45 Low-Cost Staycation Ideas for Families (+ Printables)
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You don’t need to vacation far away from home to have a good time with your family. Sometimes, the best memories are ones that you make at home or in your community.
Why not skip the expensive vacation, which Bankrate estimates can set you back close to $2,000, and splurge on a $10 museum ticket, a trip to a local state park or another local experience?
Let the kids dictate what you do on your staycation (as long as it’s not sitting around and watching TV all day). They’ll appreciate the power delegated to them and have an even better experience. Skip to the staycation decider printable to help them come up with ideas.
Build a Little Free Library and Trade Books
Little Free Libraries are library exchanges that you can build in front of your house and allow people to take or leave books. There are more than 100,000 around the world. Buy a kit or build your own and register it online.
Tour the Behind-the-Scenes Area of a Local Shop
Tour the kitchen of your favorite local restaurant or the storage area of your neighborhood bookstore. All you need to do is ask. Many shop owners are happy to show you their craft and let you explore where the magic happens.
Explore a New Museum
Visit the museum in town that you’ve always wanted to check out. Or, if you’ve already visited all of your local museums, aim to read every sign and display or spend more time in your favorite one. In the true spirit of budget-friendly staycations, also check out these world-class museums you can tour from your couch:
Build a Blanket Fort in Someone Else’s Room
It’s one thing to build a fort in the backyard or the living room, but why not add a little bit of excitement and build a blanket fort in someone else’s room? Gather up blankets, sheets and pillows and spend the night in a family member’s room.
Dress Up as Someone Famous for the Day
Forget about buying new clothes. Allow open access to everyone’s closets and host a family clothing swap. Use old clothes, wigs and accessories to dress up as someone famous (or someone in your everyday life). As a family, vote on the best costume.
Visit Your Local Fire or Police Station
Tour your community fire or police station and get a feel for what these emergency personnel do every day. In some cases, you can schedule a ride-along in a police car or firetruck by filling out a simple form online.
Host a Bug Race Outside
Draw some lines on the sidewalk with chalk and allow bugs to race to the finish line. Hold a friendly competition over whose bug will complete the challenge first. Good bugs to use include ants and pill bugs, which are more commonly known as roly-polies.
Rent an Airbnb in the Next Town Over
Find a unique Airbnb listing nearby — maybe with a fun backyard or a big basement — and spend the night. Airbnbs sometimes offer even cheaper rates than area hotels. Also, check out these Airbnb coupons for additional savings.
Become a Theme Park Designer for the Day
Theme park designers, like Disney Imagineers, are the people who design and build theme parks, resorts, attractions, games and other Disney products. Explore the work of Imagineers with this online course called Imagineering in a Box. The course requires common household materials, like paper, pencils, collage materials, scissors, tape and cardboard.
Check Out a Minor League Sports Game
Go to a minor league baseball, hockey or basketball game, which can be just as exciting as a major league one and costs much less. Find a new team to root for in town and encourage your friends to do so too.
Travel With Your Stomach
Experience new places with the food that you make. Choose four ideas from this list of national dishes and plan out your meals for a month. Try to get out of your comfort zone and experiment with new foods you wouldn’t ordinarily make.
Download the national dish stickers printable.
Open a “Restaurant” at Home
As you try new international dishes at home, open a restaurant. Choose some family members to prepare the food, some to bring the food out to the table and one (lucky) person to be the restaurant guest for the week.
Host a Dance Party in the Park
You can host a dance party in the privacy of your house, but it’s more fun to do it outside. Choreograph a routine for others to watch and post it on social media or just dance freely to your favorite songs.
Visit a County, State or National Park
Many people are familiar with the famous national parks, like the Grand Canyon, Yosemite and Big Bend, but have you checked out the county and state parks within a couple hours of you? Pack a few lunches and take a mini road trip. Most national parks only cost $20–$30 per vehicle to enter, according to the National Park Service.
Plant Trees in Your Community
The world can always use more trees. Plant one in your background or join a community project. Additionally, consider donating to organizations like One Tree Planted or the Arbor Day Foundation and have trees planted around the world for as little as $1.
Build a Tree Swing
Maybe a treehouse is a bit too ambitious for a staycation project. Try building a tree swing, either out of an old tire or old pieces of wood. You’ll be proud of your accomplishment and have a fun outdoor activity for your kids every day of summer.
Go House Hunting Around Your Neighborhood
Drive around your community and look for old houses, big houses, colorful ones, unique ones — anything you want. Pretend you’re on HGTV and talk about what you like about each one.
Walk a Dog from Your Local Animal Shelter
Call your local shelter and ask if they have a program in which you can walk the dogs or take them out to play. If you have more time to spare, consider cleaning cages or volunteering in some other way.
Host a Red Carpet Movie “Premiere”
Every regular movie night can be a premiere night if you haven’t seen the movie yet. Elevate your regular Friday night movie routine by dressing up in fancy clothes. Host a little party before with popcorn and pizza.
Explore Your Town’s History
Visit your town’s historical sites. Also, use a tool like WhatWasThere that integrates with Google Maps and allows you to view what a particular street or neighborhood looked like in the past.
Bring Outer Space to Your Sidewalk
If your family can’t get enough of outer space, try recreating a solar system model on your sidewalk with chalk. Use the printable to draw the planets at the correct distance from the sun. (Your sidewalk model will be about 1.5 trillion times smaller than the actual solar system.)
Download the outer space sidewalk chalk printable.
