With gas and food prices showing no sign of relief, many people are turning to the idea of a staycation in lieu of a vacation that involves driving or flying to a distant location and paying for lodging and food. Not only are people canceling planned vacations, many were never able to save for vacation at all this year. I can tell you that between moving to an area with a high cost of living this year, and the rising food prices – our budget is maxed out. We are looking for ways to have family fun without spending too much money. I am sharing thirteen ideas with you here, and all you need to do is pick five – eight ideas to have a great staycation week.
Fly A Kite: “Let’s go fly a kite, Up to the highest height. Let’s go fly a kite and send it soaring…” Flying a kite together can be great fun, help you all practice cooperation, and give you a sense of family accomplishment. Did I mention fun? It does not have to be March to fly a kite. A slight wind makes any day perfect. If you want to extend the fun and add to the challenge, make your own kites.
Hiking: If you follow me on Instagram, you already know I am a big fan of family hiking. We consistently take our three-year-old twins on family hikes – it can be done! Hiking is a great way to bond as a family without breaking the bank. Keep asking until you find your local free trails. It might be as simple as hiking around the lake at the county park with a picnic lunch in Dad’s backpack. Hiking doesn’t have to be uphill or in the backcountry to be worthwhile for families. Read about finding and enjoying great hikes as a family.
Beach Day: Many locations have a lake-based park with a summer beach. Gather up your buckets and shovels and head out for a day in the water. Don’t have shovels and buckets? A quick trip to the dollar store and you will be good to go. Don’t foget a picnic lunch and plenty of sunscreen!
Local Attractions. Many people spend their whole lives in a tourist town and never see the main points of attraction. How many people live in New York City and never go out to see the Statue of Liberty? Are you within an easy drive of a Civil War or Revolutionary War battlefield? Does your town have a museum or a lighthouse? If you are not sure what’s available, you may want to read this article about finding local attractions.
Arrange A Tour: Does your town or nearby city have a factory, restaurant, or grocery store whose owners might be willing to give you a tour? We have toured a natural foods grocery store and it was so neat to see the inner workings of a grocery business. We’ve also toured a pizza restaurant and followed that up with pizza for lunch.
Visit the Elderly: Nursing Homes love to have people come in and visit with people. You can talk to the social director and make sure which times are appropriate and get some ideas of what you can do to break the ice. I have found that young children are a great ice-breaker! Maybe you can bring along a checker board or host a hymn sing. This is a wonderful family ministry and can be a really fun day for all.
Community Service: When I was in college we were required to participate in four or five community service projects each year. We cleaned up a section of the highway, raked yards for elderly and disabled people, served at the local food banks and homeless shelters, changed the oil in the cars of single Moms, ran story-time at the campus library – and I remember each of those experiences like it was yesterday. The expressions of joy you can bring to the hurting people around you are an amazing blessing to your own heart. My children and I recently participated in a Feed My Starving Children event and we ended our day so happy to have made a difference.
Backyard Campout: It doesn’t take much to enjoy a night out in your backyard. If you have a tent or can borrow one, great. If you don’t have a tent, sleep under the stars! Make this a night to remember. If you can safely have a campfire, that’s great. If you are in an area where campfires are not safe, you can make smores in the microwave, cook hotdogs on the grill, and sing praise songs around a lantern. This seems so simple, and we are always shocked at how much our children enjoy these campouts.
Game Day: Spend time playing board games or card games together all day long. Plan a family tournament for your favorite game, or invite in some friends and play bunco. Serve finger foods throughout the day, and hand out trophies at the end. Come up with a trophy for everyone, such as best attitude, longest winning streak, biggest lucky break, best game face, best table talk, best overall winner, nicest player. Get the crafty ones involved in building the trophies out of found household items early in the day.
Theme Day Fun: Pick a theme and celebrate the theme all day. It could be blue day, and everyone wears blue, eats blue food, creates blue artwork, plays blue games. It could be all about horses. You can print horse coloring pages, eat horse themed food, go horseback riding nearby, and read the book Mary On Horseback. It could be backwards day, and you could eat supper in the morning and wear clothing backwards, and walk backwards all day.
Host a Block Party: Invite the whole neighborhood and assign what to bring based on last names. Spend the day together cleaning and preparing. Perhaps you could have three-legged races, basketball games, horseshoes, and street hockey. Arrange to have music outside, string up your Christmas lights, and get to know your neighbors.
Playground Bonanza: Start the morning at one playground and play until you are bored. Eat a snack and drive to another playground. Play here till lunch, and be sure you are actually playing with your children. Eat a picnic lunch, and then spread blankets in the grass for some quiet time. You might even have everyone bring a book or two. After quiet time, drive to another playground. Research this ahead of time to find a wide variety of playground structures. Look for a castle themed playground, a jungle gym playground, and a playground with plenty of swings or a sand base. Another alternative? You could start or end each day of your staycation vacation at a different local playground.
Scavenger Hunt: Split into two teams and complete a scavenger hunt. You can do a neighborhood scavenger hunt where you have a list of random items you need to find. You could do a food drive scavenger hunt where you are collecting food items for the local homeless shelter or food bank. You could do a themed scavenger hunt such as a list of 50 different blue items you each need to find. You can do a photography scavenger hunt where you have to drive around town taking pictures in front of iconic landmarks and obtuse locations. You can make it hard by writing clues but not spelling out what you are looking for. You can make it easy by listing exactly what teams have to find. Here are some great scavenger hunts to get you started.
Go find all those crazy cheap things we used to do on Saturday night for fun. Go bowling, go do miniature golf, find a laser tag place, enjoy a trampoline park. Pick one form of cheap entertainment to enjoy as a special treat together. Where we live, our county parks have miniature golf courses that are very affordable, and our local library includes passes for free miniature golf as part of our Summer Reading program! Bowling can be free during the summer for two games per child, so your only cost will be for adults and shoes.
When you are planning and executing a family staycation vacation, it is important to keep your goals in mind. If you want to make this as much like a vacation as possible, you need to make sure you (Mom and Dad) are participating in every activity as much as possible. No sitting on the sidelines while your kids play board games or swing around the jungle gym. You should also try to ease the burden of mealtimes and household cleaning as much as possible.
Pack a variety of picnic lunches, or spend a bit of money on eating out if you can. If you can hire out laundry or other cleaning duties for just that week, all the better. Grill out so the kitchen doesn’t get too messy. You can even grill out at the local park in the evenings. Come up with a plan and schedule ahead of time for each day, and keep things moving like you really are spending a ton of money on vacation and trying to squeeze every moment out of your time away. Take lots of pictures!
With a little planning and a good attitude, you might discover your staycation to be your favorite family vacation yet.