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With the start of summer just around the corner, many people’s thoughts turn towards taking a vacation or day trips.
Yes, summer is the time of year when things slow down for most of us… especially if you have kids.
School is out! This means less running around to various activities and a temporary moratorium on daunting homework that you can’t figure out… let alone your child.
If you don’t have kids, summer is still the perfect time to reconnect with your partner and unwind for a day or two.
The only downside to taking vacation is that it isn't cheap (especially for a family).
Also, many places have travel restrictions in place nowadays that can make getting away feel like more of a headache than a break.
I am a mother to four young children.
So what do you do? Where do you go?
And, lucky for you, I have some awesome staycation ideas for couples and families in search of some low key and low cost R&R.
So What Is A Staycation?
A staycation, also sometimes referred to as a “holistay”, is defined as time spent at home that can involve day trips to local attractions.
No overnight accommodations required.
Now, before you get down on the idea… think about all of the possibilities. There are many upsides to a staycation, primarily:
If you’re starting to come around to the idea, keep reading… I’ve got some staycation ideas that just may tickle your fancy!
1. Visit a Theme Park
Theme parks can make for an epic day trip… with or without kids.
If you’re a thrill-seeker, or just enjoy feeling like a kid again, this is the staycation for you!
You can check out ride requirements and park details online ahead of time to avoid any surprises when you get there. You can purchase tickets in advance as well.
Also, most parks offer an additional “fast pass” to bypass long lines on the more popular rides. Think of it like making a reservation at a restaurant.
Finally, if the park is close enough, you may want to consider purchasing a season pass… which typically pays for itself after the second visit and is well worth the money if you’re planning to go back. It usually comes with perks, such as dining discounts and VIP events.
2. Tour A Historic Town or City District
Another fun way to spend a day is to tour a historic town, city district or village.
It’s easy enough to plan by spending some time on the internet… researching historic towns within a few hours driving distance from you.
There are usually quaint little shops and restaurants, adding to its charm.
And if you take the time to look, you may just stumble upon a trolley or duck boat tour… which can make for a really fun day that's easy on the feet. It’s also great for older relatives who’d like to tag along!
Some of the larger US cities can be rich in history as well, if you’re not too far away.
3. Go To A Museum
If you have an interest in something… chances are there is a museum for it.
Museums are basically places to house big collections of things. Things like art, comic books, movie and sports paraphernalia, aircrafts, shoes.
Yes, I said shoes.
And what better way to spend the day than by surrounding yourself with things that fascinate you?
If the particular museum you seek isn’t within a day trip’s distance, fear not! Most museums host online tours and virtual exhibits now… and they are usually free!
4. Visit The Zoo
There is something so serene about a visit to the zoo.
Watching animals engage with one another, sleep, eat… give birth.
A trip to the zoo is a great way to learn about earth’s wild creatures, while also helping to sustain their species via ticket sales and member donations.
While some people may find zoos cruel, you can do your research and learn where the inhabitants came from… and why they were brought there. Many times you’ll see it was to rescue or rehabilitate them.
And as with the museum, if there isn’t a zoo close by, feel free to check out one of the online exhibits that many of the larger facilities offer. You may even find a continuous live feed, streaming your favorite animal all night long.
5. Hit The Beach For A Day
Sand between your toes.
The sound of waves crashing.
Seagulls flying overhead, searching for scaps.
Hunting for seashells and sand dollars.
Soaking up the sun.
Going to the beach for the day is one of the most classic staycation ideas of summer. In fact, it’s a must.
Even if you don’t live near an ocean, there are lakes and rivers that offer a similar experience.
Just pack a lunch and some beverages… and hit the road. And don’t forget the sunscreen!
6. Attend A Music Festival
In our household, we are big music fans! And nothing is better than listening to live music outdoors.
Whether it’s an evening concert under the stars, or a multi-day music festival in the park, my family is always on the lookout for this kind of entertainment.
Most festivals will charge admission, which covers the cost of the entertainers… amongst other things.
But it’s still likely less expensive than paying to stay someplace overnight.
Music festivals typically offer food trucks or stands and kids’ activities, which make them family friendly.
A quick search online will tell you about the music festivals coming to your area, so you can plan ahead.
Some towns also offer weekly, free music concerts during the summer… which may be worth checking out.
7. Watch a Movie Under The Stars or Host A Dive-In
Movies are typically big hits when it comes to staycation ideas… whether it’s an outdoor movie in the park or in your own backyard.
With today’s technology, it’s easy to stream movies directly from your smartphone, tablet or computer onto a big screen.
Or a wall.
Or garage door.
Or even onto a white sheet hanging in between two trees.
Get your blankets, comfy chairs and snacks and wait for dark!
If you have a pool, you can always host a dive-in. Bring out the floats and lounge chairs and enjoy the show.
8. Host a Backyard Carnival
Summer carnivals were always one of my favorite memories growing up.
The games, the sounds, the food.
So creating a backyard carnival seems like a great way to spend a family staycation.
Go online or hit the “dollar” store and load up on buckets, balloons, tennis balls, bean bags and plastic cups.
Ring toss, knock the cans, “go fish”, cornhole, water balloon toss and more… all the classic games. You can even award prizes!
