"Are you crazy, Mum? That's not a holiday. Aren't we going away?"
The kids are discombobulated by my decision to take a "staycation". Not a hotel in the city, nor a property on its outskirts: We're packing for a 10-minute drive to the Novotel Manly Pacific from our home on Sydney's northern beaches.
Like many hotels these days it offers a comprehensive school holiday program. Kids are treated as welcome guests, with staff talking to them at check-in (rather than pretending they're invisible or unwelcome, as some do). The craft, colouring and plaster station is conveniently located next to the – ahem – beachfront bar. There are in-house movie nights plus tickets to go to the cinema to see The Angry Birds Movie. Kids stay, and eat at the breakfast buffet, for free.
Plenty of chains have family entertainment during the mid-year break. So here are the top five reasons to take a staycation:
1. Become a tourist in your own town. We've lived on the northern beaches for almost 20 years, and never stayed at a local hotel. The concierge suggests a list of nearby restaurants including Daniel San, a modern Japanese joint inside an edgy bar with ocean views. Taj loves the karaage chicken and Grace devours the edamame beans (and hot chips with Kewpie mayonnaise: east meets west).
2. For a few nights you can leave your clothes on the floor, avoid the household chores, and enjoy an alternative view. In our case, this is the shimmering Pacific Ocean, with majestic pines standing sentry. At sunset, the pink and purple hues are stunning.
3. If you forget anything, it's a short drive to pick it up. Inevitably, the kids don't pack their toothbrushes. We whip home to ensure dental hygiene, and grab extra underpants I fail to pack. There's no need for a pet-sitter: pop down the road each day to take the dog for walkies.
4. It's cheaper than flying and less annoying than driving. The words "Are we there yet?" remain unspoken. And there's no waiting at the baggage carousel for lost luggage. As soon as you flop on the freshly made bed, you feel like you're a world away.
5. As parents, we don't pamper ourselves enough. Staying at a hotel – even for a night – gives us the excuse to book a massage, facial or personal training session. The room service menu is full of meals low in fat and sugar, so you can treat it like a health retreat.
"Mum, we thought you'd lost it," Taj says. "But it wasn't that bad after all."
"Yeah," Grace adds. "Can we do it next weekend? Actually, every weekend?"
Perhaps it was the breakfast in bed, the chocolate ganache for dessert, or the 5pm Sunday checkout, allowing for a lazy day.
Whatever it was, the kids are sold: you can have a holiday anywhere. And, with so many school breaks, that's got to be good for the bank balance.
See also: The 50 best family holiday destinations