Too broke or strapped for time to take a real family vacation this summer? Here are 10 ways to simulate the joys of going away for a week or weekend while staying right where you are.
1. Plan out the morning or afternoon of each day you’re off.
Fill the morning or afternoon each day with an organized activity, just as you would if you were away. Do a museum all morning and relax in the afternoon, or sleep late but fill the remaining hours with something fun. Structuring parts of your days off will decrease the chances of your kids saying "nothing" when asked what they did (though they may answer that way no matter what).
2. Set a daily budget.
You won’t be shelling out big bucks for hotels, flights, and transfers, but you might fall into a trap of overspending on meals and mindless shopping – perhaps because you’re bored or feel guilty about not taking the kids anywhere. Set daily limits, just as you would if you were budgeting a day away from home.
3. Pack real day bags.
You may have been spared the chore of packing suitcases, but if your brood is heading out for much of the day, ensure everyone packs day bags with the essentials you’d normally carry with you during a vacation – especially a water bottle, jacket, band-aids and medications, and a portable phone charger.
4. Explore a new neighborhood.
Venture to a neighborhood your kids have never seen and equip yourselves with the same sense of adventure your family would have if you were exploring a neighborhood in an unfamiliar city – you’ll likely be surprised at what you find.
5. Test the outer limits of your mass transit system.
Edgier perhaps than exploring a new neighborhood is taking your local mass transit line to its last stop and exploring by foot. If you’re taking the bus, you’ll also get an overview of neighborhoods you’d probably never see otherwise.
6. Research free festivals and events.
While it seems old school, scan your local newspapers for news about nearby events that might normally escape your notice. Also check your town tourism bureau’s online free event listings that cater to vacationing tourists and staycationing locals alike.
Given how worthy it is to do a service project with your family in a destination you’re visiting, keep in mind that your very own hometown could probably use your help with a community project or outdoor restoration effort. If you want to find age-appropriate volunteer opportunities close to home – even if you only have a few hours to spare – VolunteerMatch is a solid resource.
8. Treat yourselves to a hotel buffet.
Just because you’re staying home doesn't mean you can’t enjoy an all-you-can-eat brunch buffet at one of your local hotels. The downside is that the meal might max out your daily food budget. The upside: Lots of mini boxes of cereal crammed in your pockets.
9. Find a place to swim.
Does the gym you belong to (but never use) have family swim hours on weekends? Is there a decent public pool in town that’s lesser-known because it’s slightly out of the way? Sure, the pool may not be pristine or equipped with a swim-up bar, but it beats having to wade in the inflatable kiddie pool.
10. Go out for dessert every night.
Think about all those expensive family vacation dinners that (sadly) didn’t end with dessert because someone was having a meltdown. Go out for dessert on those humid summer nights and you’ll create some lasting staycation memories.
What are your ultimate staycation tips?