26 Staycation Ideas to Rejuvenate Your Family
Wish you could whisk them away to exciting places with incredible things to see and do?
You don’t have to leave home. Plan a family staycation and enjoy local attractions you may have overlooked (or taken for granted).
The editors at My Kids’ Adventures have searched the web to find fun staycation adventures you can take with your family wherever you live.
In this article I’ll share our 26 favorite staycation ideas, A-Z. Learn how to become tourists in your own town and find fantastic places to make family memories this summer.
Why Take a Family Staycation?
A family vacation is an important bonding experience—a time to interact in a relaxed environment, away from the busy everyday schedules of work, school and extracurricular activities.
But sometimes you don’t have the time or money to plan a week or two away from home.
Try a staycation, a vacation you take in your own town. Staycations are much less expensive than traditional vacations and can fit into the nooks and crannies of your busy life. The point is to step away from all of the “stuff” that distracts you from connecting with your kids and get into the vacation mindset, no travel required.
Taking some time to refresh and reboot with your family is priceless.
Read on for a list of staycation ideas from A to Z and choose a fun escape for your family soon.
Be sure to pack a staycation bag so you’ll have everything you need on hand to jet at a moment’s notice… so it feels more like a real vacation.
Are your bags backed? Great! Let’s go!
Before you visit an aquarium (or any kind of exploration center, like a science museum) do some research at the library or online. Talk to your kids about what they are going to see. Afterwards, have your kids write a story or draw a picture about the experience.
No aquarium nearby? No problem. Just go to a pond, river or stream. Take your kids fishing or just look in the water and explore aquatic life in its natural habitat.
If your kids flip for fish, you may even want to start an aquarium at home.
Nothing says summer like a day at the beach. You can build sandcastles, play in the water or go for a swim. It’s an excellent way to feel like you’re out of town, even if you’re just a few miles away from home.
The great thing about camping is you can camp anywhere. Find a campground or set up camp in your backyard. You can even go camping indoors. Camp for an afternoon or go camping overnight. Participate in all of the traditions of camping: play outside, go for a hike, build a campfire, tell scary stories and eat s’mores.
Whether you are “roughing it” in the wilderness or in the comfort of your home, camping is a fun family experience. Make sure to bring a deck of cards or other non-electronic games; these make for good downtime fun while camping!
D: Day Trip
Just because you’re not going on a traditional vacation doesn’t mean you can’t pretend to be tourists. Go sightseeing. Visit local landmarks. Pick up a city guidebook, do research online or ask friends and family for suggestions of cool local attractions. You can also ask the concierge at a hotel in your town or a city nearby.
Even if your destination is just an hour away, make it feel like a vacation and bring along road trip games.
Another staycation option is to explore your own neighborhood. Go to a park or entertainment venue you haven’t been to in a while. Eat at a restaurant you’ve never tried. Check out a performance by a local band or community (or high school) theater group.
Try to think of those places you’ve overlooked or always thought, “We should try that someday.” Someday has arrived!
Add an extra element of fun to your local explorations when you take a Mystery Road Trip with your kids. Drive around your area and let your kids alternate telling you which direction to turn. You never know where you’ll end up.
Get an even closer look at your own neighborhood when you explore it on foot or bikes. The trick is to make the journey as fun and exciting as the destination. You may just discover some new favorite family places.
F: Festivals and Fairs
During the summer, it’s likely your town will host a festival or fair (or several). Check the flyers at your local library or ask around. You probably won’t even have to look that hard. There may even be a banner in your town square.
Look into art festivals, renaissance fairs and farmers’ markets, as well.
G: Global Cultures and Groceries
Think of your staycation as an opportunity to explore traditions and cuisines from other parts of the world.
If you can’t agree on a place, have everyone in your family write a different state or country on a piece of paper. Stick them in a hat and then pick one.
Do some research about your chosen country online to find recipes, activities or crafts, history and geography and maybe a few words in a foreign language. Then make a list and head out to the grocery store.
Here’s a classic staycation idea: Check into a local hotel for the night. This is the perfect option for families short on time and money. There are a lot of summer deals, so be sure to do research online beforehand.
