Family, Kids & Relationships

Think you need a parentcation? Here’s how to get one on the cheap without leaving town.

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Parental burnout is a very real danger, and can have lasting physical and psychological consequences for the whole family. Moms, in particular, still do the lion’s share of the caregiving and housework, and many of them do it while holding down jobs, juggling social and extracurricular schedules, managing their own or children’s illnesses, and handling a thousand other responsibilities. Even two years into the pandemic, the difficulty of handling childcare responsibilities hasn’t improved a whole lot.

Every hard working parent deserves a momcation, dadcation, or parentcation. But the reality is that for many American moms and dads, it simply isn’t feasible. Taking a few days off from paying work is often an unrealistic dream.

Even if they found the time, many parents already struggle just to finance an occasional family vacation — especially during a time of economic distress — let alone find the means to pay for another one for just themselves. And then there’s childcare; in a world where an unexpected cold or Covid-19 exposure can throw a wrench into any childcare plan or event, it can be difficult for some to make any major plans.

Does that mean every parent needs to give up the notion that self-care is important? Absolutely not. There are simple ways to carve time for yourself that don’t require a plane ticket or a passport, or even missing a day of work. Here’s a peek at a few simple ways to enjoy a parentcation without leaving town — and without breaking the bank.

Go to the library. Public libraries aren’t just for picking up a bunch of board books — they’re also a great place to spend a solo hour or two recharging your battery. They’re quiet and rarely crowded, the perfect spot to escape for some reading and journaling. Some may have tables or benches outdoors where you can access WiFi while enjoying the fresh air.

Make a regular lunch or coffee date. Make a date with a friend or two and put it on your calendar. If meeting up weekly sounds nearly impossible, start with monthly or even bi-monthly visits. The point is to connect without kids at a place that isn’t either of your homes for as much time as possible. If that’s just a latte and a stroll around the block, it’s a start! Use some of the time to brainstorm all the ways you can extend your mini outing into an entire meal or a day trip, and motivate each other to make it happen.

Check into a hotel or house sit…for the day. You’ve heard of staycations, right? Now imagine a daycation. Many resorts today have day passes that cost a fraction of what it does to spend the night. Look for those in your town or within driving distance for an easy day trip. If that’s not realistic, ask if you can use a friend’s (quiet, empty) house or outdoor space for the day!

Take a long walk, hike, or bike ride. Wouldn’t it be nice to explore your local trails without worrying about anyone but yourself? An increasing amount of research shows that spending time in nature reduces feelings of stress and anxiety and even reduces negative thoughts. If you can’t get to a park, try a leisurely city stroll, complete with window shopping and people watching, maybe taking the opportunity to explore a part of your city you don’t usually get to visit. Imagine being able to tap into that relaxation a couple of times each month.

Pretend you have a “She Shed” or Man Cave. Rooms or structures set aside for adults to escape the hustle and bustle of their households became extremely popular in recent years. But not everyone has the ability to build a separate unit, reconfigure their garage, or otherwise claim an unused room in their home. 

A corner? Now that may be easier to do! Try setting aside a spot in your home far from where your kids — or anyone else — normally hang out. Place a comfy chair or floor pillows, a yoga mat, a stack of books, or a simple blanket and pillow, and decorate the immediate area as you wish. Explain to your family members what you’re doing, and share your rules for when and if you can be interrupted.

Snag a daily deal. Sites like Groupon, LivingSocial, and others offer different local deals every day at deep discounts. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing spa treatment or wine tasting, an action-packed paintball experience, or an inexpensive tour or concert, there are sure to be affordable adventures available in your area. Sign up for their email newsletters to get special promotions and additional discounts, and check the terms when you buy — many packages offer flexible dates (or never expire at all), which can come in handy given how unpredictable parents’ lives can be.

Sign up for a class or join a club. Choose something you love, like painting, kickboxing, or even stand-up comedy. You’d be surprised by how many different groups and clubs exist, even in small towns, and certain groups like community theater or volunteerism-based clubs may be free to join. You might have to dig to find something that feels right, but making the commitment to a group (or paying for a class, however nominal the fee may be), might be just what prompts you to make this semi-regular “parentcation” happen.

Your own personal parentcation doesn’t require air travel or loads of saved-up vacation days. All you really need is a rejuvenating break, some time and attention that’s just for you — so you can come back feeling refreshed and ready to tackle all the challenges and joys that parenthood has to offer.

The former Content Director at Parenting, and several other brands, Ana Connery is a writer and content strategist whose work appears in USA Today, Reader's Digest, Real Simple, Cafe Mom/The Stir, Momtastic, and others.