When I was in school, my parents worked full time and taking a week off for a vacation wasn’t always possible. Instead, they would take a day or two off during the spring break week and we’d do fun things in town. If you’d rather not spend spring break spending, why not stay in your city instead of jetting off to an exotic location? Try these fun, inexpensive ideas to keep you and your kids entertained. No kids? Call your friends. Adults can have just as much fun!
Dance it out. Your kids are too young to remember dances like the Electric Slide and the Typewriter – throw on an old CD or fire up an oldies station on Pandora and impress them with your retro rug-cutting skills. Then, put on their favorite music and let them show you their stuff. At the very least, you can provide a little comic relief for their afternoon. You Tube has several how-to-dance videos – try some new steps!
Create a “travel itinerary.” Using a calendar, plan out your staycation days. Pencil in free events (museum on a free entry day, as an example) so you can take advantage of all the no- or low-cost activities in your area. Include meal plans – does your favorite restaurant have a time when kids eat free, or offer a free dessert on a certain day? Fill the time with fun – but leave time for naps and last-minute changes.
Go on a scavenger hunt. Make a list of hard-to-find items around the house and let the kids hunt them down while you time them. Hand out small trinkets as prizes for completing the list. Ideas for scavenger hunt items could be “something that smells like lemons,” “something fuzzy” and “something with today’s date on it.” Adjust the list’s length and difficulty for each competitor’s age.
Have a hot-chocolate party. Set out warm milk, chocolate syrup, marshmallows and other essentials and supervise your kids as they make their own steaming mugs of cocoa. To make things extra-delicious, include lots of extra “goodies” like white chocolate chips, whipped cream and peppermint sticks for stirring. Or teach them the art of tea-making, with new teas and that tea set you never use.
Pretend that it’s summer. Reverse the “winter in July” idea by having a beach-themed shindig right in your living room. Crank up the heat, dig out the kids’ bathing suits and sunglasses, and enjoy ice-cold lemonade or snow cones. If you’re brave, you can even take them “swimming” in the bathtub. Or pull out the beach chairs and towels, grab a book and a sun hat, and play some summer tunes.
A day at the museum. As a child I loved history and learning about new things, and I still enjoy it to this day. So when my dad spent a whole day taking me to our local museums, I was elated. Visit your local natural history museum, a children’s museum or even an aquarium. You can often score cheaper admissions on weekdays, or you can find discounted tickets online to make it even more affordable. Also, some museums don’t charge admission at all.
Go out and jump. Most towns have an indoor facility with inflatable bounce houses and slides. Find out when its “open jump” hours are, and bring your kiddos in for some climate-controlled fun – while you relax with a book or your smartphone. (Extra savings tip: Daily-deal sites like Groupon and LivingSocial often run discounts for places like these.)
Have a pool party. Can’t make it to the beach? Make your own indoor water fun at a local county recreation center. These facilities usually boast fantastic indoor pools with water slides, play features, kids’ wading areas and more. Some also offer rock climbing, fitness classes and more. If you don’t have a membership, pay a day pass fee, or pay just for the pool, which is usually $3 to $5 for admission.
Go to the library: Your public library may offer more than you think. Local libraries have books-on-tape, educational DVDs, audiobooks, and more. Also some libraries host story times, performances, workshops and cultural activities. Check with your local library for special events or classes.
Take a field trip: Think beyond the typical field trips. Ask a local artist if you can visit the studio. If you have a car enthusiast in the family, visit an auto dealership. Ask a local air field if your child can visit a pilot in the hangar. The possibilities are limitless: Mechanics, woodworkers, researchers and musicians all might be willing to spend some time with an interested child, and the “field trip” probably won’t cost a dime. Government services like water treatment plants, fire stations and recycling centers often offer tours.
Outdoor adventures. Enjoy the time off outside with your family. If it’s cold, bundle up to go for a hike or strap on a pair of snowshoes. Have a no-electronics policy while enjoying nature, and insist that your kids leave their gadgets at home. Sledding, snowball fights and a snowman-building contest are other fun winter weather options. If the snow has melted away, break the clean rules and pull on the galoshes. “Mud-dle jumping” can be fun!
Learn to cook. Try a new recipe, or pull out an old favorite. Get everyone involved. This is a great activity for all ages – kids in elementary school can take over measuring ingredients, and older family members can cut and prepare vegetables or fruit. Even smaller children are able to stir – and taste. Here are a few websites that help kids learn to cook. Bake a batch of cookies and freeze lunch-sized portions, so the kids can show off their skills at school.
Or don’t cook at all. Stock the freezer or fridge with easy-to-reheat foods you pre-made or purchased before your staycation. Dine out on “kids eat free” nights, BOGO or half-price specials. Make it a sandwich week, and glam it up by using bagels, pita, or wraps instead of bread.
Have a movie day. Have everyone pick out a movie, and have a movie-thin. Watch back-to-back films or TV series, make popcorn, and veg out on the couch. Or create a themed day based on an old favorite. For instance, dress up in costume to watch Downton Abbey, have fish-shaped snacks while watching Jaws, etc.
Stay at a home-tel. You don’t need to go anywhere to take a vacation. Turn your house into a hotel for the night by making simple changes. Clear off the bathroom counter and arrange small soaps and tiny hand lotion bottles. Rent a movie and stay up late watching it. Then give the kids turn-down service in their rooms, complete with chocolates on their pillows. To really make their day, create a room service menu and leave it under their doors. Let them check boxes on it to order their breakfast in the morning.
What are your best “staycation” ideas, either from childhood memories or experiences you’ve enjoyed with your children?
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