Staycation: Lifestyle vs. Novelty

Written by Jennifer Mullen of Coffee with Jen

As I flip through my friends’ Instagram pictures and see all their grand adventures to Disney or the beach, I find a little bit of jealousy rising within me. Until I hear their horror stories that is! One friend said her entire family got the flu while they were at Disney.  Another got stuck in traffic for hours and, to further complicate things, her daughter threw up everywhere. Another friend lost their luggage. Granted there can be great bonding on trips when great tribulations occur. But let’s face it, who really wants the Griswold experience?

When my husband and I took the plunge into being a single-income family, we knew there would be areas of sacrifice. Grand vacations simply have not been in the budget. Fortunately, we live in a beautiful place and are honestly never without entertainment. For us staycation is not a novelty; it is lifestyle.

 Our kids look forward to every weekend because it usually means another adventure. We have trained them to expect it. From the time it warms up in the spring until the coolest of the autumn days set in, we spend all of our free time exploring Northwest Arkansas. You can follow our day trip adventures here.

One of my daughter's first day trips to Eureka Springs, AR.  She is now six-years-old and knows Eureka like the back of her hand.

One of my daughter’s first day trips to Eureka Springs, AR. She is now six-years-old and knows Eureka like the back of her hand.

My two biggest tips for planning a day trip are: have low expectations and focus on just being together. Really the point is to enjoy spending time with one another. These years are so short. Soon enough they are going to be playing on a sports team or involved in school activities that are not conducive to this lifestyle. Don’t miss out on all the little moments just because you can’t afford a big vacation.

Exploring Historic Downtown Siloam Springs on a surrey with the fringe on top!
Exploring Historic Downtown Siloam Springs on a surrey with the fringe on top!

Often my friends ask me where we get our ideas for day trips. Here are a few simple suggestions for planning a staycation of your own:

  1. Visit local downtown districts – Go spend the entire day walking around the various towns. Start in one shop and begin to ask around for restaurants, parks, coffee shops, book stores, etc. Learn about the history. It is fun to discover new places together.
  2. Visit museums – Of course we are blessed with the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art which we frequent, but there are many other smaller museums in our area to visit. Go to your city’s local historical museum. In today’s transient society, it is so important for our children to learn the history of their local communities and the generations of families that helped build them.
  3. Experience Nature – I grew up in the country three miles down a dirt road in a town of 600. My children have grown up in the middle of a city in a crowded neighborhood. I want them to experience nature like I did. We love going on the regional walking trails, to the lake, or to state parks. The opportunities are vast; especially in Arkansas!
  4. Get on the local festival circuit – Every little town has a festival of some sort; whether it be a monthly city square gathering or a yearly celebration. These festivals are so much fun. We have picked out our favorites and put them on our yearly calendar.

So, what about you? Do you have any recommendations for us to add to our toolbox? I would love to hear your ideas for staycations.

Photo credit:
Photo credit:

Jennifer, a native Arkansan, is a fun-loving, stay-at-home mom who might be slightly addicted to caffeine. On Coffee With Jen, she blogs about her family’s frequent weekend adventures among other topics ranging from faith, home organization, and family fun. You can also find her on the Women Living in Faith podcast where she and Gretchen Speer discuss topics of faith to encourage women in their walk with the LORD. You can follow her on Twitter: @coffeewithjen and


  1. Great reminders! Just GO DO THINGS! We’re so fortunate to live in a place where there is ALWAYS something going on. 🙂 Also, that photo in the surrey is adorable.

  2. Peggy Sue Wells says:

    I enjoy reading and seeing all your adventures and creativity with your children and Mike. You are right, just being together as a family is what is important and having fun along the way. You amaze me Jennifer!

    • Thank you, Susie! I learned about the importance of “togetherness” from my awesome Aunts! Fuller days were the best growing up! Maybe you had a hand in all of this! 🙂

  3. Angela Loyd says:

    Love it! Great point about the transience of our society and importance of sharing roots, Jennifer. One thing we like to do is get in the car and just drive and explore whatever we happen upon….like eating a banana split at a little mom-&-pop diner or checking out the roadside historical markers that you usually fly past in the daily hustle and bustle. I know that gas isn’t as cheap as it once was, but you can find some pretty noteworthy things not too far from home. Sometimes you even find the reward is in the journey and not the destination.

  4. Jill Randall says:

    Having invited myself on a few of these excursions, I can attest to the fun of a staycation with Jen and family!

  5. Jamie Taylor says:

    I love reading about and seeing your family adventures. Thank you for sharing so much of your life and faith with us 🙂

  6. Sarah Shotts says:

    Great post! I’m hoping as the years pass I’ll start to be able to keep up with the festivals / events better. This year (my first up here) I’ve just watched most of them whoosh past because I wasn’t prepared to attend. (And we’ve been settling in to the house.) But lots of great stuff going on around here! Always a good reminder to get out there and “sight-see” our local area.

  7. The Siloam Springs picture is priceless! How happy everyone looks! Our family couldn’t afford vacations when I was growing up, but we did similar things to yours, and I never felt deprived. Blanchard Springs was one of our destinations. It’s beautiful.

  8. Toni Rose says:

    Go by the local Chamber’s Visitor’s Center! In Eureka Springs we not only have tons of information on walking trails, attractions, maps etc.but we sell many of the tickets at a discount from the attraction itself.

    Also we have scoopage on coffee shops Jen ;>

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