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5 Creative Ways to Make the Most of an Unusual Summer

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by Meg Flanagan

I was in tears as I deleted my AirBnB list for New Hampshire this summer. Tears. 

Every summer since I can remember, my family has spent a week or so in the White Mountains. The only times we skipped this was during high school and when I have not been on the East Coast thanks to military life. In high school, apparently my sister and I were “too cool” for a week of hiking with our parents. Back to school shopping in Montreal was much better – and I won’t argue with that logic. 

Being finally back in the US after three years OCONUS, I was looking forward to a few weeks of mountain air with my family. Except then the pandemic happened and nothing is going forward. I’m just really glad that we never actually booked anything!

Now the question pops up: what the heck am I going to do this summer?

Vacations are out, basically. I also kind of don’t really want to travel anywhere that would require re-fueling or visiting rest stop bathrooms. Planes, for obvious germy reasons, are also a no-go.

So I’m pulling out all the stops and retrieving my camp counselor skills, last used circa 2008, to help my family survive and thrive on summer vacation this year.

This summer isn't typical, but it doesn't meant it can't be fun. Here's how you can do that. #military #summer #covid #covid19 #coronavirus #pandemic #militaryfamily #milfam

1. First, Add Water

Kids or no kids, get yourself a pool. Even just one of the blow-up pools will do. The idea is to have a quick home-based way to cool off on the hottest of days.

As my mother frequently reminds me, water can fix a whole host of issues. 

Personally, when my kids are melting in the NoVA humidity, the pool is my go-to option. They can splash around. I don’t have to worry about touching anyone else.

We’re also stocked up on:

We basically bought out the Target summer section. #SorryNotSorry

When my kids get cranky, something water-based comes out. After just five minutes of playing, they’re suddenly in a much better mood. Funnily enough, the same logic works on adults!

At night, my husband and I aren’t above sitting in the kiddie pool with an adult beverage or two. During the day, I 100% have my feet in that pool while I read and the kids play.

2. DIY Everything Chilly

Kids love to cook and eat the things they make. This goes double for things that are sweet and cold. Also, adults have a good time with this activity, too. 

Try making:

Summer basically calls for things to cool you off. I love these ideas because they require almost zero work while also not turning on the stove or oven.

3. Socially Distant Happy Hours Every Night

Even if you don’t drink alcohol, host a happy hour every day. 

Make fancy non-alcoholic beverages for your kids (or yourself). Then sit outside and sip before dinner. Talk about your day and make fun plans for tomorrow.

If you’re looking for more of an adults-only scene, ask your neighbors to come to a socially distant get-together. Make it BYOB for safety, but feel free to bring your A-game to your drinks. Get really fancy with mojitos, negronis or old fashioneds. Then shout to each other from driveways, porches or balconies.

We did this last weekend in my neighborhood. It was great! We all sat 6+ feet from each other or remained on our porches. Just seeing my neighbors in one place and talking (okay, shouting) to each other was delightful.

4. Take a Virtual Vacation

We’re not actually leaving the house, but I’m still planning to take a trip somewhere. With the powers of the internet, I’ll be recreating Disney in my house. Throughout the pandemic, Disney Parks have been releasing at-home versions of some of their most famous treats. We’re talking about Dole Whip, churros, and those (vegan!) cookie fries. 

I’m going to set up a splashdown zone with the slip & slide to mimic Splash Mountain. For other rides, I’m turning to #homemadedisney on Twitter for inspiration!

My husband and I already have plans to enjoy a virtual wine tasting and tour, from the comfort of the couch! It’s going to be a great date night, with a custom-curated charcuterie plate to boot.

5. Go in with ZERO Expectations

Most summers, I make all the plans. My early May, I’ve got the summer fully mapped out on a color-coded calendar along with coordinated phone alerts for every event from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

This summer? I’m planning next to nothing. We’ve got toys, water activities, and some recipes. That’s it.

I’m going to take each day as it comes, making on-the-spot decisions about what we’re going to be doing. Mostly, it’s for my own sanity. Without plans and promises to my kids, it’s easier to live in the moment. No one gets disappointed if we can’t do the long-promised vacation to XYZ.

This summer, my expectations are hovering around zero. If we all survive and have some fun along the way, it’s going to be a success.

Keep reading…

Meg Flanagan is a teacher, blogger and military spouse. She owns Meg Flanagan Education Solutions, an education advocacy service dedicated to serving families on the K-12 journey. You can find Meg on Facebook. Meg is also available as a freelance writer and personal education advocate!


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