Do you have a school break or holiday coming up, but no travel plans? Make the most of it with these staycation ideas.
Our spring break travel plans were cancelled due to coronavirus, so we planned a week of family activities at home. Our options were more limited than they would normally be, but we got everyone involved and still had a lot of fun together.
There are lots of good reasons to plan a staycation. First, it can save you hundreds of dollars on lodging and transportation. Second, it can turn any school break or holiday at home into something special.
I believe that travel makes families stronger, smarter and happier. There's no reason we can't reap the same rewards from a staycation if we approach it with a little creativity and a “vacation” attitude .
Most of these ideas don't cost much money. You can be as frugal as you need to be. However, I recommend that you budget for prizes, ingredients, treats, takeout meals or whatever will set this activity apart from what your family usually does.
Here are 20+ staycation ideas to help your family make great memories together at home.
Related: 6 Tips for a Successful Staycation
My family loves movies almost as much as we love travel. When my son suggested a Harry Potter marathon for our spring break staycation, we were all in. We popped popcorn and made butterbeer – which made it extra fun.
Here are some other movie marathon ideas your family may enjoy:
- Star Wars
- Lord of the Rings
- Indiana Jones
- Teen movies from the 1980s or 90s
- Pick a favorite actor or director
- Tips for Visiting Platform 9 3/4 in London
- Tips for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando
- 12 Drive-in Movie Tips for Families
Learn a New Sport
My family recently discovered Pickleball. My husband loves tennis, but the rest of us don't play. Pickleball is easier to learn and play because the court is smaller and scoring is simpler. You can play with two or four players.
Other sports you might try include:
Try New Foods
A staycation is a great time to try a new recipe or local restaurant. Introduce your kids to a new international cuisine, try baking a loaf of bread from scratch or maybe dust off an old family recipe.
My daughter recently made French macarons. It was a fun project for her, and they were delicious. They were also a fun reminder of our trip to Paris where we bought macarons at the Palace of Versailles (and a few other places too).
This is one of my family's go-to activities on Memorial or Labor Day. Head for the grocery store and re-create The Great British Bake Off, Chopped or other favorite TV cooking competition at home. Discuss rules and budgets in advance.
Take shifts in the kitchen for lunch and dinner, or everyone try a fancy dessert.
Where in your hometown will you find the best chicken sandwich? Or burger? Or chocolate chip cookie? There are a lot of ways you could go with a blind taste test activity. You could even just make one trip to the grocery store and buy several brands of the same item.
My family once drove all over town picking up chicken sandwiches from Chik-fil-a, Popeye's, KFC, McDonald's, Carl's Jr., and Burger King. I cut them all into small pieces and put them onto numbered plates. The family sampled every sandwich and voted on the best one.
It only took a couple of hours, wasn't very expensive, and it was a filling lunch. And it's a fun memory that would be easy to repeat with another food anytime we have a little family time.
Read a thon
Who else loved read-a-thons when they were kids? Those were special school days because we got to bring pillows and treats and dig into a good book for hours.
Why not do the same thing at home? Take a trip to the library or let everyone order a new book from Amazon.com. Pop popcorn and buy everyone's favorite drinks and snacks.
Alternate: Take a day trip to the library – and maybe not your usual library. My family loves visiting the main branch of the Salt Lake City Library. It's a beautiful building with a rooftop garden in the heart of the city, and it has thousands of books and magazines to browse.
Make a list of items or activities nearby and split your family into teams. The first team to take a photo of all of them wins a prize.
This one can be as simple or elaborate as you like. Little kids may enjoy a short hunt, just walking around the neighborhood or a public park. Families with older kids may want to drive and use the whole city as their game board.
Get creative! Good planning and good prizes are the keys to getting older kids and teens really excited about this activity.
One of my husband's favorite memories from his childhood are all the times his family picked up a bucket of chicken and enjoyed a picnic together at a local park or in a nearby canyon. It was simple, but this is a tradition that can have a long-lasting impact.
