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  • Writer's pictureNathan Zarcaro

[2023] 20 Family Staycation Ideas to Keep You Entertained

Updated: May 25, 2023


Lately, we've been dedicating more time on our blog to writing about some money saving tips.


Inflation continues to be a real problem for Americans all over the country. And with most Americans having less spending money than they did just a couple years ago, it has become more important than ever for families across the country to save some extra money.


Traditionally, Americans love to spend money on travel, especially in the post-Covid shutdown world we find ourselves in. Naturally, this means that one of the best money saving tips would be to cut back on travel, at least for a period of time.


Luckily, there is no shortage of ways you can take a vacation at home. Here are my favorite family staycation ideas to consider in 2023.




What is a staycation?


A staycation is like a vacation, but one that occurs at home, rather than some other destination. Staycations may involve spending leisure time around the home or venturing out for local day trips in your area.


Additionally, staycations can still involve traditional vacation activities such as eating out, relaxing, and experiencing favorite or new hobbies. These activities may occur less often than they would on a typical vacation, in part to save money.


Finally, staycations oftentimes involve a more relaxed or lowkey pace than an active vacation may.



Why consider a staycation?


Staycations may be attractive for families for a number of reasons. First and foremost, they can be a great way to save money from going on traditional vacations, which is always a plus.


But as I've alluded to, there are other reasons too.


For example, families with small children may want a break from the day-to-day stress they face, but fear that their family may not be ready to hop on a plane and travel cross country quite yet.


A third catalyst for deciding on a staycation is simply to relax and enjoy spending time at home.



Things to do on a staycation


When you think about it, there is no shortage of staycation ideas to keep your family and household relaxed and having fun.


And while I will soon share twenty of my best staycation ideas with you, I want to consider whether you want to fit any or all of the traditional vacation ideas into your plans.


This means deciding things like:


  • Whether you want to eat out/get takeout/delivery

  • Whether you want to sleep somewhere different (a little tricky to do on a budget)

  • Whether you want to visit amusement parks, beaches, parks, cities, etc.


Keep in mind that there is no right or wrong answer to any of these questions. Rather, it is all about your family's preferences and interests.



Family ideas for your staycation


I don't understand why staycations oftentimes get a bad rap. They're too often seen as an alternative for those without the money to take a "real vacation," but I find this ridiculous. For any of the reasons that I've already mentioned, staycations can be a fantastic way to decompress.


Along these lines, here are the first sixteen of my favorite family staycation ideas.



1. Go camping in your own yard


Do you like camping but don't have the time, money, or desire to hit the road? If the weather cooperates, you may consider camping in your own backyard. Not only will the whole family feel like you're away from home, but you'll also have all of the amenities of home available to you if you need them.


And if you don't have a tent or sleeping bags, you can always buy an inflatable large screen and have an outdoor movie night, complete with candy, popcorn, and other tasty snacks.


Then, once you're finished or are tired, just shut the screen off and head inside to go to bed.



2. Host a game day or night


Who doesn't love a family game day or night? Gather all of your favorite games, sit down together around the table, and start to play! In my experience, the best staycation games include:


  • Uno

  • Monopoly

  • Chutes and Ladders

  • Connect 4



3. Go on a small road trip


Just because you've decided on a staycation at home does not mean that you can't take a day-long road trip here and there. My wife and I, for example, love to take day trips down to one of Connecticut's two large casinos, not to gamble, but to take in the sights, browse shops, and enjoy a fun meal.


Your family probably has plenty of fun locations to consider within an hour's drive or so!



4. Go for a hike


There is beauty in nature everywhere you look. And depending on your family's dynamic, going for a hike could be an awesome opportunity for you to bond together as a family and enjoy the great outdoors.


If you're looking to be outside on your staycation, but don't necessarily want to commit to a physically demanding activity, you may also consider relaxing in your backyard, visiting a public park, or something else altogether.



5. Go out for breakfast


Who doesn't like dining out for breakfast, ordering their favorites without cooking or the cleanup? It also tends to be a favorite for children looking to enjoy pancakes or other savory/sweet treats they don't get to eat every day.


While at breakfast, talk about the various activities (or lack thereof) that you will do for the rest of the day.



6. Plan out your next vacation


Depending on your budget and schedule, as your staycation nears its end, you may decide to spend some time planning your next vacation, either with your kids or alone as a couple.


My wife and I always like to have something on the calendar, even if in the distant future, that we know will be reserved time for us to enjoy together.



7. Host themed nights for your family


Another fun family-oriented idea for your family to try is hosting themed nights to keep things new and fresh. For example, you may consider picking a movie to watch as a family and then theming your day or night around it.