Feed the Ducks at a Neighborhood Pond
Go to the park and feed the ducks. You can feed ducks zucchini, peas, leafy greens, corn, vegetable peels and non-citrus fruit, according to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Play a Kickstarter Board Game
You can host a regular family board game night with classics like Monopoly and chess, or you can try something new and order a game that you’ve never played before. Try a kickstarter board game, which is a game funded by the public. Check out these types of board games at TheGameSteward, and be sure to use these coupons.
Pick Fruit at a Local Farm
Pick strawberries, apples, blackberries or really anything in season during a family trip to a local farm. Or, visit your local farmers’ market for the freshest fruits, vegetables, cheeses and other goods.
Swap Houses with Another Family
If you want to save money by not renting out an Airbnb or staying in a local hotel, try swapping houses with your friends. You live in their house for an afternoon, and they live in yours (within reason).
Live Like the American Pioneers for a Day
Try to live like the American pioneers did for an afternoon — or, if you think you can, an entire weekend. That means no phones or computers. It also means cooking your food outside using a campfire and washing and drying your clothes by hand.
Write and Decorate Letters to Your Future Self
What do you want to tell your future self? Write out or draw your goals, feelings or favorite possessions and seal that in a letter. Establish a date in the future when you can open it. Alternatively, you can write yourself a digital letter and have it emailed to you in the future through the website FutureMe.
Stay in Your Pajamas All Day
Lounge around in your comfy clothes all day, and do absolutely nothing. Don’t worry about getting dressed and ready to go outside, doing chores or going to sports practices.
Plan a Picnic and Eat Somewhere New
As a family, vote on a picnic theme, like around the world with food from different countries or ballpark with food like hotdogs, cotton candy and peanuts. Then, pack the food up and feast out in your favorite outdoor space (maybe even your backyard).
Find Something Around the House to Fix
Make a list of the little things around the house that need some attention. Maybe there’s a leaky faucet, sticking drawers or a patchy lawn. Learn how to repair these everyday problems. Or, if nothing’s broken, try taking something apart and putting it back together, like a bicycle.
Take Your Stuffed Animals on an Adventure
As you go on adventures, take the family’s stuffed animals along. Snap a photo at each place you visit and create a personal scrapbook.
Download the stuffed animal scrapbook printable.
Stargaze in Your Backyard
Grab a pillow and blanket, turn off your backyard lights and look up to the sky. As a DIY project, the National Park Service recommends taping red paper or cellophane over a white light flashlight to help you navigate your backyard in the dark without compromising your night vision.
Research Local Charities You’d Like to Support
Make a list of charities in your community. Research what they do and how they help others. Rank them by how much you support their work and consider making a donation or volunteering your time.
Set Up a Neighborhood Newspaper or Magazine
Encourage your kids to practice their writing, photography and interviewing skills by setting up a neighborhood newspaper or magazine. Include fun neighborhood events and interesting stories told by your neighbors. Go completely digital to cut down on paper and printing costs!
Go Mini Golfing in Your Backyard
Put stones, bricks, potted plants and other miscellaneous obstacles you have lying around in your backyard to good use and create a mini golf course. You can use plastic cups as the above-ground holes.
Ride Your Local Public Transportation System
Explore your local train or bus system. Buy a cost-efficient day pass and hop off at major attractions along the way or just ride the entire route and look for new things in your community that you haven’t noticed before.
Spend an Entire Day at the Library
Take your time browsing the stacks, leafing through the magazines or playing your favorite computer games. Also take advantage of community programs and classes that your local library offers.
Shop Hop at Local Stores
Compile a list of local craft stores, toy shops, coffee shops, bookstores, cafes and other stores. Then, instead of a traditional mall day, plan an entire day of shopping at small, family-owned stores.
Put Together a Staycation Music Playlist
Encourage everyone in the family to add several songs to a staycation playlist. Then, play the songs on the go during a road trip or when the whole family’s together at home.
Attend a Community Meeting
It’s important for kids to know how decisions are made in your town. Attend an open meeting at town hall or at your school about an issue that they’re passionate about and encourage them to ask questions.
Draw the Clouds You See in the Sky
Spend the day sitting in your backyard drawing the clouds that pass by, whether they look like an elephant or an ice cream cone, or anything in between. You can also try identifying the different types of clouds, from puffy cumulus clouds to wispy cirrus clouds.
Invent a New Product and Use it at Home
Can’t butter your corn easily without it slipping off the plate? Or you wish there was an easier way to sort your laundry when it comes out of the dryer? Invent a new product that solves a problem and test it out at home!
Write a Physical Letter to Someone You Admire
Pen a letter to a loved one in another state or someone in your community who has made your life better. Or, write a letter to someone whom you don’t know personally but you admire from afar.
Hike Somewhere New and Turn off Your GPS
Find a new hiking trail and explore it as a family. As long as you have a pretty good sense of direction, turn off your GPS and allow yourself to wander around freely in a new place.
Look Through Old Scrapbooks
Dust off old scrapbooks and host a family story time. Note which relatives looked similar when they were younger and talk about what things used to be like in the past.
Staycation Decider Printable
Remember that it’s important for kids to take charge in planning the family staycation experience. If your family’s struggling to settle on the perfect staycation idea, use this printable to help you decide.
Download the staycation decider printable.
The most important aspect of any vacation is the memories that you ultimately make. With a little bit of creative planning, you can make unique memories at home and around your community — and skip the four-figure vacation costs.
If you need a little bit more inspiration for the best family experiences close to home, check out these Groupon coupons and watch the savings add up.
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