staycation famiy camping in the backyard.

This summer, a cash shortage need not eliminate the idea of a family vacation. Clever and creative parents can turn time off work into an amazing vacation experience, without leaving town.

The idea here is to take a stay-at-home vacation or a “staycation.”

staycation famiy camping in the backyard.

Make a plan

Determine the dates of your staycation. Create a schedule and itinerary that includes activities and meals. Make a big colorful chart and allow the kids to participate in the planning.

The point of a staycation is to make it feel as much like a real family getaway as possible, without leaving home. So, to make sure the whole family is on the same page, it is good to establish ground rules that everyone can agree on. 

Save the date

Start with deciding exactly when your vacation at home starts and ends. Make sure these are dates you clear of all regular life, just as if you and the family were leaving town for a period of time.

Establish guidelines

Set a few guidelines for what your family may and may not do during this time. These could include all or some of the following:

  • No mobile phone
  • No email
  • No computer or video games
  • No television
  • No working from home
  • No worrying
  • No fighting
  • No cooking
  • No cleaning
  • No laundry
  • Plan for fun!

Just like a traditional vacation, the more you plan for fun, the more successful your staycation will be. 

Find the cash

Start by setting a reasonable, realistic budget for your week of fun at home. Set some money aside for activities, eating out, and perhaps even paying for a splurge or two.

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Decide on activities

Take the time to figure out just what you will do on your staycation. If your kids are old enough to have an opinion, hold a family meeting to discuss your ideas and to get a feel for what everyone wants to do. 

If you like spontaneity, consider putting everyone’s ideas into a jar, then picking one activity each day.

Or, if your family prefers more structure, use your ideas to develop an itinerary for the week. 

Be sure to also spend some time prepping your home and kitchen to make things as easy—and neat—as possible for your relaxing week at home.

Gather menus to all the local restaurants that offer takeout and delivery or, if eating out every day is not an option, plan a freezer cooking session ahead of time to prepare a week’s worth of easy stress-free meals. 

Think like a tourist. Do an Internet search for the name of your town plus the word “tourist.” You’ll be amazed at what you discover. We’re talking hiking trails, bike paths, community events, museums and playgrounds that you may not know exist. Look for special deals and coupons local merchants are offering.

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Notify. Let everyone know the dates you’ll be on vacation. In the same way you would not be available if you were flying to another country, they need to know you will not be available during your vacation.

Do things differently. This is the fun part. Decide to break all the rules during your stay-at-home vacation, within reason, so this does not look at all like regular life in your home. Sleep in late; stay up later. Watch videos, play games, go on bike rides; explore places you’ve never been. A few days of junk food is not likely to create any serious problems.

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Camp out. Kids love to camp out, so haul out your basic camping gear (borrow or rent if you need to) and set it up in the backyard. What fun! Create a fire pit so you can sit around the campfire late into the night (be sure to use proper care and be mindful of local rules and guidelines). Brush up on campfire songs. Determine that you’ll cook, eat and sleep outdoors during your camping vacation.

Unplug. This is the challenge for parents on staycation: Everyone has to surrender cell phones and computers to a central holding area for the duration. Sure, it will be an adjustment, but possibly the best move of all. Let the mail collect, to be opened when you return “home.” When you are not taking some well-deserved naps, let your kids know they have your undivided attention. That will make this a true vacation because you “vacate” the normal routines and stresses of life.

Enjoy your local theaters. Check your local newspaper or theater website to see what plays, musicals, concerts, or family-friendly comedy shows will be playing during your planned Staycation time, then book tickets and plan for an evening at the theater.

Be sure to take lots of pictures and let the kids help to create a scrapbook of memories. Don’t be surprised when they call it the best family vacation ever!

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