Who doesn’t need a break from routine? We all do, and that’s why we all want to take a vacation with our family. It’s a time for us to put a hold on some of our daily responsibilities and have some fun. We can relax and interact with our family in ways we don’t always have time for while we’re working. The problem is that it can be difficult to take a family vacation. Not everyone has the money to spare. If you’re among those who can’t afford to take the family on a relaxing vacation, consider a “staycation.” Even though you are still at home, a staycation can be both fun and relaxing. You just need to do a little planning ahead.

Staycations can cost next to nothing while others cost some money. But even those that take some money won’t require as much as a vacation away from home. Check out these 7 staycation ideas. Be sure you plan ahead and you’ll be able to spend some quality time with the family for far less money than it would cost you if you took the family on a trip away from home.

1. “Unplug “

This is the cheapest staycation idea possible. After all, it costs you nothing to unplug everyone’s electronic devices for as long as you want to be on “vacation.” While it’s incredibly inexpensive, it is also probably the most difficult idea to accomplish. It’s hard to imagine everyone – yes, parents too – being without electronic devices for a week or more. That means no TV, no internet, computers, no tablets, no cell phones, no landlines either! Bascially, the only electrical devices you can use are the refrigerator, stove, and lights!

Findings things to do can be a challenge, but it’s not impossible. The family can play games together either indoors or out. You can haul out the family favorites, whether they be board games, card games or any other kinds of games. Family members can also spend time reading, but since the idea is to spend some quality time together, you don’t want everyone sitting alone all day long reading. At dinner, everyone can share what they’ve been reading, or better yet, the family can choose a book or two to read during the staycation and read outloud to each other at different times of the day. Another activity is journal writing. Each day the family can agree on a topic, such as responsibility or friendship. At dinner, or later in the evening, everyone can share their thoughts. The journals can make wonderful momentos to remind each person of their thoughts at that time of their lives.

Those are just some ideas of things to do while unplugged. It’s a good idea for the family to come up with a list of activities before the start of the staycation so you don’t hear “I’m bored!”  Unplugging can also be combined with the 7 other staycation ideas!

2. Work on a Family Project

This is a great activity for the family – whether they unplug or not. Projects can be almost anything. For one, the family can conduct science experiments, write reports on them, and then compile the reports into a book. The book makes a good piece of memorabilia to look through for years to come. In preparation for this staycation idea, you can buy or check out from the library a book on scientific experiments.

If no one in the family is interested in science, then consider exploring your family’s genealogy, working on a painting or a play or composing music. What the family chooses as a project depends on what family members are interested in. You might even manage to work on more than one project, but don’t do too many different things or you won’t have any completed projects. Your family project can be shared with others once it’s complete and the staycation is over. For example, if your family chooses to work on a play, you can invite your neighbors or friends over to watch the performance, which you will schedule sometime after the staycation. You can even create invitations while on your staycation! Just remember to have fun. The idea is to relax for a few days, not to stress out by trying to be perfect!

3. Travel to a Foreign Country – From Home!

It can be quite expensive take the family on a vacation in your own country, but it is even more expensive to travel to another country. So instead of traveling to another country, bring another country to you! Like any staycation, this one takes some preparation. First the family has to agree on which country to “travel” to. Then you need to get things ready. You’ll want to make trips to the library and grocery store to prepare for your “trip.”

Go to the library and get books about the country you’ll be “visiting” for everyone in the family. Everyone can learn as much as they can about the country or each family member can choose one aspect of the country, such as the history, the climate, the government, the geography, and so on. You can also get some novels, short stories, poems, and folklore or fairytales from the country, too. Those can be fun ways to learn about the country’s culture.

Make a trip to the grocery store to buy ingredients for the foods eaten in the country you plan to “visit,” too. Do a little research on the foods cooked. You could even check out some cookbooks at the library. If not, you can find easy recipes that are readibly availably on the internet. Just do a search like “German recipes.”

Finally, spend some time during your staycation learning about the language of the country you’re “visiting.” Once again, you can find books at the library that have common words and phrases at least. If you haven’t unplugged for your staycation, you can even check out some language learning DVDs or computer programs that can be fun for the family.

Just remember, though, while you’ll have the books, food, and anything else ahead of time, no reading, eating special foods, or language learning until the staycation starts! That can help build up the anticipation, just as it would if you were really traveling to the country.

4. Go on a Nature Walk

Another activity for a staycation is to explore nature. You can go for a walk around the neighborhood, take pictures, or have the kids draw pictures of what they see. You can go to the library before your staycation to check out books on local flora and fauna. The whole family can try to identify trees, bushes, flowers, birds, and any animals that are visible, like squirrels. Of course, it’s easy to identify a squirrel, but it’s still a great opportunity to learn about them. If you see something you can identify in one of your books – and you haven’t unplugged – you could try to identify it by searching on the internet. If you live close to a nature preserve of any kind, you can take your family for a visit. You can walk around the preserve and observe the sights and sounds. You and your child can also learn about all the creatures that live in the preserve. Whether you can go to a preserve or just wander around the neighborhood, make the outing a biology and botany experience.

