiful sunset while your meat sizzles on the braai. Closer to perfection will be hard to get. And to make it feel more like a vacation, set up a tent and campout in your garden! The kids will love it.
Step out of the comfort zone of your trusty wheels and climb on board your local bus, and find out what your city looks like from a real tourist’s eyes. You’ll be amazed at the things you drive past every day to work, the historical value in your city, or the story that lies behind the brick walls and tarred roads. Most cities offer a hop-on hop-off bus service, and don’t be scared to explore well-trodden territory. You know what they say about new eyes.
We live in deepest, darkest Africa, and it’s high time you remember just how much we have got going for ourselves. Sure, the plains of the Serengeti are astonishing, but it is totally possible that you can see a sighting of equal wonder at any one of SA’s National and even smaller, private parks, many of them just a couple of kilometres out of the city and open for day visitors for a nominal fee. Get out there and rediscover the big five, or even just the multitude of birdlife we have here in abundance. Take your guidebook (or download an app) and your binoculars and you’ll feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere. What’s more, if you’re feeling active take a walking trail, or if you’re more adventurous go on horseback. It will be exhilarating.
Lazy summer days on the beach are a sure-fire way to ease the stress of a tough year, but if it’s not in the budget that doesn’t mean to say you can’t still find a way to relax. While we might not be Central Park or Hyde Park, we do have a few rolling greens of our own, and parking out on a picnic blanket with friends and a soccer ball, bikes for the kids, and some breadcrumbs for the birds is a great outing. Find out who else will be staying home this December and join forces – doing things in a group is always more exciting.
Forget Paris – go to Ghana
If travel abroad is still on the cards, albeit a bit tighter than usual, think about finding a destination where the exchange rate is friendly and there are still some sites to be seen. Sounds impossible, but there are still some fabulous closer-to-home or further flung adventures to be had where a coke won’t cost you an arm and a leg.
Don’t go to Clifton, try Coffee Bay
Sure, there is a reason why attractions are attractive. Those azure waters and powdery sand are part of the reason the hordes flock there. But for a fraction of the cost you can find equally impressive, untouched beauty and adventure if you just look further afield. Take a break from the Joneses and find yourself a secluded spot to make your own.
Just a break in your old routine and a new environment will do wonders for the tedium of the year, and you may even be able to earn some money doing it. House-sitting while someone is away is a great way to discover new horizons. A new bed, a new pool, and even a new, fluffy friend to look after for a few weeks can be as good as a holiday. Think of it like a being at a B&B.
Boating, hiking, ziplining, and even bungee jumping are just some of the relatively low cost adventures you can have in your own city, all of which will give you an adrenaline rush to rival that of the best adventure holidays.
The world’s greatest
Truth be told, anywhere, and indeed everywhere you are, you are surrounded by the world’s greatest attractions. Hashem created a wondrous world for us to enjoy, so stop for a moment and savour it. Smell that jasmine as you pass it by, listen to that lourie cry out, taste a world of flavour in your home-cooked meal, and really look at the wind as it rustles in the trees. An hour of this type of mindful living will make you feel like you’ve stepped out for a week. While you’re at it, get some recipes from places that you wish you could visit and try cooking up some new dishes at home!
Time it right
Go off-peak. When Barbie is back from her holiday moaning about all the traffic in Camps Bay, you can be sipping cocktails for a quarter of the price and have the place all to yourself. If your work will allow it, going off-peak can be even more relaxing and cost-effective than beating the Cohens to that last parking bay within a kilometre radius from the beach ever could be.
Sharing is caring
Go on a trip with another family, and share the expenses by renting a small bus and staying in a large house together. Don’t worry, you won’t have to sing campfire songs together every night, but you’ll get a nice group vibe going and share the cost, making memories and friends that will last a lifetime.
Earn your miles and spend ‘em flying
Frequent flyer miles and other loyalty schemes are a great way to pay for your trips and, these days, your hotel, meal, and attractions as well. Make sure your spending is linked to a loyalty scheme that will reward you properly, and save up for that end of the year trip. It will feel free when you use points to pay.
During the festive season, there is so much going on in all corners of the town for the kids, and for adults too, that you will be able to find plenty to keep you busy. Shows, character appearances, demonstrations, and exhibitions are all on offer around this time, so keep abreast of what is happening in your local city guide and don’t miss out.