Discover the Staycation Sweet Spot

Busy summer sports schedules, a limited budget and a shortage of vacation time can make planning a summer escape seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be.  A growing number of Canadian families are discovering that planning a few fun day trips spread throughout the summer offers some great advantages to the traditional summer week away. 

We challenged some staycation-savvy families to share their best tips for planning affordable AND awesome day trips, and they definitely delivered. Here are some of our favourite tips and tricks that you can use to plan some of your own Great Canadian Day Trips this summer.

Tip #1: Drive less, do more

The majority of your day should be spent at your destination, not driving to it. Long car trips aren’t fun for anyone, so set your sites on an end point that’s no more than two hours from home. Time your trip to avoid morning and evening rush hours, so it’s smooth sailing the minute you hit the road. Here are some suggested destinations from a variety of starting points:

  • Scarborough: Hamilton is hopping and is just 93 km away
  • Mississauga: Home to the Grand River, Brantford is just a 105-km trip from home, but an afternoon of floating in a canoe, kayak, or raft will make you feel like you’ve gone much further.
  • Toronto: At less than 60 km away, Burlington is a super quick trip to get to a family-friendly waterfront and acres of exploring at the Royal Botanical Gardens. Don’t miss this summer’s super cool Lego exhibit.
  • Kitchener Waterloo: Just 55 km down the 401 you’ll discover a rocky new world for outdoor adventure. Access the Niagara Escarpment at a variety of conservation areas around Milton.
  • London: The pretty town of Paris is just 87 km away, but you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into another world as you explore the historic cobblestone streets.

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Tip #2: Make finding savings part of the fun

While there’s no doubt that travel with a limitless budget is a blast, it’s not something your wallet can always support. Make being thrifty a little more fun by setting a family challenge to see how much you can do in a day for a set number that reflects your budget. Only have $100 to spend? Pack a picnic lunch and time your trip to coincide with special savings offers. Grand Experiences, an outfitter in Paris, is offering two-for-one guided Grand River canoe, kayak, bicycle and rafting trips on weekdays through October. You can find other ways to save, including several other two-for-one summer deals.

When it comes time to select a souvenir to remember your day, there are creative ways to save here too. Trade a trip to the gift shop for a stop at a roadside farm stand. Buy some freshly picked fruit or home baking that everyone can snack on during the trip home. Find a list of great farms to visit here.

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Tip #3: Take advantage of one-stop festival fun

Summer festivals are a great way to pack in a wide range of activities without having to spend extra time in the car driving to multiple destinations. Some family-friendly options in Hamilton Halton Brant this summer include:

Sound of Music Festival, Burlington, June 10 – 18

Rendez-Vous 2017 Tall Ships Regatta, Hamilton Harbour Pier 8, June 30 – July 2

Grand River Champion of Champions Pow Wow, Brantford, July 21 – 23

Supercrawl, Hamilton, September 8 - 10

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Tip #4: Let the experts take the reigns

Not everyone loves assuming the role of ringleader. Fortunately, many museums, conservation areas and historical sites have top-notch teams of guides and interpreters who would be thrilled to share their knowledge with your group. Here are some suggestions for guided experiences that make for exciting (and educational) day trips.

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Tip #5: Play to their passions

When you only have one day to get away, choosing an activity that you know everyone is already interested in can be a solid strategy for upping the fun factor. Use our Great Canadian Day Trip Guide to narrow down your options by browsing the categories that best reflect your family’s stages and interests and then get everyone involved in choosing what gets added to your itinerary. 

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