5. Be a Tourist in Your Hometown and Plan Day Trips

You know how you go on a vacation to a different location and try to take in all the site? What is in your area that tourists might want to visit? Chances are you aren’t even aware of what’s nearby because, well, you live there and don’t look for anything you don’t already know about – or maybe you know about some locations because you haven’t had the time because, again, you live nearby and there’s always some time in the future to visit. Make an effort to see what’s available in your area. What historical sites are there? (Most areas have something.) What about festivals? Contact your town’s or city’s government office to see what’s planned. Or search the internet for attractions. Just type in “summer attractions xxxxx,” where xxxxx is your zip code.

You can also plan simple day trips. Each family member can pick at least one activity and the whole family can then do one activity each day. Activities don’t need to cost a lot either. Here is a partial list of ideas to get you started:

  • Go to the beach
  • Visit a museum
  • Visit an amusement park
  • Visit a water park
  • Go to the library
  • Have a picnic
  • Play miniature golf
  • Go bowling

6. Camp Out in the Backyard

You don’t have to come “home” after your adventures either. Sure, you can go back to your house, but why not camp out in the back yard when you get back? That’s a great idea for families that enjoy camping. It’s cheaper if you already have a tent, but the cost of a tent might not be much more than a night’s stay in a hotel for the whole family and you’ll have that tent for years – unlike a hotel room. Camping in the backyard is also cheaper than traveling to a camp ground and paying for tent space. Some people might not be comfortable sleeping in the backyard. If you’re among them, pitch your tent inside. Keep in mind, though, that the idea is to spend time away from normal routines, so no using the computer, watching TV, cleaning the house, doing laundry, or any other activity you normally perform at home. Imagine that you are actually away from home (whether your tent is indoors or out) and engage in activities you’d engage in on a camping trip – except for building a fire in front of the tent! If you have a fireplace, great, Build a fire and roast some marshmallows! You can also play games, tell stories, read books.

7. Stay at a Local Hotel

If you have a little more money to spare, you could take your tent to some campground nearby. If you have even a little more to spare and aren’t a fan of camping, stay at a local hotel. It will cost you, but not as much as it would cost you to travel far from home. Remember that you’ll be saving money on gas and/or airfare. You also don’t need to spend two weeks in a local hotel, or even a full week. Whatever you can manage is still time away from your normal routine. You might just spend the last one or two nights of your staycation at a local hotel. Ideally, you’d stay at a hotel or motel that has some of the amenities favored by travelors, a swimming pool, for example. During the day, you and your family can be tourists, visiting local attractions. When the day is over, you can go back to the hotel, have a swim in the pool, and then have a nice meal. Room service would be a fun treat for the end of the day!

Plan Ahead for a Great Staycation

A good staycation requires a little planning. They don’t happen by themselves! Sit down with the whole family and plan your staycation. You’ll be more likely to have a good one and avoid squabbles, pouting, or worse, just sitting at home doing nothing special. Here’s what you need to do to ensure your staycation is a good one.

  1. Set some ground rules
    The worst thing to do is to think that everything will fall into place naturally. That won’t happen. It’s not enough to say that you aren’t going to follow normal routines. What exactly do you mean by that? The family needs to agree on what is and isn’t allowed. For instance, can the kids still go out and do things with their friends? Can everyone use their cellphones or the computer? Can everyone watch TV or videos? It doesn’t matter what the ground rules are as long as they are known and everyone agrees. However, as the parent, you do have the final say, particularly where young children are involved. Older kids should be able to have a say, but do you really want them to go out with friends. You may like their friends, but most friends don’t come along on vacation with you.
  2. Decide on an itinerary
    Again, don’t expect everything to fall into place just because you announce that the family is going to have a vacation at home. If you don’t plan ahead, you may spend time during the staycation arguing and making peace among the siblings who don’t agree on what to do. Get that all out of the way before the staycation begins. Planning activities ahead of time also allows you to prepare ahead. If you wait until the staycation starts to do the planning, you may waste days deciding on what to do and then gathering any supplies (like a tent or special foods) that you might need.
  3. Try to make everyone happy
    Notice that the tip does say you have to make everyone happy. But you do want to try – and everyone in the family needs to understand that this is a vacation from normal routine for everyone. For example, it the family decides to spend the staycation working on a family project, like putting on a play, the kids can decide the roles they want. If there is disagreement, get it worked worked out before the staycation, and make sure everyone comprises so that there is something for everyone. With younger children, it might be easier to offer a limited list of options and let them pick something from the list. However, the items on the list should be things the kids will enjoy doing, not just what you want to do.
  4. Prepare meals in advance
    If cooking meals is part of your regular routine, why would you want to cook during a staycation? When you’re on a vacation, you likely go out to eat, whether at a sit-down, get-served restaurant or a fast food place. When you’re on a staycation, you can certainly still get fast food or go out to eat and get waited on. You might even want to plan for one or two restaurant meals. However, if you do go out to eat, go to a restaurant you’ve never been to before. Isn’t that what you’d do if you went away on a vacation?  But going out to eat every day for every meal can get expensive. Instead, make some meals ahead of time and freeze them. That means you’ll spend less time in the kitchen than you ordinarily do. You can plan one day, too, to have the kids cook, with your supervision. But that all needs to be planned ahead of time.

Getting a break from our daily routines doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. All it takes is some planning ahead. Enjoy your staycation!

Carol BainbridgeFamily LifeTrips and OutingsFamily Fun
Who doesn't need a break from routine? We all do, and that's why we all want to take a vacation with our family. It's a time for us to put a hold on some of our daily responsibilities and have some fun. We can relax and interact with our...