Enjoy the use of the pools, restaurants and amenities—and their maid service! Some hotels even have special activities for kids.
I: Ice Cream Social
Everyone loves an ice cream social. So why not plan one for your staycation? Get out the ice cream maker and the rock salt and get ready for old-fashioned fun. You can make it a mini-party with just your immediate family (more ice cream for you) or invite friends or relatives over to create some cool treats together.
Make different flavors of ice cream and offer a variety of toppings. Kids love to make their own sundaes.
Want to take your ice cream social a step further? Make ice cream–shaped invitations and decorations like this ice cream piñata from Six Sisters‘, and play themed party games. Pin the ice cream on the cone, anyone?
Or try a taffy pull. It’s a fun variation of the ice cream social, featuring a different kind of sweet treat.
When you all pitch in to produce something together (like handmade ice cream or taffy), there are ample opportunities to talk, laugh and connect.
At least a few days each week, have your kids write about their summer staycation activities. Younger ones can write just a few words and/or draw a picture.
Keeping a journal is an excellent way for kids to keep up and improve their writing skills over the summer. It’s also a great way to document all of the fun and fascinating adventures your family takes together.
At the end of the summer, bind each child’s journal into a book. Or, you can collaborate and add photos to create a family scrapbook “How I Spent my Summer Staycation!”
Along with your kids, perform acts of kindness.
At the beginning of the summer, sit down with your kids and make a list of nice things you can do for other people: wash someone’s car, water their flowers, bake cookies, make lemonade or just sit and chat with them.
Make a list of family, friends and neighbors for whom you would like to do one of these favors. Once a week, choose an item from one of the lists and a person from the other. Then do that act of kindness for that person.
Acts of kindness are gifts that keep on giving. The more you do them, the more you want to do. It also may inspire the receivers to participate in acts of kindness of their own.
A fun (and crafty) alternative is to create an acts of kindness bouquet for someone special and present him or her with a whole bunch of kindnesses that you and your kids promise to do.
A library staycation allows you to visit places near and far, real and imaginary, through the pages of books you read together. Spend the summer in Narnia or the wizarding world of Hogwarts, or any of the thousands of other places you can discover in books.
Most libraries have book clubs or read-a-thons over the summer, where kids get rewarded based on the number of books they complete. Sign your family up for the summer reading program, and enjoy your visits to faraway places all summer long.
Local libraries offer even more staycation-worthy escapes than those found in the books themselves. Many libraries hold a variety of events for kids of all ages over the summer. Check the events schedule for your local library to find everything from story time and movie screenings to craft and science projects. There’s something for kids of all ages.
A trip to a museum can transport your family to another time and place (several of them, actually) through art and historical exhibits. What a great staycation idea!
Before you go to the museum, prep your kids. Do a little research online first to see if there are any special exhibits, and give your kids some background about what they are going to see. Also explain rules like indoor voices, no touching the artwork (unless it’s a children’s museum, where touching is encouraged), no running, etc.
Once at the museum, ask your kids questions about the art. What do they see? What do they like about it? What do they not like about it? Take pictures, if it’s allowed, so they can remember what art they liked, as well as the experience.
When you get home, have your kids create something inspired by one of the pieces you saw.
Opportunities to explore nature during the summer are endless. You can visit a botanical garden in your neighborhood or plant a garden as a family.
A garden is a wonderful activity that can last all summer long. Even if you are short on space, you have options. Just make sure you will have the time to devote to planting, tending and harvesting the fruits and vegetables from your garden.
Another way to connect with nature is to go on a hike. Be sure to prepare for the hike, so everyone in the family has a great time.
O: Outdoor Movies and Concerts
Many communities have places that host outdoor movies and concerts throughout the summer. Just check your local chamber of commerce for a schedule or ask around.
The concerts tend to start a little earlier than the movies, since you have to wait for sundown to screen the films. Many of the places have lawn seating so be sure to bring a blanket to sit on and some extra snacks and toys to keep the little ones occupied during the show.
It’s super-easy to host an outdoor movie night at home, which provides lots of opportunities for creativity! On the Pear Tree Greetings blog, Christy Bode showed how she helped throw a movie night party for her friend’s daughter’s birthday. The party included a pink carpet and photos, paparazzi-style.
