7 tips for planning the ultimate staycation with your family in Charlotte — and where to go

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Day trip to Jones Von Drehle Vineyards. Photo by Bryan Richards

Vacations are a big deal in our family. This year, though, our annual time away snuck up on us. A move that cost us more time, money, and energy than expected left us drained of resources to plan the break we so desperately needed. Thus, my wife suggested a staycation.

At first, I was hesitant. Vacations are about exploring someplace new. Then I started to think about all the things in Charlotte that we’ve been wanting to do but keep putting off. I’m a staunch defender of the Queen City as an amazing place to live and visit, yet I’ve only touched the surface all she has to offer.

While I enjoyed our week off here in Charlotte, I admit that it wasn’t exactly easy to execute. Here are some takeaways to help you plan an awesome staycation in Charlotte.

Create a bucket list of things you want to do.

Plan what you want to do ahead of time or else your staycation runs the risk of becoming your routine life. There are plenty of resources to help you like CharlotteFive’s Things To Do and Food & Drink sections and the Charlotte Regional Visitors Association’s website. Some of our bucket list items included a daytrip up to Jones Von Drehle Vineyards, taking our son to his first amusement park in the form of Carowinds, and exploring Reedy Creek Nature Center.

Pro Tip – Plan something big the first day to signify that you’re taking a break from home life and going on vacation.

Hiking Reedy Creek Nature Center. Photo by Bryan Richards

Complete your chore list before leaving for staycation activities.

We struggled big time with this one. Since there was no looming plane ride or car trip to work towards, we left way too many loose ends going into our staycation – piles of laundry, overgrown grass, and a backup of dirty dishes. Treat your staycation like a real vacation: work ahead to wrap up projects around the house and make sure you have enough clean laundry for the week.

Pro Tip – If this means packing like you’re going on vacation, do it.

Treat it like a real vacation workwise.

Another fail here. Not only did I not turn on my out of office responder until Wednesday morning, I went into the week with a deadline. I found myself spending most of Monday in front of the computer typing away while my family played. Don’t do this. Wrap up all work related project before taking that precious PTO.

Pro Tip – Don’t even think about checking your work email and voicemail while you’re on staycation. Just because you aren’t away, doesn’t mean you aren’t away.

Buy some souvenirs.

If you buy souvenirs on your typical vacation, buy them on your staycation. My family and I each picked out t-shirts at the 704 Shop. If you typically go for bigger memories than “I was there” t-shirts, spend an evening shopping the galleries in NoDa (try the Hart Witzen gallery, for starters).

Pro Tip – Looking for home décor that signifies place? How about finally splurging on that David French Charlotte skyline painting you’ve been eyeing? (Browse his website here. Items can be picked up at his studio in NoDa.)

Eat out every night.

Eating out every night helps to make a clean break from your regular routine and eliminate chores (all those dishes). Make a separate bucket list of restaurants you’ve been wanting to eat at and pencil those into your itinerary. If you’re like us, you’ll have more restaurants to schedule than there are meals on the calendar.

Pro Tip – Don’t be afraid to splurge! After all, you aren’t spending any money on lodging. We ate guilt free of budget concerns at restaurants like Kindred, Flour Shop, and Stagioni.

Plan your evenings.

On our typical vacation, we retreat to our vacation digs after dinner and play games on the balcony. It’s how our family connects. We didn’t do this on our staycation. Instead, we found ourselves crashed out on the couch binge watching the latest Netflix series. That family time that’s integral to our vacations was missing.

Pro Tip – Plan a few technology free days where screens are to remain off. Bust out the board games.

Plan some down time.

Once you start planning your staycation, you’ll realize that Charlotte is true to its tagline “Charlotte’s got a lot.” Don’t over stuff your itinerary. Plan a leisurely afternoon or two at your community pool, the beach at Ramsey Creek Park, or Freedom Park. We only had one such day, but I wish we had more.

Pro Tip – Don’t stop exploring Charlotte just because the staycation has concluded. All of those items that didn’t make the cut, how about scheduling them out over the next few weekends? We live in an amazing city that begs to be explored.

For a little staycation inspiration, check out my Instagram feed.

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