15 Tips for a Fabulous Family Staycation

Photo (cc) by Will Merydith

The average American spends $1,180 per person on their summer vacation, according to an American Express 2012 report. That’s a lot, but we’ve got good news – your family can take a leisurely and fulfilling vacation without hopping a flight, enduring an endless car ride, or sleeping on a strange mattress.

Chances are, there’s plenty to see and do within driving distance of your home – and even some things you can do in your own backyard. So instead of planning an expensive trip and dealing with the hassle of travel, why not create a staycation plan?

1. Set the scene

To get the most out of your staycation, treat the time off like a regular vacation – set a start and end date. Once the time starts, stop your mail, turn the home phone off, and don’t stay glued to your inbox. The best way to ruin a staycation is staying plugged in.

2. Camp in your own yard

If you’re like me and don’t live near a state park or campground, that doesn’t mean you can’t have the experience. Pick up a tent from a thrift store or borrow one from a friend. Set it up in the backyard, light a fire, make s’mores, and tell ghost stories.

3. Plan a craft day

If you’ve got an artist or two in the family, spend time together making crafts. There are tons of cheap crafts for both kids and adults: For example, have your kids create their own caterpillars out of egg cartons, use a plastic loom and old socks to make pot holders, or decorate plain wooden frames. Check out these articles for more crafty ideas:

4. Visit your dream location at home

You don’t need a passport and a wad of cash to travel overseas. One of my friends recently recreated her dream destination, Ireland, in her living room. She decorated the room with Irish flags, clovers, and even a Leprechaun statue she found at a garage sale. She played traditional Celtic music, and served Irish dishes like cabbage soup along with green beer (green Kool-Aid for her kiddos). At the end of the night, the family watched movies about Ireland.

5. Check out your local museum

Few of us take the time to visit the tourist attractions in our own city. Now is your chance. Look up a few local museums and see if they offer free or discounted days, then spend a day visiting.

6. Visit historic sites

Another thing we often miss is local historical sites. For example, I didn’t realize I live within driving distance of the spot where Bonnie and Clyde had their final shoot-out. I know now, thanks to the National Park Service. They keep a list of national historic landmarks. Check it out!

7. Write a book

If your kids are old enough to read and write (or old enough to color), use your free time to start a children’s book with them. Let your kids pick the subject, work together on the storyline, and have them finish up the illustrations. Once you’re done, pop the pages in a binder and decorate the cover, or photocopy the pages and add them to a folder for a professional look.

8. Spend a day at a community pool

You don’t need to shell out for a water park. Odds are your kids will have just as much fun at a local pool, and they’re much cheaper. Weather permitting, check out community pools in your neighborhood, free days at a local family gym, or ask the YMCA for rates and schedules.

9. Volunteer

Spend a day giving back to your community by volunteering. Many organizations have projects for the entire family. For example, a local animal rescue in my area has a family walk day where children can walk puppies. Call charities in your area; they’ll be happy to put you to work.

10. Pack a picnic

A few hours outdoors and you’ll feel rejuvenated and worry-free. Pack a picnic lunch with cheap and tasty meals like this lemon herb chicken or these sausage balls. Head to the park and spend the afternoon feasting and playing with your kids.

11. Tour unusual locations

If museums and art galleries aren’t your kids’ thing, that doesn’t mean tours are out of the question. Think of something they’re interested in and ask a local business for a tour. I recently took my goddaughter to tour a fried pie factory (she’s a bit of a foodie). You could also try movie theaters, arcades, and newspaper offices.

12. Put on a play

Have your kids write, act, and perform their own play. Improvising can be fun: Use a flashlight for a spotlight and your stereo for the musical score. You can also make a sock puppet theater with nothing more than a cut-out cardboard box, socks, thread, and imagination.

13. Have a scavenger hunt

When I was a kid, I loved searching for treasure in the backyard. Take your family around town with a list of things to search for and take a photo of, such as a really funny license plate, a woman with a purse dog, or a celebrity look-alike. The winner gets a sundae (you can win too).

14. Pick your own fruits and vegetables

Check the organic farm page of LocalHarvest.org and type in your zip code on the right-hand side. Chances are there will be a farm nearby you can check out; call ahead and ask if it’s OK to come and pick your own fresh fruits and veggies. Afterwards, make a meal and enjoy the organic goods outside.