No list of staycation ideas would be complete without recommending that you visit your local parks.
You may already go to the park on a regular basis, so make your staycation park experience a little more special by planning a photo or regular scavenger hunt or some exciting new park games and activities.
Don’t forget to pack a picnic!
Q: Quiet Day
Picture an idyllic vacation day spent lounging around a pool or on a tropical beach. Now, recreate that feeling of quiet relaxation on your staycation. Spend a day (or a warm summer evening) outside, away from the distractions of home.
Like traditional vacations, staycations tend to be busy and hectic. One of your staycation days should be low-key and electronics-free.
Summer’s the perfect time to host a reunion. Have a family reunion or a reunion of friends you haven’t seen in a while. How about a reunion of your kids’ first friends (and your own new-parent friends) from a playgroup or daycare?
You can even have a party with some of your kids’ friends from school. For kids, summer feels like it takes forever. So why not host a reunion in the middle of it!
Team sports may be fun to play, but they’re also fun to watch! Go to a sporting event.
Every town has a team, even if it’s just a neighborhood league. Pack up the family and go watch some sports together!
You can even gather up some friends and neighbors, divide into teams and play sports too!
Check the schedule for your local community theater or school drama department. Many theater groups present kid-friendly plays during the summer that are fun for the whole family.
Exposing your kids to performing arts is so important. Get them started early.
You can also put on your own play or puppet show with your family. Get your kids’ ideas and help them write a script. Make sure there are roles for everyone. Then invite friends and neighbors over to watch you perform.
U: Under the Stars
When school’s out, the kids can stay up a little later. Summer’s the perfect time to learn about astronomy and explore the stars with your kids.
Try lots of fun nighttime sky activities, from creating your own constellations to tracking the phases of the moon. Be sure to check with NASA to see if the International Space Station will be passing over your town soon.
Volunteer opportunities are everywhere, from beach and park cleanup to visiting the elderly at a senior center. Search online to see where you and your kids can volunteer in your area, and whether your kids are old enough to do so.
Before you head out, get your kids thinking about all of the things they can do to help others. Then make a list and see what you can do to match your kids with an age-appropriate community-service opportunity.
Need to cool off? Thought so. Plan at least one pool day on your family staycation. Check out the rates at the community pool. Make sure you ask about family discounts before you take the plunge.
Turn your backyard into a water park, and invite neighborhood kids over to play. They’ll get hours of enjoyment and a much-needed break from the heat.
X: “X” Marks the Spot
Plan a treasure hunt as a staycation day treat! Get into the spirit—decorate the house, serve fish and Chips Ahoy cookies and dress as pirates.
No matter how many day trips you plan to fill with staycation ideas, odds are you’ll be spending lots of time outside in the yard during your staycation. Make it fun for the whole family!
Si Mazouz on Handmade Charlotte compiled wonderful ideas to make the outside even more kid-friendly. Check out the outdoor music station from Fun at Home with Kids and the simple sandbox from Nonchalant Mom.
If you’re really ambitious, schedule a large group play date or even organize your own neighborhood summer camp.
We started with the aquarium, so it’s only fitting we wrap up with a trip to the zoo for our staycation ideas from A to Z.
Prep for a zoo outing by reading books, talking about the animals and asking your kids which ones are their favorites.
Look for a traditional zoo, petting zoo, farm or animal rescue facility in your area. There’s a lot to learn, and your kids will love the animals!
Say “hi” to the zebras!
Some Final Thoughts…
You don’t need to go on a fancy vacation to have fun with your family.
Whether you take a week-long staycation or spread staycation days throughout the summer, you and your family are bound to have a good time. Just play, bond and enjoy your time spent together. That’s the whole point!
What do you think? Are you planning a family staycation this year? What are you going to do? Where will you go? We’d love to hear about your adventures and plan—and see pictures too! Please share your experience in the comments.
Images from iStockPhoto.
Debra Eckerling is an editor at My Kids Adventures. The creator of Write On Online, a website and community for writers, Debra helps individuals define, plan and achieve their goals. Other posts by Debra Eckerling »