Had to cancel summer travel? Need staycation ideas (because telling kids their camp or vacation canceled is the worst)? How do you get vacation ideas for families and plan the best kids vacation at home? Planning a staycation vacation when you’re stuck at home doesn’t have to suck…
So, here we are.
Stuck in this limbo world of “What the heck is going on???” and “What should I do in summer vacation?”
(I mean are we canceling summer vacation for 2020 or what?)
Not only that (and, as I’m sure you’re aware), going on a vacation can be super expensive.
(This realization can definitely send you into the vacation blues!)
If your budget is already stretched OR you’re stuck at home and already budgeted for summer vacation but can’t go now because, well, you know, you just need to pivot your summer vacation ideas.
You know, change your thinking around a little.
I mean, you’re craving some cool vacation places, you probably need cheap vacation ideas and fun ideas for vacation for kids … but just at home now, right?
ENTER: STAYCATION IDEAS
What Is A Staycation?
What does staycation mean?
The staycation definition is staying at home for a vacation. It is a meshing of the words “stay” and “vacation.” With a staycation, you stay at home and take in sites and local attractions in your area.
Now that we’ve talked about the staycation meaning, let’s cover:
Staycation vs Vacation
A vacation, or holiday, is usually time spent traveling away from your home and taking in sites and attractions in a different area than your hometown. A staycation at home is vacationing in your area, where you stay at home and visit local attractions.
Whether you need a vacation or staycation will depend on your budget and what you want to see or do (and, you know, our current climate UGH).
- Saves money
- It’s safer in weird times
- No need for house sitter/pet sitter
- No downtime (or stress!) for planning leading up to going out of town
- You get to sleep in your own bed!
- Get to visit local attractions that you’ve been putting off seeing!
And, the best thing about staycations?
You can staycation Dallas, staycation Chicago, or staycation in plain ole (insert rural area) because there are always cool things to do near you — no matter if you live in the big city or the country.
You just need ideas and know how to look for them and make home and your area one of the best vacation places!
IDEAS FOR STAYCATION
How do you make a staycation feel like a vacation?
Summer vacation for families are one of the best times of the year because you get to get away from it all!
One of the biggest problems with a staycation is that you’re still at home, so all those home things can weigh on you … if you let them!
Here’s the thing:
You know all those things to do on vacation with kids?
You have to translate those to home for an epic staycation!
How to plan staycation that feels like a vacation:
- Create a countdown to vacation calendar to create excitement. (We love this changeable countdown calendar box that you can use for a ton of different things!)
- Make your kids vacation VIP packages, where you tailor a bag based on each kid’s interest. Include things that they would normally use on a vacation: sleep mask, new earbuds, a favorite book author, sunglasses, fun vacation t-shirts, snacks and more.
- Spend some time planning and looking over places that you want to visit in your area — the same way you would if you’re planning a getaway!
- Set your work email and voicemail to auto-respond that you’re on vacation.
- Protect your vacation days at home the same way you would if you were away. Don’t answer texts, work emails, or any other things that you would let go if you were away on vacation.
- Treat yourself daily with vacation-like things: ice cream, food, a souvenir!
- Be spontaneous! If you want to nap, then nap! If you want to drive 2 hours to see the biggest ball of yarn, then do it!
- Relax on the home rules, including chores, bedtimes, and food restrictions (and anything else that usually makes you feel naggy).
- Sleep in!
- Let go of home projects. (Would you be updating your bathroom on a vacation? Nope.)
- Make sure you have downtime each day, like napping or relaxing and reading, or just lounging. (Think of things you would do on vacation and then do them!)
- Order take out or barbecue in the backyard and spend less time cooking/cleaning during that time. (Paper plates are your friend!)
- Have an open mind and try things you usually wouldn’t try.
- Let everyone have a say in what they want to do.
- Do something special each day that you normally wouldn’t do. It can be as big as traveling across your state to visit the biggest ball of yarn or as small as having an ice cream sundae bar.
- Don’t be afraid to get silly!
- Be patient with family disappointment (at first) if they’re dealing with a cancelled vacation. Give them a few days to get in a staycation groove.
- Search staycation near me to find ideas unique to your area.
How do you plan a family staycation?
What should I do on my staycation?
- Tour your city (and visit those sites that have been on your to-do list!)
- Splurge on at least one big ticket item during your staycation time
- Switch from “stay at home” mode to “learn something new about your area” mode
- Explore local restaurants and business that you’ve never been to
- Let each family add a staycation bucket list item (and then do them!)
- Spend lots of time outside and use your backyard or balcony as an oasis
- Let go of your routines or itineraries
- Stay up late, sleep in late (or, go to bed early and sleep in late!)
