Ah, summer. A season most of us look forward to for one reason or another. Maybe it’s the long days, the weather, or the lack of school. What most people look forward to is the crown jewel of wasteful spending and the sworn enemy of the frugal lifestyle……summer vacation. It feels that summer vacations have become somewhat of a social status symbol. A trip to a beach resort with fancy pools, cruises, an expensive getaway, or a family vacation to Walt Disney World has become all the rage, but I see no reason for it. Spending a month or two’s salary on a week away from home isn’t my idea of the best summer fun.
On top of the spending, it can be stressful to simply plan and book your family vacations. Booking Hotels, finding cheap flights, and renting cars can all be challenging to coordinate. Last, I want to be stressed out during my hard-earned vacation time. With the amount of spending done, there is almost a feeling of “forced fun” and needing to get my money’s worth during these vacation days. It’s time to let go of all this stress once and for all.
I get that everyone needs to relax with some well-deserved time off now and then, and the summer months are a great time to do it, but there is no reason it needs to break the bank. During the summertime, there are plenty of cheaper alternatives to popular destinations like Disney. Paying hundreds of dollars in airfare and lodging, then hundreds more to get into an amusement park where I’ll have the joy of standing in line for rides about 65% of the time unless you pay extra doesn’t sound like a good time to me. With the rise of sites like Airbnb, we can easily find the best deals and have just as much if not more fun.
Another option is to not go on vacation at all, but rather a staycation or home vacation. For those not in the know, a staycation is like a vacation; only you save money by staying at home and doing vacation-like activities. Believe it or not, plenty of fun, family-friendly summer activities can be done at home or in your own backyard during your annual summer break. I’m here to help you nail your next or first staycation.
Summer Staycation Ideas: Daytime Family Activities
Take a Hike
Hiking is not only a great way to have some fun during a staycation but some great exercise too. There are likely many places to have your outdoor adventures, like state parks or national parks, where you can have a hiking adventure near you. Hopefully, the hiking trails are only a short drive from home, but it’s worth making it a fun day trip to a state park if you need to travel a bit. You don’t have to stroll around aimlessly on a trail; there is nothing wrong with that, but find a course with a payoff. It could be a cliff overlooking a waterfall or a breathtaking view at the top of a mountain, but having something to look forward to at the end will give your hikes a bit of extra satisfaction and your hikers a bit more motivation. Don’t be afraid to get a bit adventurous!
If you have little ones of any age, try to have something water related on the hike. My kids can spend hours throwing rocks and sticks into a river or lake. Many parks will have rentals available for canoeing, kayaking, rafting, and boating. Anything with a paddle can be a fun activity for kids of all ages. Not only is it fun for them, but it can be very relaxing. If you bring the kids, don’t forget to pack lots of snacks!
Going on a Bike Ride
Next on the itinerary, similar to the hiking excursion, going on a long bike ride can be a great family outing during any staycation. Again, you might need to travel a bit, but you can find a place where you can spend the day biking around. If not, taking a trip around town can be fun too. It might be harder to find that big payoff like the hike, but biking around a lake or on a riverside can also provide a sense of being away from home on vacation.
Have a Picnic
Now that you’re tired from all the hiking and biking, it’s time to rest and relax. Having a picnic is a great way to spend the day relaxing and different from your routine. You can go to your favorite park, or if you want to make it feel more vacation-like, head somewhere you’ve never been before, find a nice spot in the sun and have some fun. Bring a bat and ball, frisbee, whatever; it doesn’t have to be complicated, just a good time doing outdoor activities. To make it even more vacation-like, make a special lunch you wouldn’t usually have, or keep it simple and fire up the grill for some burgers and dogs.
This activity can be an add-on to any of the previously mentioned sections here, making them full-day experiences. For those of you that have the equipment already, fishing can be a great way to enjoy the outdoors and relax with the family. If your fishing skills are anything like mine, you won’t catch anything but some algae, but hey, quality time counts.
Beach Day Fun
Just because it’s a staycation doesn’t mean you can’t go to the beach! For those lucky enough to be within driving distance of a few beautiful beaches, a day at the beach can be a great and inexpensive day trip for family fun. Many beaches in the great state of New Jersey are public and will have a relatively low day pass cost. If you live in more of a lake state, plenty of beach options are available for a family trip.
Relax, soak up some rays, work on your tan and enjoy the sunshine. Like the picnic, you can pack a lunch and a few activities to entertain yourself. With this, you’ll have the perfect day in front of you.
Minor Leagues Can Be Major Fun
Nothing beats a good baseball game, but going to the big league parks can be more trouble than it’s worth and quite expensive. Don’t get me wrong, I can’t wait to go to my next Mets game, but tickets for the whole family will run you into the hundreds of dollars, which is not exactly frugal. Luckily, plenty of minor league teams are around to entertain you with cheap tickets. The whole day might cost you $50 if you splurge on lunch. Many of these teams will have fun-themed days to attract more crowds. Find the closest team to you and say you watched the next big league star play before anyone else knew who he was!
Summer Staycation Ideas: Night Time Family Activities
There’s more to a staycation than the day; you’ll need things to do to have fun-filled nights. Below are some of my top summer staycation ideas on how to fill up your nights.
Who doesn’t love a good movie? Pile everyone up in your best view location, make some popcorn, fire up the Netflix and watch a good flick. You can even make it a double feature, so there is less arguing over what to watch. You can protect a family favorite or try something new. No matter what you decide to watch, you’ll be able to enjoy any night of your staycation right in your living room.
Board Game Night
Another great family activity can be a board game night. Take turns choosing the games and let the good times roll. If your kids are old enough, maybe teach them a few card games too. Charades can also be a great way too. Along those lines, one of my favorite games in recent years is Fishbowl. Its Catchphrase (a great game in itself) meets password, meets Charades, and it’s a ton of fun.
Along the same lines as board games, puzzles can be a relaxing family activity. Put light music in the background, and you’re good to go. Depending on your kids and their age, you can scale the difficulty. Try challenging yourself and see if you can complete a complex puzzle within the week. You can work on this during the day, but I’m putting this as a night activity as it’s an excellent way to unwind after all the daytime fun you’ve had.
Video Game Night
I love my video games as much as the next guy, and I wouldn’t usually say sitting in front of a screen playing video games for hours on end is a great idea, but you’re on vacation….I mean staycation! There are lots of games families can play together at the same time to get everyone involved. If you don’t have these games, you can make a competition out of one or two-player games too. Get creative and have some fun!
This is one of my favorite fun things to do at home. Little known fact, there is no rule saying you can’t camp out in your backyard! It’s true; make your backyard into a campground by setting up a tent or tents in the great outdoors of your backyard and have some good old fashion summertime fun right there. This makes for a good time on so many levels. For one, no packing up the car is needed. No need to worry about the bathroom as you can quickly run inside. Want that toy or game to play with? It’s right here with you. It’s very kid-friendly summer fun.
Hopefully, you have a firepit or something you can cook your dinner on, hotdogs on a stick, anyone? No fire pit, no problem, just go out for ice cream! Add roasting marshmallows or the camping staple of smores, and you’re on your way to a great staycation night.
During the summer is when most of us take advantage of the warm weather and travel to our favorite vacation spots, but you don’t need to. Don’t assume that a more expensive vacation is better or more fun. If there is anything you can learn from this site, that is rarely the case, and there are better ways to use your money. Some of the best memories can come from your neighborhood or right in your backyard. These are just a few summer staycation ideas of how you can spend your days and nights. Hope you have a fun summer!
Have other fun activities for a great summer staycation? What are your favorite staycation activities? Could you leave it in the comments?