Did you know that you can find all kinds of free karaoke songs on YouTube? Just pull it up on your television and search any song, artist or genre.
A day at home is the perfect opportunity to treat yourself to a homemade skin treatment, manicure or pedicure. Or, go glam and try new things with hair and makeup.
Take a drive
A scenic drive is perfect for a fall staycation, because you can hunt for colorful leaves. However, it can work for just about any season. Spring is often the best time to see waterfalls, if you have them near you.
Visit a national or state park
Do you have a national or state park near your home? Plan a day trip. We have a state park 20 minutes from our house that we rarely visit. Because we can go anytime, we never do. Now's the time!
Find a new playground
If you have younger children, take a tour of the public playgrounds in your city or county. Try a new one every day. You may discover a new favorite.
We ordered takeout every night of our spring break staycation. We would have eaten out at least once a day if we were traveling, so we treated ourselves at home.
My daughter has wanted to try a restaurant delivery app for months. Our staycation was the perfect time to fulfill her wish. The delivery fee was waived since we were first-time users. Our order was perfect and right on time.
We used DoorDash, but you could also try Postmates, GrubHub or UberEats.
Geocaching is a global treasure hunt, and it's addictive. It's a great outdoor activity for families. You can get started with a smartphone and some inexpensive prizes to trade.
Learn geocaching basics and get started at https://www.geocaching.com/
Take a bike ride
Bicycling is a great way to explore your neighborhood, a local state or national park, or a nearby city.
Run a marathon
Does your family love to run? Map out a 26.2-mile course in your hometown and split it among the members of your family.
My friend Katie and her family recently completed this relay-style marathon. She has five older kids, so each person ran about 3-4 miles.
We are lucky to live near the mountains where there are scenic trails for all abilities. No matter where you live, there is probably a nature trail, historical site, or something interesting nearby.
Put up a tent or sleep under the stars in your backyard. For kids, it's all the fun of camping, with a lot less work for you.
Related: 4 Tent Camping Tips for First-Timers
Download an astronomy app and see how many constellations you can find. Pick a clear night with as little moonlight as possible. Drive farther away from the city lights to see more stars.
Find out if any local astronomy clubs or national parks are hosting star parties in your area. Find a Dark Sky Park near you at https://www.darksky.org/.
My family loves board games – and the occasional video game too. A staycation allows us the time to play longer classic games like Monopoly, Risk, Trivial Pursuit and Settlers of Catan. Other favorites include Code Names, Ticket to Ride, Scrabble, Scattergories and Apples to Apples.
Super Smash Bros is our favorite family video game. I'm terrible at it, but I attempted a couple of rounds during our spring break staycation.
Do a puzzle
My sisters and I recently discovered that we enjoy doing jigsaw puzzles at family get-togethers. It's a project that adapts to any time frame, and people can come and go as needed.
It helps to build the puzzle on a folding table – somewhere that isn't the kitchen table where everyone needs to eat later. Start with a 500-1000 piece puzzle with lots of colors if this is your first family puzzle.
Get creative! Head to your local craft store or Pinterest for craft ideas that your family may enjoy making. Choose a project that is easy enough that everyone will feel successful when you finish.
Do something to help someone else. Find a service project that your family can do together, either at home or on-site.
Visit https://www.justserve.org/ to find service project ideas in your neighborhood.
Pick a theme
Pick a theme for the day or for the whole trip. Plan activities around it. My daughter picked a Broadway theme for one day of our spring break staycation. Activities included:
- Broadway karaoke
- “Tony” awards for best karaoke performances
- Dressing up for a red carpet premiere
- Watching a movie musical
- Cupcakes with themed decorations
I have two teen children who stay busy with homework, friends, video games, and other personal pursuits – even during a pandemic. Any time I can get their undivided attention and strengthen relationships through a family activity is precious.
We use these staycation ideas any time we have an open weekend or school break at home – or even for an evening or weekend.
I believe that whether traveling or at home, family activities help my family grow stronger, smarter, and happier. I hope they will benefit your family too.