Spring Break, well any school break for that matter, can be a time for fun in many households. Parents take time off, families go on vacation, spend quality time with each other, or do home improvement projects together. It’s a time to rejoice!
On the flip side, these breaks can wreak havoc on a single parent family. Questions about child care, how to keep the kids engaged, and how to avoid spending tons of cash can make school breaks miserable.
So, what is a parent to do? Even if your job offers vacation time, if it’s a popular time off, going on a trip can be more expensive since it’s tourist season. If kids are young but school-aged, parents often incur more costs by placing them in week-long camps. Older kids get to stay at home but that thought can be scary in itself. Yikes!
While the options may be limited and the situation unkind, there are ways for single parent families to Spring Break on a budget. See if any of these suggestions will work for you.
Ask for a temporary schedule change.
Is your job flexible? Can you work from home or change your schedule temporarily? While it may sound farfetched, more and more jobs are moving towards flextime and may be more accommodating than you think. The only way to know for sure is to ask. Explain the situation to your boss and see if they would be willing to give you some flexibility. This may allow you to spend a few more hours at home with the kids to avoid paying for extended care hours, if you put them in camp. Perhaps you can work four instead of five days and make an agreement with another single parent so that each of you can spend one full day with the kids. That gives the kids two days with an adult and three days at home, if camp is not an option. The point is don’t limit yourself by not asking. You may be surprised at what doors open up. This may also keep you from spending all of your vacation days at once.
If you choose to go away for vacation…
Pick an off-season trip. Everyone travels to the beaches during Spring Break. It’s the “spring” thing to do. Instead of following the crowd, if you pick an off-season choice like going up North, you can save hundreds of dollars. Even still, if you’re a single parent, paying for air fare can be overwhelming. Try renting a car to save the wear and tear on your vehicle and use some car rental hacks to save even more. Websites like www.autoslash.com automatically alerts you when the price drops for a rental date and car you choose. Also, never pay for a car rental up front. Reservations are free and can be changed at any time. When it comes to hotels, try companies like www.priceline.com. You can bid on nice places to stay at minimum costs. More vacation hacks will be provided soon, but these are just two to get you started.
If you want a stay-cation…
The possibilities are endless too. Perhaps there are nice places to visit in your city. In fact, if you visit your area’s website and click on “places to visit,” you may be amazed at what your city has to offer – its what attracts others there. Perhaps there is a local park you haven’t explored and can go to have a picnic. Sometimes museums and attractions have discounts to get families in that you can take advantage of. When was the last time you visited the local library? Spend a few hours there and keep your kids engaged in knowledge-building over the break. There is so much to do in your home town that maybe you won’t want to leave for Spring Break. Best of all, this option can cost as much or as little as your decisions allow.
Start a do-it-yourself project.
If you do decide to take time off or are allowed to work from home, you can use the extra time to start a home improvement project. Perhaps plant a garden, paint a room, do some spring cleaning. You-Tube is a single-parent’s best friend and can offer many opportunities to do something productive with your kids. Check out this article for more tips.
Do a child-care share.
Similar to the first suggestion, get with family and friends to work out a schedule to watch each other’s children. All of you may have kids in school, so instead of one person using all of their vacation time, maybe one parent can use some of their time, do stay-cation activities, return to work, then let the other kid’s parents take over. This allows children to stay active, engaged, and supervised, all without blowing through each parent’s paid time off. It may seem farfetched, but you’ll never know if you don’t try.
Get your kids into a volunteer program.
Try to determine if there are volunteer opportunities for your kids to participate in while on break. Maybe a local museum, youth program, the YMCA, or a senior-citizen’s home. If they are old enough and able, having them volunteer a few hours each day will give them valuable experience, teach them gratitude, show them how to be compassionate, and start to accumulate volunteer hours for scholarship applications. This not only builds them now but sets them up for the future.
The point is that there are opportunities available to make Spring Break a productive time instead of one to dread. A little thinking outside of the box can go a long way. What are some of your hacks for school breaks? Share in the comments below. You may also want to join a community of single parent super savers like yourself in our Facebook group at SingleParent$aves.
Happy saving, live well!