Although fall officially begins Sept. 21, the Labor Day holiday marks the close of the summer season. While some are content to mark the occasion with backyard barbeques and block parties, others hope to end the summer with something a little more memorable and intimate. However, without planning, a family may end up getting caught in unrelenting freeway traffic and up-charged airfares.
If this has been the case with your family in past years, stop and take a few deep breaths. Next, take a fresh look at a staycation in your hometown by seeing things through the lens of a fine hotel’s concierge or general manager.
“A family staycation allows guests to leave the worries of cooking, cleaning and organizing back at home,” says Conrad Fort Lauderdale Beach general manager Chintan Dadhich. “Locals who stay with us get the special opportunity to enjoy South Florida like the rest of the country does when on vacation. Staycations, especially during a busy holiday like Labor Day, allow travelers to escape the stress and routine of everyday life, which include traffic and deadlines.”
According to Ian McClendon, general manager, Hotel Colonnade Coral Gables, the first step is simply deciding to “just do it” after finding a holiday weekend package at a property that appeals to you. He suggests the hotel be the biggest splurge and recommends lifestyle properties with multiple restaurants, music or cultural events over the weekend, a pool scene and so on.
“Staycations are the spontaneous Friday night decisions to head to the most attractive part of your city and pretend to be a tourist the next day,” he says. “Of course, the hotel is key, and you’ll need to find one providing the experience (the family) would be most interested in. Does the family want a cultural experience, or does everybody want to unwind completely and check out for 24 hours of the normal routine. Staycations can accomplish so much as long as you have the proper perspective.”
McClendon enumerates other benefits of staying in town beyond saving airfare and gas money:
- Parents eliminate the “Sunday scaries” of returning home. “Staycations allow families to enjoy the hotel and its surrounding neighborhood the entire Sunday,” he says. “Staying at the pool all day, having dinner, and knowing that you can still be back home before9 is an awesome perk.”
- Enjoying your hometown from a different lens: “You learn more about your city in ways you typically wouldn’t. Though we often say in our industry, ‘Live like a local,’ as locals we get in a rhythm. It’s great to break out of your comfort zone and explore and experience different things.”
Bobby Gonzalez, chef concierge, The Kimpton Gray Hotel in Chicago, agrees staycations offer a fresh perspective of a city beyond the museums and historic sites you and your kids grew up with. Even if the Art Institute and Michigan Avenue are tourist magnets for first-time visitors, deliberately getting off the beaten track is the secret to making a staycation feel like a real vacation and not a family outing.
“Explore neighborhoods by different means of transportation,” Gonzalez says, using Chicago as an example. “Take the Water Taxi to Chinatown instead of an Uber. Get to Big Star by bicycle instead of the EL. Walk the underground pedway from the Loop to Millennium Park. And before you get to your hotel, find out its estimated check time and check-in as early as possible.”
As the family is saving money on airfare and transportation, the extra money can be used to splurge in unforgettable ways. Options can include upgrading seats when booking entertainment or sporting event tickets. (“The Chicago Cubs and ‘Hamilton,’ will be a completely different experience from up close,” he assesses), or springing for a multicourse tasting meal or food tour if traveling with teens.
Of course, when shopping for the perfect staycation hotel, look for special perks for pets and younger guests so every family member can get in on the fun. The Kimpton Gray, for example, is not just pet friendly, but also offers plush pet-bed loaners as well as food, water bowls and mats. There is also a Children’s Book Check-out at the front desk for younger travelers featuring children’s books and a Forgot it? We Got It program with the neighborhood Lululemon, which offers men’s and women’s fitness clothing on loan. Guests taking advantage of the offering will also receive a custom Gray water bottle and laundry bag for return.
Another solid strategy is to bookmark the homepage of your city’s convention and visitors bureau. While Philadelphia’s Museum of the American Revolution will always be on to-do lists, regularly checking out the page will help you discover, for example, the museum just opened its immersive Revolution Place childrens’ discovery center and it will offer free admission to the museum and a special back-to-school packet over Labor Day weekend.
When people think about Lancaster, Pennsylvania, they might automatically picture Amish farmlands in the middle of nowhere, but Lancaster also offers Dutch Wonderland, a family-fun amusement park where your children will be treated like royalty.
With technology advancing faster than ever, children globally are becoming attached to devices. Adults too. Our Netflix queue and ever-expanding inbox call our names even when we’re on vacation. We carry distractions with us everywhere, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to truly connect with your loved ones.
This summer, family travel at The Peninsula receives an upgrade with the debut of Camp Peninsula, a children’s experience that recreates the spirit of camping right in the heart of Beverly Hills. The journey begins with a special welcome from Peter Bear, the hotel’s lovable mascot, at check-in. After taking a picture with the life-sized teddy bear, kids will be whisked away by a Peninsula Camp Counselor to a luxurious guestroom where a charming teepee awaits. An afternoon of camp-themed games and activities, including a hotel-wide scavenger hunt, rounds off the family-friendly experience, fun for children of all ages. Whether it’s a luxe staycation or an extended holiday, Camp Peninsula is an ideal way to ensure the little ones are happy campers.