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Jetting off to an exotic destination in the Caribbean may sound like the perfect family vacation, but there are many more ways to rest, relax, and spend quality time together as a family. If an expensive trip is not in your family budget this summer, why not consider a vacation that is a little (okay, a lot) closer to home? With some thought and creativity, you can plan a spectacular staycation that requires minimal travel, yet still allows you to make plenty of special summer memories.
What is a Staycation?
As the name implies, a staycation is, essentially, a vacation that revolves around staying home. Some families choose staycation activities that don’t even require them to leave the house, while others prefer to get out and about and explore their local community.
No matter what type of staycation works best for your family, there are a few guidelines you can follow to make sure it feels like a true vacation for everyone involved:
Take time off from work. Yes, this means you, Mom and Dad. Whether your staycation lasts for a full week or just a long weekend, resist the urge to check in with the office.
Unplug. Your staycation does not have to be entirely screen-free, but put away the smartphones and tablets in favor of games, conversations and connections with loved ones.
Make a meal plan. Take a vacation from your kitchen too by stocking up on sandwich fixings for simple, no-cook meals or dining out at restaurants where someone else will do the dishes.
Avoid non-essential household tasks. Fight the urge to do laundry or clean out your closet. If it isn’t a task you normally do on vacation, you shouldn’t be doing it on a staycation either.
Think about what you want to achieve. Is your goal to have a relaxing, do-nothing staycation that is all about staying home? Or do you want to get out of the house and enjoy new experiences together? Staycations are supposed to be fun, not stressful, so be sure to customize yours to meet the unique needs of your individual family.
Bring the Beach to You
If you live within driving distance of the ocean or even a lake, a staycation can be as simple as packing up the whole family and heading out to enjoy the sand and sun. For those who are a bit more landlocked, it’s easier than you might think to bring the beach to you.
Fill a kiddie or blow-up pool with water in your backyard, and then surround it with several bags of sand from the local hardware store. Add a few beach balls for playing catch and pails and shovels for building sandcastles. Bring out the lounge chairs and sunscreen, and don’t forget to whip up some fruity drinks with tiny umbrellas for the ultimate beach day experience.
Have an Outdoor Adventure
Summer is the ideal season to explore the great outdoors, so why not plan a family staycation that is all about outdoor adventure? Reserve a campsite or cabin in your favorite local park and spend a few days fishing, hiking and geocaching in the fresh air and sunshine. If your kids are strong swimmers, plan a family float trip down a nearby river or creek.
Prefer to stay at home for your staycation? Pitch a tent in your own backyard and spend a couple of nights sleeping under the stars. Spend your days going on outdoor scavenger hunts to collect objects like leaves and insects and your evenings roasting marshmallows and telling spooky stories around the campfire. In this scenario, you also enjoy the added benefit of indoor plumbing when nature calls.
Be Tourists in Your Own Hometown
You love the city where you live, but how much time do you spend taking advantage of all it has to offer? Pretend you are tourists and devote your staycation to touring your own hometown.
• Visit local museums, parks, and attractions. If you become a museum member, or purchase a season pass, you can visit as often as you like.
• Attend a sporting event and root for your hometown team.
• Purchase a two-day pass to a nearby water or amusement park.
• Bike local trails. Pack a picnic or stop at a locally-owned winery or restaurant along the way.
• Splurge on tickets to a concert or musical at the city’s most popular theater.
• Learn some hometown history by visiting any well-known historical sites and monuments within driving distance.
• Many communities hold special parades, carnivals, and family-friendly festivals throughout the summer months. Mark your calendar and make plans to attend one or several.
Some families have found that spending a few nights at a local hotel can make a hometown staycation feel more like a relaxing vacation. Look for one with reasonable rates and a pool where the kids can swim. Make your stay memorable by ordering room service and enjoying breakfast in bed before you head out to explore the city.
Enjoy the Comforts of Home
Sometimes, the best staycations are all about staying home. Turn your house into a spa by lighting aromatherapy candles, sipping on spa water infused with fruit and mint and pampering each other with mud masks and massages. Throw a pajama party and spend a few days lounging on the couch in your most comfortable jammies, enjoying a marathon of your family’s favorite movies. Host a family board game tournament or backyard field day with prizes for the winners. Start a family book club and spend your staycation reading the same books, then discussing them together over ice cream sundaes.
Conclude your at-home staycation by throwing an epic block party with the neighbors. Get creative with a Mexican fiesta or Hawaiian luau theme or keep it simple by planning a few fun games like kickball and water balloon toss and making it a potluck. Either way, you will be creating special summer memories for your whole family. Even better, you won’t have to travel far from home to do so.
Alyssa Chirco writes about parenting and family life for publications across the country. She and her family are planning an at-home staycation in their hometown of St. Louis this summer.