Watching "Elf" with Will Ferrell before Christmas, for instance, may lead you to host a Christmas or New York themed night. You can tailor your dinner and dessert menus that day to that same theme.



8. Have a self-care day or weekend


You may also opt to take a self-care day or weekend to recover from a stressful period at work or home. You may decide to enjoy (mostly) free activities such as:


  • Taking a bath

  • Enjoying a face mask

  • Relaxing around the house

  • Watching television or a movie


You may also decide to visit a local spa near you for a massage or to otherwise enjoy their other amenities.



9. Visit a local museum


Each part of our great country is known for something cool. But, at least for my wife and I, it always feels like the only time we ever check out museums is when we are far away from home.


Use your family staycation as a great opportunity to get to learn more about what your area is best known for!



10. Get your favorite takeout


Remember - you don't need to spend zero money just because you've decided to vacation at home this time. You're already saving a ton of money on transportation and lodging expenses, so order your favorite takeout as a family and enjoy it in the comfort of your own home!


Make it even more special by ordering your favorite dessert too!



11. Visit a local winery or vineyard


Wineries and vineyards continue to pop up all over the country. And you'd probably be surprised to know that these sites can be surprisingly kid-friendly. My wife and I love to explore new wineries in our area, and it is really common for parents to bring children, pack a picnic and some games, and hang out together as a family while the adults enjoy a glass of wine.


Sometimes they'll even have their own activities and food trucks.



12. Take on a home improvement project


Your staycation is not intended to be stressful, but if there are any fun home improvement projects you are looking to check off your list, this could be the perfect opportunity to do so.


You'll probably want to set boundaries to make sure you don't spend all of your precious family time working on this project.



13. Throw a picnic


Nothing says "relaxing day" quite like a picnic in your local park or on your local beach. Make the experience even more special by packing a meal that you may not normally eat at home.


Charcuterie, fancy sandwiches, and other finger foods work great.



14. See a movie at the drive-in


You've probably already thought about having a fun movie night at home. But have you considered seeing a movie at your local drive-in theater? Not only can it be an excellent way to have a fun night with the kids, but it also can be an enjoyable night for parents and couples alike.



15. Take a spa day


Resorts and cruise ships around the world are home to some of the most luxurious spas anywhere. Just because you are vacationing at home does not mean you can't treat yourself to a fun spa day.


Depending on your budget, you may opt for a facial or something more elaborate like a full-body massage.



16. Read a new book


When my wife and I are looking for a relaxing (and cheap!) afternoon at home, she'll turn to a new book to help relax the afternoon away. She enjoys it, and while I am more of a writer than a reader, it is nice to sit on the couch together while staying productive.




Staycation ideas for couples


Many of the ideas I've listed so far are perfect for families and individuals. Others, like spa day, are perfect for any group, including couples.


That said, here is a list of the best staycation ideas for couples without children.



17. Spend a day in the city nearest to you


Cities are great because there is always something to do. And while they may not be the most suitable choice for families with children, couples will find that many of the nation's cities offer more to do than they could possibly imagine.


My wife and I love to go into New York City, even for the day. The city offers everything we could ask for, from cool spots to explore, to fabulous dining options, to beautiful sightseeing.



18. Go on a long walk together


What better way for a couple to unwind than to spend time together getting some exercise and spending time together? Enjoying the great outdoors will have you feeling like you are on vacation, no matter whether you are at home or not.


Your only responsibility in the moment? Look around and relax.



19. Take a nap


Staycations are all about rest and relaxation - if you want them to be. And what better way to embrace some time off than to catch up on some much needed sleep?


If your staycation has a rainy day, why don't you hop right into bed with a cup of tea, binge watch some Netflix or Peacock, and close your eyes?



20. Build a campfire/bonfire in your backyard


My last recommendation is to have a bonfire night in your backyard. And while you'll want to be careful anytime fire is around, it can be a great opportunity to relax as a couple outside at night.


Plus, the fire will help to keep insects and mosquitos away.



How to plan your own staycation


Don't feel limited to the strategies that I introduced above. In fact, you may find that you'll have even more fun if you decide to create your own staycation that works for you and your family.


As you consider creating your own staycation, you'll want to follow these basic steps:


  1. Choose a time that works for your family

  2. Set expectations

  3. Establish a staycation budget

  4. Plan out your activities

  5. Prepare for your vacation



1. Choose the dates for your staycation


The first step to plan the perfect staycation with your family is to choose the dates that work for you. Decide whether you are trying to plan a long weekend or something longer like a week together.


After you've outlined a time that works for the entire family, you can start to plan out the more fun details of your time together!


