Nothing makes me happier than going away, even if I’ve been there a hundred times. One time I went to Hawaii all by myself on four days notice. True story. I really love vacations. So when our vacation plans fell through a couple weeks ago, I was pretty bummed. Because I didn’t want to completely give up on the “new and different”, I figured I needed to challenge us to take a “staycation” that week instead which is something we’ve never done before.
I tried to plan our staycation the same way we normally had our vacations….intentional, relaxing, a few fun events, and time together as a family. I wanted to make sure we just didn’t drift into lazing around the way we do when we have a couple of days at home with nowhere else to be.
In an effort to keep the vacation feel, I pulled together some fun and budget friendly ideas that can be tweaked to meet the needs of any family. Go bigger if you’ve got older kids or kids who thrive on new things. My guys have FASD which means one event per day max or they get completely overwhelmed and out of control for the rest of the day. Our version of the staycation plan was modest and simple but still fun. Stick to our version of you have little ones or kids with special needs.
1. Plan or Plant a Garden
We started our staycation with some gardening. I pulled weeds from the front bed (ok, the only garden bed) and they took turns throwing them in the composter. Once we had some space we spent sime time talking about different flowers and plant. From there we headed to the garden center to pick something of their very own. We decided before we got there (always make a plan!), that each fellow could pick 2 plants. Purple for Aiden (his favorite color) and pink for Liam. (I may have led him a little bit in that decision.)
We headed off to the nursery to find some flowers. The boys had a ball trying to use their walking feet, smelling all the flowers, and finally picking some plants to bring home. BONUS- There was some kind of charity hot dog stand on site that day. Lunch and an outing for the 3 of us came to around $20!
Once we got home, I dug holes and the boys took turn putting their plants in and watering. Occasionally they watered each other.
Bigger kids can be more involved with planning from drawing up a plan or even starting their own little gardens. Let them research different kinds of plants and help them draw and plan a garden bed.
2. Find Your Local Tourist Attractions
Most people rarely visit the tourist attractions in their own towns and cities. Staycations are a great opportunity to do just that. I had to use TripAdvisor to figure out what the tourist attractions are in our area. You know. Because we’ve only lived here for 12 years and all. I think I just made my own point.
We skipped the big stuff (too big, too loud, too much for my guys) and went to Clovermead Farms. I can’t believe we’ve never been here before. The boys had a great time seeing all the animals, learning about bees (and even holding one!), tasting all the honeys, and playing in the play areas. I pumped them up by letting them watch Bee Movie before we went. We had such a great time that I’m tempted to buy a summer pass.
3. Visit a Local Farmers MarketHit up TripAdvisor and search out activities in your own area.
Even if you grow some of your own food (I wish!), it’s still fun to visit a farmer’s market. We are blessed with an abundance of markets in this area. I took the boys to the on of the smaller farmers market in the middle of the week (less people) when strawberries were just coming to an end. We had a nice couple of hours buying a few things for dinner and talking about what we could make with all of the strawberries we bought. Which was a nice lead in to the next days adventure.
4. Chef For a Day
My boys are too young for a total day experience but we used the following day to get busy in the kitchen whipping up some strawberry recipes. We started with strawberry lemonade popsicles and moved on to make strawberry muffins. I probably should have stopped with the popsicles. If you look closely, you’ll see they’re starting to get manic and Aiden’s popsicles are dribbling everywhere.
Sometimes I forget the “one thing a day” for FASD kids and wind up peeling the boys off of each other and the ceiling. I scrapped the rest of the cooking plans and turned them loose in the yard to run it off.
Older kids could use the time at the market to make menu plans for the next few days and come up with different ways to use all of the fresh in-season produce they’ve found. I know my kids are always a bit more adventurous with their willingness to try new foods if they had a hand in choosing and preparing the meal.
5. Water Day
Beach, river, water park, splash pad…. you get the idea. I had planned to take my guys to a local water park but their escalating behaviour the previous couple of days was a great clue that they wouldn’t be able to cope. We filled the inflatable pool and dumped all the beach toys in and let them run wild. Bonus points if a boy can learn to pee standing up in the grass.
6. Go on a Picnic
We often have a picnic lunch when we’re at the beach. My guys love it. And why not? It’s not like they have to do anything but show up. Older kids can get involved with the prep and packing and even helping to choose the location.
My guys were on overload (yes, again) the day we decided to have a picnic dinner. We went ahead with the plan but moved the location to the back yard. I had a hunch that anything public would have involved me chasing kids all over the place. Sitting isn’t their strong point.
7. Backyard Camping
I considered trying this with the boys but two things stopped us. I sold our tent earlier this year thinking we weren’t going to use it with having the trailer and all. I did consider picking up a used one on Craigslist if the price was right but then I remembered that our yard slopes significantly and that wouldn’t be ton of fun. But if you’ve got a tent and a relatively flat area in your yard, backyard camping is crazy fun. I did it as a kid and loved it! Get out the sleeping bags and flash lights and give it a shot.
8. Local Festivals
Summer is a great time for festivals and events. There’s a festival of some sort almost every weekend within a hour of where we live all summer long. We took ourselves to Sunfest for a couple of hours one afternoon and had a grand time wandering our way through the booths. We’re really looking forward to Ribfest next weekend, too.
9. Movie Night
We had more of a movie day, spending a rainy afternoon and early evening watching all things Shrek. That’s what happens when you let a 3 year old pick the theme. I kid you not. Shrek, Shrek 2, Shrek 3, and Shrek Ever After. All in a row. I was lucky enough to spot some Shrek toys at the thrift store earlier in the week and that made our movie day complete. I’m pretty Shreked out to be honest and we totally blew the APA’s recommendations around screen time but the boys loved it. We made “movie food” with some popcorn and other finger foods and skipped dinner completely. I loved having an excuse to do nothing but lounge on the sofa that day and I really appreciated that there was no after dinner clean up.
If the kids are older or not so close in age, let them each pick a movie and have it after dark. Bring in the props like tickets, popcorn boxes, and comfy seating with lots of pillows and blankets. Or go all out with a projector and an outdoor movie night.
10. Spend a Night at a Hotel
Find an inexpensive hotel in town and check in for the day. Make sure there’s a pool and a hot tub and the kids will have a blast.
Eat in a nearby restaurant or order in room service. Bonus points if there’s a free breakfast. In many places you can check out and still use the amenities until you’re ready to go home. We actually did this with my girls years ago. The hotel staff were terrific about letting us stay around for a few hours after check out because we were locals.
Have you had a staycation? What sort of things did you get up to?