- Use things that make you feel like you’re on vacation (Think: fun, light-up drink cups and drink umbrellas)
- Build or create something fun as a family (as big as playhouse, a birdhouse, or a cool garden path to as small as family t-shirts or some art) that will allow you to remember this time
DON’T MISS OUR FULL LIST OF CREATIVE STAYCATION IDEAS BELOW!
Staycation Ideas for Kids
- Create a splash park in your backyard
- Go Letterboxing or Geocaching
- Plant a butterfly garden, hummingbird garden, or Victory Garden
- Have a photo scavenger hunt in your house, in your backyard, or at a local park
- Research urban legends for your area and then visit that area!
- Create a family relay race (start here)
- Have a NAILED IT! baking competition or tiny Top Chef competition
- Search for fossils or geodes in parks (that allow it) near you
- Rent a bounce house for the day (or visit a bounce house)
- Turn a cookout into a luau (or other fun theme)
- Hold an escape room challenge
- Rent an AirBnB in your own city (or the next city over) with a pool for a weekend
- Walk dogs and play with kittens at an animal shelter
- Have fun creating your own backyard miniature golf course!
SEE OUR FULL STAYCATION TIPS AND RESOURCES BELOW!
Staycation Activities for the Entire Family
Staycation Ideas for Families That Will Make You Say “Best Family Vacation EVER!”
1. Check the local library.
(Stay with me here. You may be surprised…)
Did you now that your local library often has free passes to local museums and points of interest … even if they don’t advertise them?
Many hold these passes for families in need or if you are going through hard times, but will share them with anyone who asks!
Additionally, libraries today plan really cool things from free movie nights (with free popcorn!), family game nights, craft days, food trucks and more.
SO, start with your local library during your staycation planning process!
2. Take “Tourist In Your Own Town” Staycation to the next level.
Sure, you can visit the place with the largest ice cream sundae in the world (which, no doubt, makes for some fun vacation photos), but why not kick your staycation ideas up a little to haunted trails, urban legends, or other oddities for your area?
(EVERY area has them, just do a search or grab a book for your area!)
3. Stay in a staycation hotel!
You don’t have to be in another city (or traveling to a different country) to stay in a hotel!
One of the ways that you can really make a staycation feel like a vacation is to stay in a hotel … even if it’s just for a couple of nights, 10 minutes from your house, or across the state in an area you want to explore!
Grab a hotel room, enjoy hotel amenities (pool and room service!), and don’t worry about cleaning up after yourselves!
4. Check into local staycation pools.
If you don’t want to spend the night at a hotel, check into their policy on using their pool just for the day!
Some hotels may let you use their pool for a day for a small fee.
Check it out! (You never know!)
5. Look for free museum days.
Many museums and attractions will have one day a month where your family can go for free. See if those days fall within your stay cation time and check them out!
Also, don’t forget about reciprocal memberships.
If you hold a membership to a museum, zoo, etc., check to see if they have reciprocal membership benefits, meaning you can visit other places for free under one membership!
6. Look into local and state parks.
Local and state parks are way cooler than most of us realize!
Many of them have beaches on lakes, swimming pools, hiking trails to caves or waterfalls, ruins, and so many other things.
And, they are super cheap staycation ideas because it’s usually just the cost of your carload to get into the park.
Pack a picnic lunch and you have a fun day for (probably) under ten bucks!
CHECK OUT OUR HIKING TIPS: FROM BEGINNER TO EXPERT (including 3 super fun things you probably never thought of!)
7. Take a local road trip.
One of the most fun staycation ideas we ever had was just a day when we got in the car and drove.
We knew the final destination, but decided to take some off the beaten path backroads to get there and discovered so many cool things along the way that we’re STILL talking about it one year later:
- We saw a hawk swoop down and pluck a snake right off the road! (for real!)
- We stumbled upon this old general store that was also a restaurant and had some of THE BEST homemade chicken and noodles EVER.
- We took a picture next to the world’s largest rocking chair.
- We had the state’s best tenderloin sandwich (at a gas station!).
And so much more!
So, don’t be afraid to just get in the car and go! But, you really need to be open to stopping and seeing any/all unusual things you pass!
(We did a U-turn to get a road trip pic with that rocking chair!)
8. Plan the ultimate sleepover party.
Do you usually travel with extended family or friends? Host a weekend of the ultimate sleepover!
If you can’t have people over, do this with your own family!
- Buy cheesy matching family pajamas
- Load up on a variety of junk food and snacks
- Pick a theme (like beach!)
- Make family-friendly theme drinks
- Play sleepover games and/or have movie binge watching
9. Set up a backyard ninja course.
Obstacle courses or ninja courses are all the rage right now. If you have a super competitive family, this could be a fun vacation for you!
10. Have a foam dance party or…
A foam party is exactly what it sounds like: an area full of foam that you dance around in!
(I know, right?)
Can I be honest?
This has been on my TO-DO list for a loooooooong time, so this might be the year to get it done.
