Family vacations on a budget, but not camping

Normally, we camp or do glamping (glamour camping) for our break during summer vacation.

Camping is…cheap…ish. But it’s so much work, both to prepare for it and to do it (for me. Does he/they not get that?).

I’m not feeling the love (for the camping, that is). For one thing it’s been one hectic crazy non-stop endless winter and I NEED A REAL BREAK. For another thing, I don’t want to work [as much] during my vacation. Camping is work…you know? And for me, eating good food prepared by someone else and cleaned up by others is part of the experience I’m looking for while in vacation-mode…I’m just not into eating canned beans and soggy hotdogs out of a cooler that never stays properly cold. At least not for a week….I can handle camping for a few days, but then I want a shower in a room with running hot water, and a flushing toilet, and a hair dryer to tame the frizz…

So sue me.

He loves camping. He needs to be out in nature to recharge his batteries. Which is all fine and dandy, but I have different needs. I’ll camp for a long weekend and actually enjoy it, but after that, I’m done.

He hunts which is one of his hobbies. Therefore I don’t feel like us not going camping for 10 days is going to cramp his vacationing style. He had a trip to hunt moose back in November and several other little trips like it, so why do we have to camp again this summer? He did it with his smelly buddies (or, alternatively, without me, endlessly shifting the cooler to a shadier spot, or swatting flies and mosquitoes in the tent, or complaining my wine is lukewarm…). I don’t see the problem. He gets his fix when hunting with the guys.

So we had to plan a different type of vacation this year. One that was as cheap as camping or not far from it, and still include all of our various needs. Add the kids into the vacationing equation and suddenly we spend a lot of time surfing the web. (I mean, more than usual, and with more specific targets rather than aimless wanderings.)

Sometimes we went to a cottage we rented. Cottages are kind of like camping but with a few little luxuries, like hot water and flushing toilets. Or beds, instead of mattresses that deflate…But, cottages are expensive. We have no money tree growing in our backyard. So not cottage this year.

I had a chat with him. I explained things that he just didn’t see before. I think he got it. Because he booked us this trip to our nation’s capital, which he and I both have been to in the past but not with the kids. And Ottawa, from what I’m hearing (and reading) from so many peeps out that way (like this one, or this one) has a lot of stuff going on that is family friendly.

My DH has a knack for finding deals. He is the master of the internet search engines.

So how do you book a five day trip to another city, include something for every member of the family, and stay within budget? It’s doable, and the internet is a fantastic invention to assist us in the research, booking and planning.

I love the internet.

Here’s what we’ve done:


We have VERY active kids. They are sporty and loud and that is just their nature. We need a place that is family friendly and hopefully has access to the outdoors or a pool, so they can burn energy.

But summer-time is high season for the tourist industry and prices are not cheap. Plus, as we found out, much in Ottawa requires additional parking costs…even hotels.

Ultimately we found a place that lacked both a pool and wasn’t a hotel, but caters to families and is located next to a park with a splash pad, tennis courts, baseball diamond and other park facilities. It was a Residence and Conference Centre at a local University.

The price was right, the parking included, the suits are equipped with a kitchenette (fridge and microwave), a cafeteria style restaurant with a free continental breakfast, and wifi throughout. (It’s a conference centre so that aspect is important to both visitors and students during the school year).

We’re going to live in a residence!


DH has needs to be in nature. The kids have needs to be free, running and loud in spaces that won’t bother too many other people. I have needs too:

  • no housework
  • eat food not prepared by me
  • see some sights
  • interact with my family in ways that is outside of obligations
  • sleep in a bed
  • use a washroom with a shower and flushing toilet

(Really, I am not a high-maintenance kinda gal, but I’m tired. Ok?)

Ottawa is a city with all of this, and more. The plan is to visit museums on day 2 and 4 of our visit and spend the middle day visiting Gatineau Park across the river, over in Quebec, la belle province :) . That will cover all of us, and in the evenings, after dinner in various places we’ll stumble upon during our tourist-playing time, we can play at the park next to our residence. I’d also like to visit the Basilica Cathedral – both kids have never been inside a church (that they remember) and neither has ever seen a cathedral, so that will definitely be an unforgettable experience.

We’re all looking forward to this little getaway. The car trip will hopefully be somewhat painless, and in order for them to survive the trip in one piece (they’re not bad car travelers these days) I plan on having little activity baggies ready for them. Each got a journal from the Dollar Store to use for documenting things, they can both read well, and yes, there will probably be an electronic game to play with at some point.

We’re going on vacation!!

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2 thoughts on “Family vacations on a budget, but not camping

  1. Can’t wait to hear how it all went! I feel like you are going to see parts of Ottawa that *I* haven’t even seen. Hope you didn’t die from the heat!

    • I have so much to say and so little propulsion to say it :) Ottawa was fabulous and the majority of our day when it was too hot was spent inside a museum so we were good for that part. And the Residence had a/c…lovely. I will return to the blog, don’t worry…

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