Staycations are great for the budget, but sometimes they can be a hard sell for the kids – or even for you and your spouse. Because you immediately think of staying home, watching TV and sitting in the backyard. Sounds boring, but it doesn't have to be! When saving money is priority, here are some inexpensive and fun activities that make staying home actually fun!
Fun Things to do on a Staycation
1. Be a local tourist
Take a look at your local tourism bureau’s website to see what visitors to YOUR city do when they come into town. For example, I’ve lived in the Seattle area for more than 20 years, but I’ve never taken the Underground tour. It’s a peek into what life was like in Seattle in the early 1800s, seeing some of the old sidewalks and storefronts that are actually a full story below the current sidewalks in Pioneer Square. Do you live near the world's largest ball of foil, or some other odd roadside attraction? You might be surprised at the list of things to do.
2. Pick a point on the map and drive there
The trick here is to make it a 2 hour or less drive, unless you’re open to staying the night. My husband and I used to do this all the time before we had kids, and now we don’t do it as often. But it’s a great way to see somewhere new in your area!
We’ve now seen the northwestern-most point in the contiguous United States (Cape Flattery), explored Bainbridge Island wineries and art galleries in Port Townsend, checked out the Bavarian-themed village of Leavenworth, and more. Pack some food and drinks in a cooler, grab some road trip activities for the kids, then just pick a direction and go. Don’t forget the camera, because you’ll make some great memories!
3. Find another family that’s staying in town and plan a get-together
There’s usually someone in town. Give them a call, send them a text or an email, and meet up somewhere for the kids to play, or arrange a barbecue. Play some games outside and just relax with friends. This could be at a neighborhood park with picnic facilities, or it can be in your own backyard.
4. Have a family game night
If you don’t already have a family game night on your schedule, I highly recommend devoting anywhere from 2 nights per month to 1 night a week for this. It doesn’t take a big production, but the fun you all have together makes for some great memories. Let each child have a turn picking the night’s game (or the first one to play, if you can fit in multiple games). Then after dinner, clear the dishes from the table and get to it. You can fit in a lot of fun between dinner and bedtime!
5. Movie marathon day!
Take advantage of your DVD collection, Redbox, Netflix, Amazon Video or your local library, and pick up a few inexpensive movies. These can be old favorites or movies you didn’t get to see in the theater. The key is to not spend a ton of money setting this up! Pop some popcorn and get some shareable snacks and drinks, and get to watching. If you have access to a projector, you could even set up a theater outside in the back yard! (Just don’t forget the bug spray.)
6. Do a party game challenge
What is this, you ask? This is where you set up a series of party games, like a ring toss, cornhole, ladder golf, three-legged race, etc. Then everyone goes around the circuit and plays each game. I dare you not to laugh while you do this as an adult. Think of it like an obstacle course. Did you ever see Mr. Mom? Remember the company party where the adults were riding tricycles around the course? Have fun with this one… the kids could (and likely will) legitimately beat you!
7. Minute to win it games
Find out who can stack and unstack 10 plastic cups in a pyramid the fastest, who can bounce more ping pong balls into a cup or bucket from three feet away, or who can knock down the most plastic cups using air from a deflating balloon. There are a ton of these short challenges all over the web, and they’re honestly fun for all ages.
Give top winners a prize from the dollar store! Think funny things, like crazy glasses or glow-in-the-dark bracelets and headbands, or a used trophy from a second hand shop. Think someone’s old soccer or chess tournament participation trophy, or a bowling or car show trophy. How fun would it be to make it a monthly, seasonal, or annual event where the trophy passes!
8. Go for a bike ride
Grab those bikes and head outside. We’ve got some great trails nearby for safe, fun biking for the whole family. Get some exercise and have fun at the same time. If you’re in a suburban or urban area, maybe there’s a café or ice cream shop along one of the trails, so you can all grab a small snack!
9. Find a new or seldom-visited children’s museum
Our closest children’s museum offers free admission once a month. Even though my kids have been there several times, it’s still a “treat” to get to go. Check out your area and see if there are any free or cheap days they’re promoting.
10. Check out a local festival
Festivals and fairs are EVERYWHERE during the spring and summer! In the northwest, Portland has the Rose Festival and Seattle has Seafair as their big events. But little towns have all kinds of things going on. I can think of three things in the next few weeks, all within a 30 minute drive of our house. Do a quick web search for “festivals near <your town here>” and see what comes up!
I hope you’ve gotten some new ideas for fun activities your family can try out during a staycation. Remember, staying at home doesn’t have to mean avoiding all fun. There are plenty of things to do that cost either very little or no money. Have a great staycation!