Stay-cation. I first heard the term during the summer of 2008 when gas prices went to four dollars a gallon and I had just bought a used Chevy Suburban, mpg: 14.
The term gained strength through the recession of 2008-2009. It was perhaps more utilized in San Antonio because of our nearby tourist attractions. A stay-cation in Shreveport is still probably known as a family budget cut.
Now that gas prices have ticked down and the stock market up, the term, if not the concept, has generally been shelved. It seemed like every other Texan I called in July answered in Colorado, Wyoming or Montana.
When the better half suggested I use a few vacation days before school starts, I resurrected the stay-cation idea and priced out the usual suspects.
For a family of seven, a day at Six Flags would cost $400; a day at Sea World, $500. And that’s just for parking, discounted admission and a bucket of fried food for lunch.
Throw in a few rigged games, some stuffed or lighted souvenirs and a $25 refillable drink, and a two-day escapade gets you well into the four-figures.
A dusk fireworks display at Six Flags, however, only costs the price of a family meal on Chuy’s patio across the interstate. I prefer “innovative” over “cheap,” please.
After thinking outside the tourism box, I called Crane’s Mill Marina on Canyon Lake. They offered a pretty new 8-seat ski boat with all the accessories for about half the cost of a day at Sea World.
With positive attitudes, fishing bait and half a shelf of consumer packaged goods, we embarked. None of the above lasted long.
The positive attitudes fell in with our twelve-year-old when he got thrown hard from the tube. This, after he asked to be thrown hard from the tube.
Then, a ten-year-old covertly tossed the bait overboard. His sensitive heart couldn’t stand to watch live minnows impaled by an eight-year-old with catfishing hooks.
All along, snacks settled into stomachs like Jonah in the whale, long before the required protein and fiber were consumed. What leverage does a parent have in the middle of a lake?
As time ran out, kids were still wanting tube rides. They still wanted to fish. And somehow they wanted yet another plastic-wrapped cupcake.
We left the marina with plans to return and with our eyes set on a second stay-cation boat ride: a dinner cruise on the Riverwalk downtown.
The better half explained to the tribe that some couples would be on date nights. I explained that “facilities” meant bathrooms and that there wouldn’t be any on the river taxi. No, going off the side wouldn’t be an option.
The kids minded their manners particularly well. They stayed in their seats. They tried what was on their plates. They survived without lemonade. They even listened to the tour guide talk about things older than their dad.
Evidently, someone is listening during those broken-record family dinners at home, the ones where it feels like we’re doing it all, again, for the very first time.
Or maybe they just believed me when I said the annual dredging of the Riverwalk turns up jewelry, cell phones, patio chairs and misbehaving children. How’s that for leverage?
Kevin Thompson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.