Once you have your dates set and time requested off from work, I highly recommend that you begin to think about ways in which you can make this time truly relaxing.



2. Set expectations


One aspect of staycations that I tend to struggle with is making my time at home feel materially different than it normally does, especially because I work from home full-time anyway.


Since you're at home, it can be really easy to fall back into your daily routine, where the temptations of work, home maintenance, and other responsibilities may take away from your enjoyment and relaxation time.


I find that a couple of things help alleviate these temptations:


  • Taking day trips that actually get me out of the house

  • Spending time outdoors, particularly during the spring, summer, and fall months


I want to hear from you in the comments below. Do you also struggle to put your normal responsibilities to the side when relaxing at home?


It can be really hard to do!


You also may want to set expectations for the rest of your family too! Presumably, you're taking some time off to spend with your children, if you have any, so it should be at the forefront of your mind to keep them engaged.



3. Set a staycation budget


Your next step in planning the best staycation for you and your family is to establish your budget. This is an important part of the process, particularly if you are hanging around your home in order to save some money.


Remember - you don't need to refrain from spending any money. Instead, you are trying to save money from the cost of a normal vacation outside of your state or local area.


For help setting your budget, I recommend using an app like Rocket Money or Trim to help monitor your spending along the way. Those familiar with staycations oftentimes aim to spend somewhere around 25-35% of a normal vacation budget, which should provide you with ample money to enjoy some activities and dine out, while at the same time-saving money on transportation and lodging.



4. Schedule some activities


Now it is time to pick and schedule your activities! Just like any vacation, your staycation should be what you want it to be. If you just want time to relax as a family, you may plan more relaxed events like beach trips. But if you're feeling a little more adventurous, you may also use your staycation as a time to get out and experience whatever your local area has to offer.


My wife and I live in Connecticut, and our favorite staycation activities (along with their associated costs on a scale of 1-10) include:


  • Going to the beach (2)

  • Leisure walks (1)

  • Trying new restaurants (6)

  • Spending a night at a bed and breakfast (8)

  • Going to a local sporting event (4)


You'll want to make sure that the activities that you plan are something that can be enjoyed by everyone. It is possible to plan activities that each member of your family may enjoy differently.


I think that a visit to the winery is a great example of this. Children will love sitting outside in great weather enjoying a picnic, while parents still have the opportunity to enjoy a glass of wine and appreciate having family time together. Whatever you decide to do, remember to, above anything else, enjoy the time spent together as a family.



5. Prepare for your vacation


Family time without work, school, or other commitments is still a vacation, regardless of where you physically spend the time together. So even though you may not be traveling hundreds or thousands of miles this time, there is no reason why you still can't embrace the fun parts of having time off, including:


  • Counting down the days

  • Planning out each day

  • Looking forward to your staycation



How much money can a staycation save you?


Needless to point out, even if you eat out and go on day trips during your staycation, you can save some serious money.


Americans traveling on vacation tend to face a few major buckets of expenses, all of which can be limited by having a staycation instead. These expenses include:


  • Lodging

  • Transportation

  • Food


Here's how much money you can save on each of these categories.



1. Lodging/hotel expenses


With the average hotel room nationwide now costing nearly $200 per night, even a five-night vacation could cost a family over $1,000 in just lodging expenses. Talk about a weeklong trip or buying two hotel rooms and you're much closer to the $2,000 mark.


And while a stay away from home is always fun, I'd rather save the money at price points like these.



2. Transportation


Air travel is so expensive these days. This is a surprise to nobody. Taking a family of four or five away, even to a popular area like Florida, can cost hundreds of dollars per person.


Plus, when you consider that you'll need to book roundtrip flights, you could easily be looking at $1,000-$2,000 in transportation expenses, not counting any car rentals, taxis, or other transportation related expenses you may incur on vacation.



3. Food


You're probably wondering how you'd save money on food if you're planning on eating out during your staycation anyway. Here's how. Depending on where you live, restaurant food tends to more expensive in cities and popular tourist destinations than they are in hometowns across the United States.


You've probably heard the term tourist trap before to refer to expensive restaurants with average and overpriced food.


 

All in, skipping out on just one vacation can conservatively put at least $2,000-$3,000 back into your pocket.



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About Nathan Zarcaro

Nathan Zarcaro is the founder of The Student Debt Destroyer and is passionate about personal finance related causes.  A 2018 graduate of Providence College's Liberal Arts Honors Program, Nathan studied Finance, and has worked for industry leaders in both finance and healthcare.  In his free time, Nathan enjoys playing golf and traveling with his wife Brigid.

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