Can’t Vacation? 11 Ideas for a Great Staycation

by Vincent King · 11 comments

It’s that time of year again. The kids are out of school and you really want to spend time with them and make wonderful memories, but a vacation is out of the question. You can’t get away and, even if you could, it’s way out of your budget.

Uncle Sam took more than his share, or your calculated share, anyway. Credit card bills are bleeding you dry, and you can’t put more on plastic. So you crawl under the covers and hide, wishing a solution would surface.

Here it is.

Look on the bright side, sunshine. For a beautiful time creating memories with your loved ones, you need only two days and some imagination.

Try these staycation ideas for a grand time (without spending a grand!).

11 Staycation Ideas for the Money- and Time- Strapped Family

1. Hit the road in your own city, armed with cameras and snacks.

If you’d be willing to visit a strange town, pretend yours is just that. If you live in or close to a metropolis, it’s easy — there are always places you don’t often see that should be fun to explore. If you live in a rural area, hit Google Maps and then the road. Fill your time with laughs, snapping goofy pictures everywhere you go.

2. Go on a city- (or county-) wide scavenger hunt.

Make a list for the family and get on the road with clues to help you find everything on it. The more obscure you get, the longer the hunt will take – great for bigger kids, but not so fun for the little ones, so plan accordingly.

3. Go to a motel in a neighboring city.

If your timing is flexible, bid on rooms via Priceline, or try calling and negotiating lower rates with the manager before accepting whatever they offer. After all, the goal is to save while you stay, right?

4. Make it a movie marathon day.

Choose flicks that the whole family can watch together and enjoy. Start after breakfast and have a little family exercise break in between. Oh, and make it a PJ Day to really relax and enjoy!

5. Drive to anywhere.

Don’t use a map. Don’t have a destination. Just plan to drive in a direction for X hours, then stop and explore and stay where you are. If you can spend the night, BONUS! If not, that’s ok. Have fun exploring your new locale, taking pictures and snagging souvenirs.

6. Go to a waterpark.

It’s likely that your city, or one nearby, has a waterpark. What better excuse to jump in the water than saving money? If you can’t stay on vacation for a week or so, a day at a waterpark may be the next best thing.

7. If you can’t park it, raft it.

River rafting is another amazing excursion, and one that’s often cheaper than waterparks. Check for restrictions on ages if you have little ones, but many river dock rental places have options for the younger clientele.

8. Go camping.

Even if you can’t head to a nearby mountain range (bonus points if you can!), you can still hang with the neighbors and have a neighborhood camp-out at home. Or go it alone with just you and your loved ones. Either way, pack up the tent and make a rule to not go inside for anything.

9. Host your own neighborhood field day.

Make it complete with hilarious games and amazing prizes — and don’t forget the pictures! Top off the afternoon with a cook out and ice cream sundaes.

10. Call for a Blackout Day (or weekend).

Turn off all electronic devices for at least 24 hours. Spend the entire day focusing on the fun you’re having with your favorite people. If you’ve got tweens or teens, this may take something like a molar extraction to get going, but you can do it — and make it enjoyable for them.

11. Call in a cleaning service.

Yeah, this one’s for the moms out there. Why do we love going on vacation? We love feeling pampered. But if you can’t go and be pampered, bring the pampering home to you. Check Care.com or Craigslist for a cleaning service that’s reasonable. Let them worry about the dusting, sweeping, mopping and bed making for a week.

Do you have any tips for a successful staycation?

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

John S @ Frugal Rules July 1, 2013 at 6:34 am

These are some great tips, and we have used some of them in our family. I think key, for us at least, to having a nice staycation is to really unplugging and allowing ourselves to have fun. We typically like to do things we normally don’t and allow each person to pick one thing to do.

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Michelle July 1, 2013 at 8:43 am

These are all great ideas! We don’t really have time for vacations anymore, which really makes us sad :(

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Thomas July 1, 2013 at 10:08 am

Great ideas. I like to rent a house or apartment for the week. That way we can stay in and cook and therefore save money. It’s more of a base than a hotel.

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Kiko @ quickcashautoloans July 1, 2013 at 2:36 pm

These are all really great ideas for staycations. I find that the best idea for everyone in the family to have a good time is always visiting a waterpark. You can not go wrong getting wet and wild.

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zimmy@moneyandpotatoes.com July 2, 2013 at 11:57 pm

You can make #4 even more inexpensive by using Netflix as your movie marathon source. My wife and I have done that many times and only had to buy the beer.

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Property Marbella July 3, 2013 at 7:06 am

To just be with the kids in a playground or in a forest all day can make them happy. Just care about them, and turn off that phone.

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Abigail July 5, 2013 at 12:15 pm

We did a staycation for our 5th anniversary this year. We chose a hotel near downtown. It was oretty affordable and we still got away for three days. (Snacks and beverages were brought with, of course. We even took the light rail into Tempe and went to a piano bar. It was great and I know it was a successful vacation because we reeeaaally didn’t want to go back home. Even though it was only 12 miles away.

I actually have chronic fatigue, so my husband and I spend a lot of time watching movies and Hulu. While we don’t usually do the marathon sessions you describe, we have made the selection process a game. We each pick something the other hasn’t seen. If the person doesn’t like it, we forfeit a turn. Keeps it interesting, and it means we really have to think about what the other person would enjoy.

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Melbourne Staycation July 6, 2013 at 6:04 pm

I love my Staycation & I think the key is setting it up right. Beware also of the ‘time bandits’ in your life and manage their expectations to ensure you really do enjoy a Staycation!

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Karen Kay July 11, 2013 at 2:16 pm

I decided last week that I was extremely tired of the routine and went MIA!!! I cancelled all of my appointments as well, since I am at the doctors office once or twice a week. I went to a market one town over that I don’t get to too often. I went to the thrift store there and my souvenir was a gorgeous Pashmina shawl. Instead of having the hour or so at the doctor just to get my blood pressure checked, I went to a walk in clinic and was out in 15 minutes. My blood pressure was perfect, by the way! I ate at a local restaurant and got more than enough to eat , so I was able to get a doggy bag and enjoyed this meal the next day. Next week, I am going to the city and plan on going to a festival. The only problem with my plan is that I might not want to get back on my schedule again!

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Sue July 14, 2013 at 5:59 pm

These are great ideas for a family staycation! Finding a nice camping spot in your home town is a wonderful way to spend time with your family.

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Mike Loshe October 9, 2013 at 2:26 pm

Thanks for the share. If there are historical sites around you could also go visit them! This past summer my family took one of those Washington DC Bus Tours and got to see all of what DC had to offer. The kids absolutely loved riding around on the bus and my wife and I found all the historical stuff extremely interesting. Truly a great trip all around.

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