15. Treat your family to a nice dinner

I spend a lot of time hunting for nice restaurants when I’m out of town. Oddly, I never went to some 4-star restaurants in my own. Why not use your staycation to visit a fine restaurant or two near you? You might be surprised at how many incredible restaurants are within driving distance; and the tips in 15 Ways to Save on Eating Out will help you savor the flavor even more.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
Grow Your Savings in 2020 With These 5 Tricks
Grow Your Savings in 2020 With These 5 Tricks

Saving money doesn’t have to be painful. Here are some ways to game yourself into stashing more cash.

7 Reasons You Should Not Claim Social Security Early
7 Reasons You Should Not Claim Social Security Early

The sooner you claim your Social Security retirement benefits, the more you — and perhaps also your spouse — stand to lose. Here are the stakes.

21 Things You Should Always Buy at a Dollar Store
21 Things You Should Always Buy at a Dollar Store

Dollar stores have great bargains on both everyday and occasional purchases.

11 Secret Uses for Everyday Items That Will Save You Money
11 Secret Uses for Everyday Items That Will Save You Money

These are simple solutions for life’s irritations.

9 Ways to Get Cheap or Free Veterinary Care
9 Ways to Get Cheap or Free Veterinary Care

Medical care for your furry friends can be expensive. Here are some tips to take a bite out of vet bills.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again

The warehouse store offers an enormous selection, but these products aren’t coming back.

11 Things Retirees Should Always Buy at Costco
11 Things Retirees Should Always Buy at Costco

This leader in bulk shopping is a great place to find discounts in the fixed-income years.

Over 50? The CDC Says You Need These 4 Vaccines
Over 50? The CDC Says You Need These 4 Vaccines

Fall is the time to schedule vaccines that can keep you healthy — and even save your life.

11 Household Items That Go Bad — or Become Dangerous
11 Household Items That Go Bad — or Become Dangerous

When you get the impulse to stockpile these everyday items, pay close attention to their expiration dates.

8 Things You Can Get for Free at Pharmacies
8 Things You Can Get for Free at Pharmacies

In this age of higher-priced drugs and complex health care systems, a trip to the pharmacy can spark worry. Freebies sure do help.

11 Senior Discounts for Anyone Age 55 or Older
11 Senior Discounts for Anyone Age 55 or Older

There is no need to wait until you’re 65 to take advantage of so-called “senior” discounts.

7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast
7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast

Your financial security might soon depend upon the strength of your credit score.

These Are the 4 Best Medicare Advantage Plans for 2020
These Are the 4 Best Medicare Advantage Plans for 2020

Medicare Advantage customers themselves rate these plans highest.

The 10 Most Commonly Stolen Vehicles in America
The 10 Most Commonly Stolen Vehicles in America

A new model parks atop the list of vehicles that thieves love to pilfer.

The 15 Worst States for Retirees in 2020
The 15 Worst States for Retirees in 2020

Based on dozens of metrics tied to affordability, quality of life and health care, these are not ideal places to spend retirement.

19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree
19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree

These jobs pay more than the typical job in the U.S. — and no bachelor’s degree is required.

5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free
5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free

Hesitant to drop $119 a year on an Amazon Prime membership? Here’s how to get it for free.

9 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday
9 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday

These items are all steeply discounted — but the deals won’t last long.

26 States That Do Not Tax Social Security Income
26 States That Do Not Tax Social Security Income

These states won’t tax any of your Social Security income — and in some cases, other types of retirement income.

10 Reasons Why You Should Actually Retire at 62
10 Reasons Why You Should Actually Retire at 62

If you can, here are several good reasons to retire earlier than we’re told to.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

5 Keys to Making Your Car Last for 200,000 Miles
5 Keys to Making Your Car Last for 200,000 Miles

Pushing your car to 200,000 miles — and beyond — can save you piles of cash. Here’s how to get there.

5 Things That Make Life More Meaningful for Retirees
5 Things That Make Life More Meaningful for Retirees

Retirees agree: These are the things that give them purpose and fulfillment in their golden years.

15 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now
15 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now

These practical products make everyday life a little easier.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.