By Imma Dearest
So all your friends are going to Florida, Punta Cana, Mexico, and other places that end in vowels. Well, I am here to tell you you can still have a good time right here in good old Five Towns, Brooklyn, or wherever else you currently live. After all: you chose to live there, decorated it to your liking–you must like it at least a little bit.
But you want to feel some form of escape. I understand. Here are a few “life hacks” to turn your home into a vacation:
Go to the car wash. A) this will make you feel vaguely like you have a new car for the week and B) Seeing how hard those men work and for so little money will wipe any self pity right out of you.
Treat yourself to a new towel and body wash. Turn your bathroom into a hotel bathroom. Personally, my favorite part of hotels are the bathrooms. You can even fold over the toilet paper end to complete the effect.
Enjoy a fancy Shabbos. A friend of mine pointed out this hack: You can buy a gift card at Costco for Traditions in which you buy (I believe) 2 cards for $50 each for a total of $79.99. Check my math, please…The $40 Shabbos special is all the food you would normally see at a kosher catered hotel. And you didn’t cook it yourself.
Enjoy lunch out each day. You would be doing this on vacation anyway (plus dinner) so it’s not really “Extra Money”. Most restaurants have lunch specials which make it a cheap extravagance. To complete the effect, avoid pizza. Go to fancier type places you may not normally go to. They will probably be near empty anyway so no worry about the children being out of place.
Oh right, the children. We need to entertain them also for this time and they also have their own feelins of: my friends are going away and why aren’t we. Luckily, children are fairly easy to please if you put in a little effort. Any sort of long drive feels like a trip to them so here are a few tips for them as well:
Begin with a trip to a non local library, You’ve probably been to your local library often enough. Try out a new one, a nice big, fancy looking one. You children can feel like kings exploring the new terrain, playing with the new gadgets or features, and finally loading up on books for the week ahead. Maybe they will even have an event going on you can go to. And you haven’t spent a penny.
One place to consider that puts the “free” in “freezing” is Brooklyn Botanic Gardens. It’s free in the winter and has some tropical indoor parts. The visit will be much shorter than the summer so consider combining with a trip to Grand Army Plaza library (see above-note only NYC residents can borrow books from that library)
Another place to consider that thankfully hasn’t gotten the memo regarding inflation is Chuck E Cheese. I don’t know why this place got left behind but I’m glad it did. For an online coupon, $20 buys enough tokens to last an entire family a few hours. Bonus: the ice cream in the machines is kosher (last time I checked anyway – check again to be sure) and also very cheap.
Families can get great use out of reciprocity agreements between museums. NY Hall of Science offers a family pass for $85 a year. It’s a nice museum with a great spot for little ones to play and a unique playground in good weather. But even better, it includes free visits to Brooklyn Children’s Museum (again, refer to that naïve driving far feeling), the Intrepid, even Liberty Science Center on some days. If you actually do go away somewhere, it includes admission to places all across the country. We used it for Franklin Institute in PA and it was terrific.
I just noticed Crayola Experience has a great deal on annual passes: $99 for a family of 4. It’s not close, which adds to the allure but I think it’s a great boost to feel like you did something different. They recently revamped the whole place so if you’re judging by how it was a few years ago, give it another look.
Don’t consider parks off limits in the cold. If your children can swim on their own, but are under bar mitzvah, I would recommend taking them to Echo Park in West Hempstead for indoor swimming, very cheap. Grant Part in Hewlett has a cheap ice skating rink.
Finally, don’t underestimate how much children love to express themselves. Roll out a bunch of paper, give them some markers or washable paints (put garbage bags over anything you want to protect) and let them loose. This is truly what memories are made of: not waiting for luggage at airports or fighting over directions in a new locale.