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Several years ago while stationed overseas for my husband’s job, my children and I embarked on what has now become a much beloved tradition. It was a national holiday and all the locals had headed out of the city leaving us expats all to ourselves. But with our money situation being as short as my children’s attention span, an impromptu excursion was out of the question. Besides, for our family there was and still is no such thing as an easy little getaway. Every trip requires careful planning, every new outing a social story. And so, the idea of a STAYcation was born.

What is a STAYcation?

Exactly what the name suggests- a vacation at home. For us, a STAYcation is a very viable and affordable option.  It allows us to put ourselves into a relaxed state of mind and to enjoy some quality family time, without having to drag the weighted blanket and car full of faithful stuffed animals with us. But in order to get the most out of your STAYcation, there are a few things I suggest you do. At first they may seem a bit radical and expensive, but remember, you are on vacation!

Cancel Commitments

Yes you are home, but you need to take the time off for your vacation as if you were not. That means taking the days off of work and telling the therapist you will be away. This was the hardest for me, after all if hubby is home it is a perfect time for me to be able to go get the mammogram the doctor has been nagging me to have done. But would you have a doctors appointment if you were at DISNEY… hopefully not!

Turn off the cell phones, set the email to the automated out of office reply – put it all on hold.

Hire a Cleaning Lady

This is the radical and expensive part that most people raise their eyebrows at when I mention it. But think about it… for most of us one of the best parts of being on vacation is not having to make the beds or wash the dishes. So go ahead and splurge and hire someone to come out.  I even go so far as to have my lady put a little piece of chocolate on our pillows. She thinks I am crazy… but the kids love it!

While your at it, plan ahead and have dinner delivered – why not?  Your on “vacation”.

Pack – Or a Version of It 

Okay I know this sounds really bizarre but hear me out. How much time do you all waste every morning trying to figure out what to wear or finding a clean pair of socks? Before every vacation I usually do all the laundry and pack those things. Well you don’t need to bring out a suitcase (although my kids enjoy it when I do), but go ahead and pull out 3 days’ worth of outfits for everyone ahead of time. That way you can skip the drama and get right to the fun every day.

Check In at the “Hotel”

Every STAYcation in our family starts with the kids checking into the Fuentes Hotel. I make them sign a ledger and fill out a room service card of what they will have for breakfast the next morning. (Go ahead and let them eat in their room… the maid is coming soon remember?)

I then show them to their individual suites (their bedrooms). In their rooms they will find a paper with things to do in the area, just like in a real hotel. Then together as a family we pick out a few that we will do during our stay. Of course everything on the list is stuff I have researched ahead of time that I don’t mind doing. We have visited museums, gone to the zoo, played miniature golf, we once even did a DUCK Tour of our own city that takes you all around on land and then water. The kids still talk about that one!

Sleep in Your Own Beds

The best part about a STAYcation is that at the end of the long day, we all get to come home and sleep in our own beds. I don’t have to worry about getting looks in a lobby of some posh hotel when my kid has a meltdown. In fact every STAYcation we have ever had has been meltdown free! Change is hard for our kids, with a STAYcation, you get all the benefits of a regular vacation with minimal change.

Ideas for Family Fun

Favorites from Living Well Spending Less:

Try Geocaching

According to the official Geocaching website, “Geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location.”

Camp in Your Own Backyard

Why not enjoy the great outdoors in your own backyard? Set up a tent and sleeping bags, build a fire (or use the grill) to cook s’mores, and take turns telling ghost stories. Then download the Night Sky app (make sure your device is GPS-enabled first!) to identify stars, planets, and even satellites in the sky.

Host Your Own Film Festival

Pick a theme, allow each family member to pick a movie, then get comfortable for a day of movies. Be sure to provide plenty of snacks, and take breaks to discuss and rate each film.

Favorites from The Humbled Homemaker:

Go Stargazing

Gather blankets, a thermos of cocoa, binoculars, and a stargazing guide (see if your library has this one), and head to the backyard. If you can get away from light pollution, (for instance, a friend of yours owns a farm!), even better!

Go Fruit Picking

Find out what produce is in season in your area, and then find a farm near you where you can pick blueberries, peaches, or whatever is growing! Go early in the day before it gets hot, and then use your pickings to make a simple dessert for supper.

Make a Time Capsule

Fill a shoebox with pictures, letters to your future selves, filmed interviews (you can put them on a flashdrive), mementos from your staycation, and predictions about what each family member will be doing in 10 or 15 years–or however long you plan on waiting before opening the time capsule. You don’t have to bury the box, just put it in an out-of-the way spot in a closet or the attic. Write the current date on the lid, as well as the date you’ve set for opening the capsule.

Favorites from Eyes on Heaven:

Game Night Tournament

Pull out your favorite family games and play them one after another. You could just play for fun, or keep score along the way and have some sort of prize for the ultimate winner.

Write, Direct and Produce a Family Movie

Assign different roles (casting, costumes, stage directions, etc.) to different family members. Think of a topic that means a lot to you as a family and make a short film about it. If you’re promoting something meaningful, you might be able to spread your film around, but even if you’re just doing something fun and silly, it will be special to your family for years to come.

Favorites from Rushed Mommy:

Be a Tourist in Your Own City

Try a Google search for “Best of…” or “Things to do in…”, and you will come across some places to visit that you didn’t even know existed.

Go for a Hike

Using the website, you can find nearby hikes rated by difficulty level.  Hiking is great sensory input!

Keep a Photo Diary

No matter what you do or where you go, be sure to keep a photo diary of all your summer fun by snapping photos of all the places you visit. Even trips to the neighborhood park are worthy of taking.   At the end of the summer, use the photos to create a video or a memory book.