5 Tips for a Fun (and Relaxing) Staycation

posted: 07/23/15
by: Blythe Copeland
picture of kids hiking in the forest with mother

Whether you're trying to save money by staying close to home for this year's vacation--or trying to save your sanity by avoiding summer travel crowds, traffic, and the stress of packing--a staycation can offer the best of both worlds: Quality time with your family, a break from work, and a way to feel refreshed and relaxed without the hassles of rental homes and road trips. Follow these five tips to turn your at-home holiday into one of your most memorable vacations.

1. Plan ahead.

Keeping your whole family home together in the house for a long weekend or a week -- with no agenda -- is a recipe for boredom and bickering. Sit down together before your staycation and let everyone make suggestions for how to spend the week: Check out a new hiking trail, look up the special exhibits at your city's museums, choose a new restaurant (even if it's fast food), visit a new playground for the little ones. Treat the time off the same way you would if you were leaving town: By finding new favorite spots and revisiting the old ones.

2. ...But don't overplan.

Making a schedule doesn't mean you have to stick to it--strict adherence to your list of things to do can leave you with exhausted kids, a cranky spouse, and the need to take a vacation from your vacation. If it rains on the day you're supposed to go to the zoo, have a picnic in the living room and watch movies all afternoon instead. Line too long for the science museum's special exhibit? Let the kids spend some extra time at the hands-on lab. One of the best parts of visiting your own city is that it's never too far to come back for another visit.

3. Treat yourself.

Every family has its vacation treats: S'mores over the fire pit, ice cream every night after dinner, a little extra screen time, a special souvenir, or a new book to read on the beach. Whatever your favorite traditions are, make sure you keep them going even when staying close to home. Let the kids pick out a treat from the dollar store before your staycation officially starts, or celebrate the first morning with a pancake breakfast. And be as flexible about bedtime, junk food, and cleaning up as you would be if you were traveling.

4. Take some time apart.

Though vacations are a key way to reconnect with your family, they're also usually an opportunity for mom and dad to take a little time for themselves throughout the trip: Maybe dad squeezes in an extra run in the morning, mom takes an hour to read on the beach by herself, or--if babysitters are an option--both parents can sneak out for dinner or ice cream when the kids are in bed. If this is part of your vacation routine, plan to have that individual time on your staycation, too. At home, it might mean dad finishes cleaning the basement or mom finally redesigns the front garden, and crossing those kinds of projects off the to-do list can be just as relaxing as a morning of fishing or afternoon at the spa.

5. Unplug.

Nothing makes you feel like you're finally on vacation like turning off your phone, putting away your tablet, closing the laptop, and turning off the TV. You don't have to put your family on a complete electronics fast for the entire staycation, but try leaving your phone at home when you go to dinner, taking the batteries out of the remote, and deleting your most distracting apps (just for the week!). The mental break you'll get from going unplugged, even for a few days, will make even the most familiar surroundings feel brand new.