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Family Staycation Ideas

Family vacations can get expensive, especially for those with larger families. Once you add up all of the costs associated with paying for accommodations, dining out, entertainment, travel/transportation costs and everything else that is required for a family vacation, it can cost thousands of dollars. Where you intend to go and how far you have to travel for your family vacation will determine how many thousands of dollars your vacation could cost you.

Do not let anything get in the way of you having fun with the kids during the summer. Make plans to take your vacation right in your backyard. Hometowns can offer many things for families to do on a staycation. So this year, create an itinerary and set some time aside for an exciting family staycation.

Planning a staycation is more then just spending time at home for a week or so. It is a complete vacation, filled with fun, excitement and many adventures. The only difference is you are not having to travel long distances and pay for expensive hotels.

Here are some tips and ideas to help plan your next family staycation.

Photo Credit Thinkstock

Set Some Ground Rules

Just as you would with a traditional vacation, set some ground rules to ensure everyone in the family is on the same page. The last thing you want is for dad to take work-related phone calls or for mom to spend a majority of the day sending and replying to emails for her job.

Here are some ideas to help you and your family set your staycation rules:

  • No phones - including the use of smart phones
  • No checking emails - both personal and business
  • No computer or video games - unless playing together as a family
  • No television - unless watching a movie as a family
  • No working from home
  • No separating from each other - plan to do activities together
  • No cleaning, cooking or laundry

The best way to come up with ground rules that everyone will agree on is to sit down as a family to determine what your staycation ground rules will be. The biggest thing to determine is if the kids will be allowed to go out and play with their friends. Since you will be staying at home, consider setting specific times when the kids will be allowed to play with their friends and include it within the staycation itinerary.

New Yorkers Take "Staycations" In Town Due to Economic Woes
(Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

Set a Budget

The whole purpose of planning a staycation is to help save money. That is why it is important to set a budget and stick to it. Determine how much money you have available to spend for the entire time and set daily spending limits. Put each day's budget allowance in an envelope and mark it with the date it is intended for. This will help ensure you stay within your budget's spending allowance.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Prepare for the Staycation

Just like with a traditional vacation, you will want to relax during your staycation. The last thing you want to have to worry about is cleaning the house or going grocery shopping. It may be difficult to spend time at home relaxing, especially when you know there are plenty of things you could be getting done.

Take time to thoroughly clean your home before your staycation begins. This is the perfect time to spring clean, ensuring every nook and cranny is cleaned. The cleaner the house is, the less you have to worry about it during your relaxation time. Also, go shopping for all snack foods and easy-to-make meals, such as sandwiches, chips and dips.

Make your home feel like a hotel. Change out towels in the bathroom so they are fresh and put chocolates on the bed. Print up mini-itineraries for the following day and place in the kids' bedrooms each night with a bedtime snack.

Before the staycation, go around to some of your area restaurants and gather some menus. Decide which nights you will eat out and which nights you will order take-out or delivery. To help save money and time having to cook while on your stay vacation, consider preparing all of your meals beforehand. Some great staycation recipes includes prepared crockpot freezer meals. These meals are prepared by putting everything you will need, including spices, sauces, vegetables and meats, in a zip-locking bag. The bag is placed in the freezer until you are ready to cook it. To cook these meals, all you have to do is dump all of the ingredients from the bag into the crockpot. Your dinner will cook while you are enjoying time as a family.

Have kids place their special breakfast orders before the staycation begins. Spoil them by bringing breakfast into their room, similar to room service in a hotel.

Related: Ask An Expert: Tips On Traveling With Kids

Visit museums during your staycation (Credit, Heather Leigh Carroll)

Plan For Excitement

Make a lot of plans during your staycation, including a variety of activities that are both fun and exciting for the entire family. Sit the kids down and ask what they would like to do during their vacation-at-home time. Make a list of what everyone wants to do, go through the list together and schedule activities from that list. Try to accommodate everyone's vacation wishes at least once during the time and be fair to everyone's wishes.

What you do during your staycation will greatly depend upon where you live and the different types of attractions that are available within a decent driving distance from your home. Some activities can include visiting local museums, spending the day at the pool or beach, taking a local city tour, renting a boat for a day out on the lake, fishing or even planning a picnic in the park. Add some outdoor fun during your vacation by planning to camp out in your backyard or try geocaching as a family.

Other fun family activities include:

  • Taking virtual tours of other cities or attractions
  • Visit a local national park or amusement park
  • Go out to dinner and then go see a movie
  • Visit the local library
  • Explore a local zoo or aquarium
  • Visit a nearby tourist spot
  • Go play a few paintball or laser tag games
  • Go mini golfing or bowling
  • Attend a local event or festival
  • Attend a sporting event, such as a major or minor league baseball game
  • Spend all day playing board games
  • Plan a spa day within the house
  • Plan a water day in the backyard with small pools, water balloons and lots of sprinklers
  • Plant a garden together
  • Visit a farmers' market
  • Go kayaking

For help coming up with things to do and nearby places to visit, check with your local Chamber of Commerce and Convention and Visitors Bureau for a list of information they give newcomers and visitors. Stop by a local hotel and pick up copies of all of the brochures they have for local attractions.

An adventurous method to pick what you are doing every day is to place several different activity ideas on small pieces of paper and put them in a jar. Then each morning, you will pull out an activity and that is what you will be doing for the day. This idea works best with older kids who will not get upset when plans change.

Mother's Day Activities - Family Day At The Beach
Photo Credit Thinkstock

Choose A Staycation Theme

Creating a theme for your staycation will help you come up with unique things to do during your time together as a family. Create a week-long theme or plan a different theme for each day. Some themes can include Disney, foreign countries, a favorite movie or book, Hawaiian/tropical or animal. Make all of your staycation plans around the theme or themes selected. For example, a Disney staycation may include watching several Disney movies, making Disney arts and crafts or finding something nearby that is Disney-related.

Another great theme to pick is that of a foreign country. For example, select China as your theme. Do some research and make plans around everything China, including making native crafts, watching movies about China, learning about the culture and cooking Chinese food.

Your staycation is a time to spend with the family. Make a commitment to focus on your staycation and enjoy the time relaxing with the family. As tough as it may be, you will need to take this time off from worrying about work and day-to-day routines. Just because you are not traveling for your vacation does not mean you cannot enjoy the time with your kids and spouse. There are plenty of opportunities to create magical memories that will last a lifetime during your staycation.

Related: Tips For Your Next Road Trip

Heather Landon is a freelance writer with more than 20 years of experience. She has combined two of her passions - writing and travel - to share her experiences with others. You can read more of her articles at

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