For added authenticity, don’t forget the eats… such as cotton candy, popcorn and hotdogs.
You can also set up a photobooth and face painting area. Your kids are guaranteed to love it so much, they’ll want to invite friends next time.
9. Camp Out In The Backyard
Camping doesn’t necessarily have to involve a campsite or recreation area.
If your yard is big enough, or even if you have a large deck or patio… you can pitch a tent and camp out.
Other supplies to have on hand include:
If it rains, don’t worry… you can always move the campout indoors.
All that matters is spending quality time together – distraction free. So put the cell phones away for the night!
10. Turn Your Yard Into A Splash Park
Cooling down in a pool, ocean, splash or water park is synonymous with summer fun!
The good news is, you don’t necessarily have to leave the house to enjoy it.
Turning your yard into a splash park is one of my kids’ favorite staycation ideas. Just set yourself up with the following essentials if you want to pull it off:
If you’re not feeling especially creative, or are lacking in DIY skills, never fear. You can always find inflatable water parks and other fun gadgets online… but some may cost more than a day at the actual water park.
11. Have A Magical Picnic
Picnics are always a good time… they also give us parents a break from kitchen duty.
But picnics don’t have to be just baskets and blankets. If you try hard enough, you can actually turn them into a themed adventure.
One of the best staycation ideas for a magical picnic came from a friend of mine, who transformed their yard into Alice in Wonderland’s garden for her daughter’s 5th birthday.
Whatever your child, or spouse, is interested in… if you can dream it, and have access to the internet, you can likely build it.
Transform your ordinary picnic into Tea at Buckingham Palace or finger sandwiches in a fairy garden… it’s the perfect way to escape from reality for a little while, without ever leaving home.
12. Take On A DIY Project
Reaching a goal that you set for yourself.
Or finally seeing one of your dreams come true.
Those feelings of accomplishment can be extremely rewarding… and seeing through a DIY project from start to finish is no exception.
Deciding to tackle a project on your own (or as a team) is one of those staycation ideas that kills two birds with one stone.
- You will be taking a break from the norm to spend time doing something different
- You will be saving money by doing it yourself
Whether it’s building a new patio, planting a garden, reupholstering furniture or replacing your kitchen cabinets and fixtures… no project is too small if it teaches you something.
13. Hold a Lawn Game Olympics
The Olympics are a wonderful tradition we get to enjoy every four years… but why wait?
Of all the staycation ideas, this is one of the easiest to pull off with just a little creativity and a healthy dose of good sportsmanship.
You can gather a group of friends and family and make it a team competition, with each team representing a country of their choosing. Or simply keep it small and have each person represent a different place.
Next, make it a point to serve food (or order takeout) from each country being represented. You’ll need fuel for the games!
Finally, it’s competition time!
Explain the challenges in detail and make everyone take a turn.
Some easy games include:
If you want to get fancy, make a podium out of old milk crates and give our medals!
14. Explore Nature
Communing with nature is a powerful experience and a great way to relax.
Whether it’s going for a hike, fishing, a swim or bike ride… there are many ways to explore the world and creatures around us. Many of which don’t involve traveling very far.
Find a state park, trails or nature preserve nearby.
Ride bikes along a towpath on the river.
Take your kayak into the ocean and jump off to snorkel around.
You can also stay home and explore your own backyard, which is especially great for younger kids.
Grab yourself a magnifying glass and bug catchers or mason jars. Use butterfly nets and bird feeders. Invest in a pair of binoculars.
See what you can catch and then observe it. Read about what you found. Take pictures and start a scrapbook of your collections.
It makes for both a fun and educational staycation for the whole family.
15. At Home Spa Day
A spa day is one of my favorite treats.
Massage, mani/pedi, facial, wax, soak.
The cucumber water.
It is such a great way to unwind and destress.
It can also be expensive.
Creating a spa day at home is not only affordable, but easily doable.
It can also be extremely romantic to do with your partner.
Set up different rooms in your house for each service you want to provide there. Make sure to have relaxing music and suitable lighting, blankets, etc.
You can create a menu of services for authenticity… and even wear a special uniform when it’s your turn to treat your partner.
Final Thoughts on Staycation Ideas for Couples and Families
In this article, we’ve given you 15 staycation ideas that can be done with very little effort and planning… if that is what you’re looking for.
They also happen to be budget friendly, as compared to multi day vacations.
The first six ideas are designed for those of you looking to take a little road trip, although there are still ways around that thanks to virtual experiences online.
The rest of the staycations ideas are designed to be done without leaving home, which makes them perfect for planning around inclement weather or last minute schedule changes.
The main thing to remember is that staycations can be just what the doctor ordered when you crave a little break from reality and are looking to reconnect with your partner, family or friends.
You don’t need to go on a big trip to make big memories.
Nicole Krause has been writing both personally and professionally for over 20 years. She holds a dual B.A. in English and Film Studies. Her work has appeared in some of the country’s top publications, major news outlets, online publications, and blogs. As a happily married (and extremely busy) mother of four… her articles primarily focus on parenting, marriage, family, finance, organization, and product reviews.