Staycation ideas for family bonding

A family vacation can be exhausting, time-consuming and expensive. This year, try a staycation — a great alternative for families looking for fun, easy bonding time that won’t break the bank.

family on towels in yard

“It was not so many years ago when a common questions was, ‘Are you going anywhere during your vacation?’ It was not simply assumed.” says finance expert Kevin Gallegos of Freedom Debt Relief, LLC. Fight the pressure to take a pricey vacation every year! Instead, try a staycation with these tips from Gallegos and other experts:

Make a plan

“Sit down with your kids and plan each day,” advises Dr. Susan Fletcher, psychologist and author of Parenting in the Smart Zone. “This will give them structure and something to look forward to.”

Give your staycation budget some structure, too. “Don’t go into debt for a vacation or a staycation,” Gallegos says.

Pretend that you’re “away”

Turn off the phone, ignore email and notify everyone that you are “away on vacation.” Focus on family without the distractions of day-to-day life.

Kid-friendly summer staycations >>

Discover your hometown

“Most Americans know little about the history of their own towns or nearby cities,” says consumer expert Andrea Woroch. “Plan a day trip to local museums and art exhibits or check out nearby cities and farms.”

Adds Dr. Fletcher, “The fun thing about visiting hometown spots is that you can relive the memories when you pass by these places later.”

Expert tip

Telenav’s Scout is a tool that helps families discover new things to do right in their own backyard.

Use public transportation…

Gas and parking are expensive! “Using the train, trolley or bus is easier on the pocketbook, more fun for the kids and less stressful for Mom and Dad,” says Gallegos. And better for the environment, too!

…or travel by foot!

“The best way to see a new place is to experience it,” says Gallegos. The “new place” might be a historic walking tour of downtown, a hike (instead of a drive) to a nearby park or a long bicycle ride to another part of town.

Restful (and fun!) staycation tips >>

Eat out

Pack a picnic lunch and eat at the park, or visit a restaurant you’ve never tried before. “Check out Groupon or GiftCardGranny for coupons and discount gift cards for local dining and other entertainment needs,” suggests Woroch.

Do home projects together

Make the most of not being away! Involve the kids in some home improvements, such as painting their rooms or helping to prepare the vegetable and flower gardens. Keep it light and fun and avoid making your staycation “all work and no play.”

Family yard spruce-up >>


Your family pool and the community pool are fun, but consider a change of venue for staycation swims. Large recreation pools, lakes, ponds and other nearby water sites provide new and exciting water experiences.

Swimming safety tips >>


Decide to use the time and money you would have spent on your family vacation to serve others instead. “Volunteering can be as easy as buying and taking food to the local food bank or picking up trash in your neighborhood,” says Dr. Fletcher.

Find a place that can use volunteers — church, animal shelter, nursing home, library — and schedule a few hours for you and your children to help out.

Helping your child volunteer >>


Remember the goal of a staycation is to relax, rejuvenate and have fun… together!

More staycation tips and ideas

Staycation activities for toddlers
Turn your home into a hotel
The benefits of a staycation