My family has gone on some pretty epic vacations over the years, ones where I have meticulously planned a travel itinerary, searched for offbeat, inexpensive housing, and loaded our time with educational and exciting activities. They call me the family travel agent.
And I love it. I love visiting new places, especially ones with historical significance or natural wonders. The problem, of course, lies in the cost of these trips.
We have spent a lot of money over the years. It is a little crazy to think the average American family spends as much as $4700 a year on vacations. I justify it with the memories and experiences we create, and rightly so. I really think traveling is good for the soul.
But as we all know, this year has produced boundaries to vacationing we never thought possible. COVID-19 has locked us at home, restricted our ability to travel, and really made us pause before packing like sardines into airplanes and cruise ships.
The pandemic has also shown us that vacationing doesn’t have to happen somewhere else; we can save money while enjoying time together, relaxing and making memories, right at home. We have created a backyard paradise to make our own oasis for fun. Let me tell you how.
Creating the Paradise of Your Dreams
We’ve all done it—perused Pinterest for beautiful backyards, dreaming of all of the ways our yards could look like those lush, inviting spaces. Maybe you’ve even spent a little time working on some projects.
Let’s get real—many of those pictures are not taken in the typical, suburban postage stamp. Our homes have gotten much larger, 50% larger than in 1980 in fact, but our lot sizes have shrunk by over 20%, meaning a much bigger home is sitting on a much smaller lot.
This could work in your favor. Less backyard means less to make awesome, right? What features can you add for no more than the average vacation cost of $4700? Well, let’s see:
Stock Tank Pool: Stock tank pools are the trendiest, and possibly simplest, addition to your yard this summer. We put one in this past year and it has been a daily magnet for the whole family. Here’s what you need to put in a stock tank pool:
- Stock tank $150-500 depending on size
- Cartridge Filter pump and parts: $75-$350
- Installation tools $10-$150
Total cost for Stock Tank Pool: $235-$1000 for basic set-up
Now, I didn’t include accessories like toys, lighting, decking, and the like. That would up the wow factor and also the price. But trust me, you cannot go wrong with a stock tank pool.
Fire Pit and Seating Area: Fire pits are another great spot to gather as a family, roasting marshmallows and just hanging out. A basic cost breakdown:
- Gas Fire Pit $150-$700+ depending on size, style, and material
- Adirondack Chairs $30-$100+ each (I suggest the inexpensive plastic kind- easy to clean)
- Stone or rock bedding: $50-$500+ This one can get pricey. Slate stone tiles are the most expensive, while pea gravel can be delivered cheaply. We went with pea gravel for ours, building a low wood frame to contain the rock.
Total Cost for Fire Pit and Seating Area: $320-$1600+
You could also add landscaping or a pergola to your fire pit area if you wanted to spruce it up even more.
English Garden Nook: I am a crazy gardener, so of course I would advocate for a lovely flower and shrub garden. However, don’t do this one if you really aren’t into gardening—this backyard is supposed to be relaxing, remember?
- Rose bushes and other flowering shrubs $150-$500+ (Plants are not cheap. Go for perennials with long flowering seasons for the most bang for your buck.)
- Cute fencing $200+
- Bench or bistro table set $130-$300
- Hardscape and planting materials $50-$300+ (If you only create flower beds and leave grass for the seating area, this will be cheaper.)
Total Cost for English Garden Nook: $530-$1300+
Like any other backyard feature, you could continue to add to this garden over the years, installing arbors, more plants, a fountain or statue … the ideas are limitless.
Outdoor Kitchen and Dining Area: For the family who loves to cook, an outdoor kitchen seems like a paradise addition well worth creating. It doesn’t have to be totally elaborate, with stone pizza ovens and massive grills. Most homes have at least a small patio or deck already, so start simple with a decent grill, patio set, and festive atmosphere.
- Outdoor Grill $300+ (I will not even attempt to cover the variations here. Barbecue masters of the world, choose your poison.)
- Patio Set $400+ (Again, so much variation here. My suggestion: go with easy care material.)
- Ambience Lighting $40 (Nothing says festive like LED patio light strings.)
Total Cost for Outdoor Kitchen and Dining Area: $740+
Make the space your own by adding fun details, like artwork on the side of the house, place settings, potted plants, and shade covers. Then host a family party to enjoy it all.
Family Activity Center: Although you may be tempted to spend a ton of money on a swing set/play structure, I would advise against it. Kids grow up fast. Instead, invest in some fun the whole family will enjoy for years. Here’s what I mean:
- Bocce Ball set $40
- Croquet set $40
- Horseshoe set $30
- Disc Golf Basket and set $120
Total Cost for Family Activity Center: $230
Any game your family enjoys could be on this list, but none of these require a special field or preparation. Just play.
Your Backyard Lasts for Years: Why Not Make it Special?
As you can see, even if you added ALL of these awesome projects to your backyard this year, going on the high side of materials and purchases, you would spend LESS than the average family vacation.
Why is that significant? As much as I love to travel, the trip only lasts a week, maybe a few weeks, and then it is over. Forever. But a backyard paradise will continue to give pleasure to your family for years to come.
And a great bonus? They add value to your home—one study showed potential buyers add 11.3% value to a home with landscaping improvements over the same home without them. Make your suburban home stand out amongst its neighbors while also creating spaces your family can stay-cation in style.
Contributor’s opinions are their own. Always do your own due diligence before investing.
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