Today we have gathered the best tips, easy projects, and fun activities you can play for the ultimate family staycation. Be sure to bookmark this for some of our favorite boredom busters!
From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.
Last year, on the Friday before our school district’s spring break began, my daughter went on a field trip with her class. It was her first experience roller skating, and all week my husband and I joked with her, saying more than once, “Don’t break your leg!”
Well, the joke was on us, because just a short hour after I dropped her off at school that morning, I got a call from the school nurse. My daughter had, indeed, broken her leg. That ordeal is a story for another time. But what I’m remembering today, as we head into spring break season once again, is how so many people reacted to the news by asking if we’d had big spring break plans.
Apparently, many families plan big trips for their kids’ spring breaks. I feel silly admitting it, but I really had no idea. I had assumed most families would be staying home, juggling work and childcare, catching up on home projects, and possibly taking a trip to the movie theater or park before sending their kids back to school.
After all, that’s about all I had planned!
After hearing about other families’ more extravagant and adventurous plans, I didn’t feel guilty that we couldn’t afford that kind of travel or time off in the spring. But I did feel bad that I hadn’t put more thought into what we would actually do instead. Last year’s spring break was consumed by pain medicine, follow-up doctor’s appointments, and begging my daughter to JUST TRY TO USE THE CRUTCHES. But this year, I was determined to make the most of our five days off school!
Here’s what I did:
Evaluate your free time. Plan your work time.
Because of the nature of my work, I can’t simply take a whole week off. (Okay, I can, but it requires a level of nose-to-the-grindstone intention that I just didn’t pull off this time.) But I also don’t want to spend five days trying desperately to finish projects while hearing my kids ask, “When are you going to be finished?” So I’m planning three half days of work (and probably a chunk of time on the weekend to catch up). That way, they know they’ll have to entertain themselves during those times and I know I will need to focus so I can maximize those times.
Now we’re left with two full days and three half days. What will we do?
Take a look at your to-do-someday list. Get something done.
I’m not the only one with a Someday To-Do list, am I? A list of house projects, inconvenient errands, or seasonal tasks that always seem to get pushed to the back burner during the regular school year?
The trick with this part of a spring break staycation is positioning your to-dos as adventures or fun projects. If your kids are anything like mine, half the fun of spring break is spending extra time together — so why not use some of that together time to accomplish something? You’ll be relieved, and they’ll be proud they helped.
At least that’s my hope for having my girls help me recover the dining room chairs. I’ll let them weigh in on the material we choose, and any project involving a screwdriver and staple gun is fascinating to them (even if they don’t actually use the tools themselves). And since we sit on those chairs every single day, they’ll see the fruit of their labor daily. (Plus, at least in my house, anything can be fun if we add loud music, funny faces, or a special snack to eat when we’re finished!)
Other chores or errands might require some incentives, of course — like shopping for new spring clothes, but only after we go through and clean out their closets, or a trip to a special ice cream shop but only after we finally return those Christmas presents you’ve had in the trunk of your car for months and drop off the Goodwill donations you packed up back in January when you KonMari’d your house like the rest of the world.
Because I want to have two full days for full-blown staycation adventures, I’m planning our “project” (chore and errand) days for the other half of those days I’ll work. Now, finally, it’s time for the fun part!
Explore your town. Connect with friends. Make memories.
Whether you have a couple full days to fill, a few hours here and there, or an entire week, planning for fun will make sure your break doesn’t slip away without doing anything to write home about. (I know, you’re already at home. You know what I mean.) Here are some ideas:
- Does your community have a children’s museum? Or art museum? Or, really, any kind of place where your kids can let loose and have fun (while also learning something because you’re a sneaky mom like that)? Go there. Bonus tip: Look on the museum’s website to find out if they have free days or hours, coupons, or special events that you can plan around.
- Who are the friends you keep meaning to see but haven’t been able to? Who lives too far away for a simple dinner together during a normal week? Make plans to see them! Invite them over to your house for a playdate or lunch, or meet them at a park somewhere between your homes. (Or, if you really want to mix things up, you could combine an errand with a friend date and do your errands together. Need to stock up at Costco or Trader Joe’s? Why not go with a friend? Then grab lunch somewhere with a playplace so your kids can run free while you catch your breath.)
- What’s new? Has a big store opened up recently? Or perhaps a new restaurant? Make an adventure of checking out the new place by putting together a scavenger hunt for your kids or giving them a “mission” or mystery to solve while you’re there. Tasks or items might include eating a food they’ve never tried before, spotting specific items or colors or numbers, deciding how they’d like to spend a certain amount of money (either pretend or real), or even figuring out where the public restrooms are located.
- Take a trip down memory lane. If you’ve lived in your city for a while, take your kids to see some nostalgic sights (like your childhood home, the restaurant you and your husband had your first date, the park you took them to when they were much younger). If you’re new to town, you can use this time to learn about your community’s history. Check out a local museum, ask a neighbor to share one of their favorite spots, or just explore an area, road, neighborhood, attraction you haven’t visited yet.
- And don’t forget this: My city has a specific website for parents, listing out special events, fun excursions, coupons and promotional codes, and more. I always, always go there first when playing a staycation. Does your city have something similar? (Or, perhaps a local parenting group on Facebook? Or your MOPS group? Whatever source has a collection of information about activities in your city, go there!)
Put the “stay” in staycation.
Finally, you don’t have to even leave the house to have fun during your break. If you have little kids or a health condition or any reason at all that makes going out to find fun more difficult than usual, just stay home! But that doesn’t mean you’re stuck with Disney Channel reruns or another week of mac and cheese lunches. You can mix it up, right from home!
Some of our favorite things to do on those days are trying a new recipe (let the kids help cook), doing simple science experiments we’ve found on Pinterest, trying to imitate the trick shots of Dude Perfect or the dance moves of Kidz Bop after we watch a few videos on YouTube, or doing one of those messy craft projects I normally don’t allow. (Hello, glitter slime!)
Whatever your staycation looks like, you can make it fun. And really? Your kids will enjoy just as much and remember just as fondly the day you let them spend hours in their swimsuits, splashing in the tub with all the toys as they would some tropical trip. Are you together? Are you doing something out of the norm? Are you laughing and letting loose, even just a little?
Then your staycation will be a success!
A few more tips for you:
- Set a budget. Even if you’re staying home, you’ll likely spend a little more money when all your kids are home and “needing” to be entertained.
- Plan for rest. Much as I adore schedules and lists, I know we can’t fill up every minute. Both my kids and I need downtime and quiet time, so I might as well plan for that, too.
- Sprinkle in surprises. Even on those work or project days, you can delight your kids with their favorite dessert, a new Spotify playlist, a quick manicure, or a break to play catch in the backyard.
Want more fun activities for the perfect staycation or family getaway? Here are a few of our faves!