If your current financial goals make an out-of-town family vacation out of the question, you’re probably wondering what to do on a staycation. Have no fear friends, I’ve come up with some budget-friendly staycation ideas - and they’re all are cheap or free.
Budget Friendly Staycation Ideas for Families
1. Attend First Thursday
Did you know that many museums offer free admission the evening of the first Thursday of the month? Do a quick search in your area and take the whole family on a cultural vacation!
2. Find a new playground
There’s a city playground that we drive by a few mornings a week on the way to school, and my youngest has been begging to go check it out for as long as I can remember. The only trouble is that since we pass it only in the mornings, we tend to forget about it when we’re not rushing for the school bus and actually have time to go after school. Whether it’s in your town or the next one over, chances are there’s a playground that you’ve either never visited or you’ve not visited in a long time. Pack some snacks and water bottles in a backpack and go turn them loose to tire themselves out.
3. Go for a hike
Granted, this may not be an option for you where you live. But here in the Northwest, we’ve got tons of gorgeous mountains with all kinds of public trails. From kid-friendly beginner walking paths to more challenging hikes for older kids, a quick search online can turn up some great opportunities to experience nature.
4. Go beach combing
Again, this 100% depends on your location. Beautiful saltwater shoreline is only about a half an hour from our house, and low tide is the perfect time to go see what the water has left behind on the beach. Sometimes there are volunteers at the busier beach areas to help you identify things you might find. We often take along a plastic grocery bag and pick up any trash we find to do our tiny part to keep the oceans clean, too. It’s a good teaching opportunity on multiple levels!
5. Have a picnic at the park
This one’s easy. Pack some food in the cooler and head to one of your nearby parks. Take some active toys like a Frisbee or a soccer ball, and play with your kids. They LOVE it when you actively play with them. Lunch and snacks are free from home, and you never know - you might encounter the first ice cream trucks of spring.
6. Camp in your backyard
When I was younger, my sister and I used to pitch the tent out in the backyard and bring her 13-inch TV out there with an extension cord. Was it camping? Not by a longshot. But we didn’t have to drive anywhere, pack along food, or figure out how to cook outdoors. Plus, there was a warm, clean bathroom right through the back door. It’s exotic AND free!
7. Make s’mores
Pair up some s’mores with your backyard campout. Everything is better with toasted marshmallows and chocolate. It’s a scientific fact. (Or at least it should be!) Don’t have a backyard fire pit? Neither do we – we improvise. You could buy one of those tabletop s’mores makers on Amazon, or you can make one! All you need are a ceramic or terracotta flowerpot, some pea gravel and a can of Sterno (the little cans caterers use to keep big trays of food warm at a buffet).
Fill the pot with gravel, leaving a small hollowed out spot for the sterno. Place that can in there, and fill the gravel up the rest of the way so it’s nearly even with the edge of the can. Light that little thing and roast away! Be sure to have an extra dish or something to set the skewers on when not in use. Note: Standard safety rules apply regarding kiddos and any open flame.
8. Go swimming
Depending on your climate and when you’re doing your staycation, this could be an outdoor pool or an indoor one. Check out the public pools in your area for their hourly rates. I was surprised to see that a trip to the nearby aquatic center that features a lazy river, splash pool for the littles, an amazing tube slide that goes outside and then back in and a GIANT inflatable obstacle course was only $20 for our family of four. The kids swam for the whole time and were properly exhausted when we got home, and it was a good change of pace from our local YMCA. You can also head to your local gym or health club if they have a pool with open swim times.
There you go – eight great activities that are cheap or free and will make your next staycation special!