(Every time I mention it though my husband gives me that face. Whatever, party pooper!)
There are two ways to have a foam party (I mean, besides in the bathtub):
- Buy the foam and foam machine (which, fair warning, is NOT cheap…) OR
- Build your own foam machine and then buy the foam (which isn’t easy and is probably why my husband keeps me giving me that face).
If you’re not up for a foam party (boo!), try what we did as a kid:
11. Host outdoor movie night.
If you’ve never been to an outdoor movie, you’re in for a treat! There’s something so fun about snuggling down outside and watching a movie projected onto a screen.
- Projector (you may already have one you use for business!)
- Outdoor screen or a white sheet that you hang from a tree or against the house
- Don’t forget movie popcorn!
You can bring the movie up on your laptop and then use the projector to watch it on the screen!
You can also have a watch party with friends who are stuck at home!
12. Host a game night or extended game tournament.
If you haven’t done game night for a while, it’s time to break out those board or card games and get a tournament going!
One year, we got a game trophy for a family weekend board game tournament and we STILL fight over that trophy! It’s just adds one more layer to a fun game night.
Looking for ideas? We have 58 BEST BOARD GAMES recommended by parents!
13. Turn your backyard or balcony into an oasis.
Can’t get away?
Make your backyard or balcony into a super fun hangout instead:
- Add a sand pit (or a miniature one if you’re short on space!).
- Get a light-up palm tree (or an inflatable palm tree cooler!)
- Make an (affordable!) tiki bar hut hangout
- Add a portable hammock for lounging (or an amazing swinging hammock chair!)
- Don’t forget the lawn games (this is one of our all time favs that ALL ages can play and will love and FLARTS looks pretty fun, too!)
- Turn on the sprinklers! (I love this HUGE beach ball sprinkler!)
14. Camp in your own backyard (or on your balcony!).
For some reason, kids looooooooove setting up a tent (or even a blanket fort) in the backyard and camping!
But, camping in your backyard doesn’t have to be roughing it. (blech)
If you’re not familiar, glamping means glamor camping and it takes camping to a whole new level with all the comforts of inside.
Set your tent up in the yard (or even on your trampoline) and add blow up mattresses, twinkle lights, big pillows and more! (Check this out for inspiration.)
It’ll be something you can use for your entire staycation!
NEED MORE CAMPING TIPS? CHECK OUT OUR Essential Guide to Camping with Kids
15. Create a backyard observatory.
Have a family full of nerds?
(Cool, us too!)
Create a backyard observatory with night and day telescopes and binoculars. (It’s not as expensive as you think!)
Don’t forget to get some notebooks to record and journal your findings. It will be fun to look back on them!
JUST GETTING STARTED? CHECK OUT OUR Best Telescope for Beginners and Kids
16. Do scavenger hunts.
The great thing about scavenger hunts is that they are fun for all ages (and you can even get ones that don’t necessarily require reading for younger kids).
And, there are all kinds of scavenger hunts — ones that keep you in the house (on rainy days!) to ones that get you out and about exploring your area!
Here are some scavenger hunt ideas to get you started:
- Virtual scavenger hunts (get a free printable!)
- Outdoor treasure scavenger hunt
- Nature scavenger hunts (free printable nature scavenger hunt!)
- Photo scavenger hunts
- Walkie Talkie Spy scavenger hunt
- Find and Seek hunt
Grab Our Virtual Playdate Pack And Connect With Friends and Family!
17. Create busy bags and allow boredom.
Did you know that there are benefits to letting your kids get bored?
It’s during that time that creative juices start to flow in the brain and your kids do cool things they may never want to do!
So, don’t be afraid to allow lots of downtime so your child can get bored during your stay at home summer vacation.
(If it grates on your nerves, just retreat to your newly created backyard oasis. See above. You’re welcome.)
18. Order a food truck to your house.
Not long ago, a friend told me that you can actually order the KONA ICE TRUCK to your house to make Kona Ice for you and now I feel like my life has changed.
Actually, did you know that you can “rent” or order a whole slew of different kind of food/party trucks to your house?
You’ll have to search the specifics for your area, but it can make for a fun night of something different (and will definitely feel vaction-y!).
19. Use the vacation money to help others.
One of the best ways to stop focusing on yourself is to focus on others.
What if you used some or all of the money that you had saved for vacation to help others?
Here are some ways to help others (even if you’re stuck at home!).
20. Give the kids some of the vacation money.
Want to make your kids super happy after the disappointment of a cancelled vacation?
Give them some of the money you budgeted for vacation and let them spend it on whatever they want — from the latest video games to toys to tennis shoes or … whatever is their thing!
21. Search: staycation ideas near me.
Look for staycation ideas, staycation tips, and budget-friendly vacation ideas for the family right in your area!
Many businesses are becoming hip to staycations and families’ needs to save money and offer summer staycation deals!