Staycation ideas for couples with kids

iStock Photo by Catherine Yeulet

Family Games - iStock Photo by Catherine Yeulet

While flying on a transcontinental flight recently, I struck up a conversation with a weary young couple who were returning home with their three small children after a weeklong vacation to a large amusement park. The vacation had been memorable, to say the least. Here’s a breakdown of their weeklong itinerary:

Day One: The airline lost the family’s luggage and it took two days to track it down.

Day Two: Dad lost his wallet.  Spent the afternoon cancelling his credit cards.

Day Three: Three year old Jessie tripped and hit his head while climbing aboard the Teacup ride. The whole family took a ride to the emergency room so doctors could stitch his head up.

Day Four: Five year old Molly came down with the 24 hour flu—or was it food poisoning? Mom stayed at the hotel with Molly ordering clean linens and club soda from the front desk.

Day Five: Tropical storm sent torrential rains.

Day Six: Time to go home…finally!

Perhaps you’ve never had this sort of vacation, but I suspect most of us can relate. As I listened to this couple’s adventure, I thought back to several disastrous experiences I’d had in the name of vacationing. Why, I wondered, do we subject ourselves to this torture?

My family rarely went on a vacation when I was a child, and I’m wondering now if perhaps my parents weren’t on to something. Instead of exotic vacations, I spent my summers hunting crayfish and fishing in the stream that ran near our backyard. I loved feeding the animals at our farm or just hanging out in the backyard.

Summer vacation should be about slowing down, taking it easy and making memories. Skip the lines at the airport, save your money and hang out at home with your kids. If this sounds enticing, but you’re wondering how to get started, read on.

  • Decide ahead of time how much time you’ll spend staycationing and determine a budget. Research local attractions and take a vote as a family to determine which activities you’ll do. Work out a daily schedule, but allow some flexibility to change.
  • Set aside cooking and household chores for the week. Sure, you may have to throw a load of laundry in or start the dishwasher, but you deserve a break from regular housekeeping chores. Order dinner in, stock up on microwaveable meals, and pull out the paper plates. Hey, why not eat cereal for dinner if you like. You’re on vacation, after all! Or better yet, set up an outdoor propane fire pit table with some chairs, relax and make some ‘smores with the kids.
  • Develop a theme. Some families choose a theme to guide their vacation plans. For example, if your family is artsy, plan an art-themed staycation. Take a pottery class, visit a museum or go to the theater. Love sports? Tour the local stadium, go to a batting cage or enlist the neighbors in a friendly game of kick ball.
  • Prioritize. Ask yourself what you hope to gain from a staycation. Perhaps your goal is to spend quality time with your children. If so, plan games, crafts and activities to accomplish that goal. Looking for leisure? Plan some days lounging at the pool.
  • Go where the road takes you. Plans are good, but sometimes it’s okay to follow a whim. We recently discovered a huge oak tree growing in our city park. The kids were thrilled because oaks don’t usually grow in our city. Take advantage of free classes, festivals and events offered by your community.

Once you start brainstorming, chances are, you’ll discover endless possibilities for fun, budget conscious activities in your own community. I recently went on a photography trip through the Rocky Mountains and rediscovered the natural wonders here, just a short drive from my house. Leave your passport in the drawer and make some memories at home instead.

As Abraham Lincoln said, “It’s not the years in your life that count, but the life in your years.”

Author Bio: Karen Ho Fatt is an outdoor enthusiast and interior designer. Her website, offers advice and reviews on the best outdoor fire pits such as the elegant Strathwood St. Thomas line to suit your staycation needs. 

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