Sometimes it’s just not possible to take the traditional family vacation. Budgets, schedules, and global pandemics may conflict with the desire. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t invite the vacation into your home. With a little creativity and planning, as well as an open mind, you can turn precious time off into a family staycation.
Think of the staycation as an opportunity to “get away from it all” by going nowhere. Instead, play explorer, traveler, and fun-seeker in your own backyard, and discover how treasured vacation memories needn’t always be made beyond your zip code.
Here’s how to get started.
SET A BUDGET
Before conjuring ideas and itineraries for your staycation, get a handle on your budget. How much money can you realistically devote to the family staycation? Be honest. Write that number down and stick to it as you begin the planning.
INVITE A FAMILY BRAINSTORM
A month or so ahead of the planned time off, whether it be for a single day or a full week, gather the family together to brainstorm activities for your family staycation.
Let imaginations run wild when it comes to the possibilities close to home. Keep the ideas close to home and within the home. Create a robust list from upon which to draw. No idea should be disregarded at the onset—the planning process should be fun.
Some ideas might include:
Camp in the backyard. Can’t make it to Yosemite or Yellowstone? Pitch a tent and toast s’mores in your backyard. If you’ve never camped before, consider this training before a real National Park adventure.
Spa day at home. Fill a shopping cart at your local pharmacy with goodies that can transform your bathroom and living room into a 5-star spa. Face masks, manicures, pedicures, massages, bubble baths. Have silly fun with these services at home while playing a soothing soundtrack. Dad might appreciate that long-overdue pedicure.
Rent an Airbnb. Change the perspective without leaving your hometown. Depending on your budget, you might rent a home on Airbnb in a different neighborhood. Sometimes being in a new setting—even if it’s in the same town—can feel invigorating and inspire curiosity.
Play tourist in your hometown. There are likely a handful of things you’ve been meaning to do, see, and experience within your own town. Museums, bowling alleys, ice skating rinks. What have you not been making time to experience? You might even weave a culinary progressive into your staycation itinerary, sampling new restaurants in your area over a night or two, splitting up the appetizer, main and dessert courses at different dining spots.
Take a mini road trip. What curiosities reside in the town next door? Do you live near a major city with cool attractions? Or a state or national park with lots of room to roam? Perhaps you live near a road known for road-tripping/day-tripping, such as Route 66. Sometimes not having an end destination is enough—just get in the car and see where the whim takes you.
Cook up themed dinners. Cooking at home is even more fun when the meal is paired with a theme. It could be tied to geographical cuisine, such as Greek or Chinese. Or it might be tied to a decade, such as 80’s Night. Or maybe it revolves around a color, such as Red—and all the guests need to dress in their finest red attire to attend.
Outdoor adventures. Enjoy time outside, together. Let a local park be your playground for a family picnic, kite-flying, drone experimentation, hiking, bike riding, or even people-watching.
Design a waterpark on your lawn. Create your own waterpark by stringing together inflatable waterslides, pools, and Slip ‘N Slides. You might attract others from the neighborhood to partake in the water-soaked fun.
Munch through movie marathons. Get cozy on the couch with a big bowl of popcorn for themed movie nights (Disney, 80’s, horror) or movies that beg for sing-alongs (“Wizard of Oz,” “Sound of Music”).
Game night. Break out Monopoly, Jenga, and other classic board games to pit family against family in some friendly competition. The winning team gets to decide what the family does the next day!
A day to unplug. We’re so connected to our devices, how about “daring” the entire family to spend a day without technology? What might fill the time you’d otherwise be glued to a computer, television, or smartphone?
PLAN, PLAN, PLAN
Based on the family brainstorm, pick your favorite activities and begin plotting them into an itinerary for the time you’ve allotted for the family staycation. Even better, empower your kids to do this. Give them each a day and (with some guidance) invite them to design a vacation day. Remember to keep that budget in mind.
LEAVE ROOM FOR SPONTANEITY
Some of the best vacation memories are unplanned. It’s worth leaving an afternoon or an entire day void of any to-do’s. Put ideas into a hat and give everyone a turn to decide what happens next. Or, simply head to your local breakfast joint with the family to load up on bacon and eggs, then see where the day takes you. (And if it’s back home to sleep, so be it—you’re on vacation, after all.)
ENJOY THE STAYCATION
Once you have your staycation itinerary finalized, hang it up where the family can see it. Enjoy the anticipation and the novelty that comes with this unique way to vacation. While it may not be the same as a trip to Walt Disney World, it’s precious time focused on making memories with those who matter most—your family.