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Maximize your staycation with preschoolers

It’s good to be back to a regular routine starting today, though we really did have a great family vacation and staycation. We went to the beach for a few days, and hit up the nearby water park, but other than that, we stayed home.

Staycation is the latest buzzword — it means what it sounds like, a vacation you take at home. In order to deal with increasing gas prices, staycations have become a great alternative for those families who would otherwise not take time away from real life at all. And since gas is nearing $14 where we live, a staycation was a must this summer.

The problem with staycations, however, is that it’s tough to leave your real life. While it’s nice to not pack, deal with traffic, or juggle kids in the airport, it’s a challenge to pretend like you’re away, when really, you’re not. You can see the dishes in the sink, the incoming bills, and the remnants of usual day-to-day life, so it does take some effort to get into vacation mode.

It can be worth it, though. When we priced transportation, hotels, and food even just a few hours away, we figure we saved almost $1,000 staying in our own place and vacationing in town.

Here are a few tips to have a successful staycation, especially with small children.

Write a list of things you want to do, and decide on a general schedule of when to do them.

It’s easy to let time get sucked away when you’re on familiar territory. Cleaning out the closet can still happen when your vacation is over — don’t let that take priority over relaxing with your family (unless, of course, that’s really something you want to do).

Make sure that list has at least one thing everyone would enjoy doing.

If you’re like us, the things the adults want to do (read at Starbucks, sleep in) are not the same things the preschoolers want to do (play at the park, watch Ratatouille eleven times). But it’s everyone’s vacation, so it’s best if everyone gets to do at least one thing they’d enjoy.

Photo by Randy OHC

You and your spouse take sleeping in shifts.

Sure, in an ideal world, you both could sleep in until 10 a.m. and read the paper in your bathrobes while munching on breakfast in bed. In the real world, your baby is ready to go at 7 a.m., and the three-year-old will pour herself apple juice over chocolate chips for breakfast unsupervised. My husband and I flip-flopped the morning shifts, so we both got to sleep in at least a few days.

Have plenty of snacks and easy meals on hand.

I took the week off of menu planning, but if we weren’t careful, it would be too easy to eat out way more than was necessary. Having bread and sandwich makings in the fridge was so helpful, so that we could easily pack lunches when we left. Plenty of fruit, crackers, carrot sticks, raisins, and peanut butter made healthy snacks, for both the 30-somethings and the preschoolers.

Keep up with basic housework.

You’re on vacation, but still keep somewhat up to speed on dishes and laundry. There’s no need to scrub the house top to bottom, but still wash your clothes and clean the dishes as you go. It’s a bummer to take a break from the fun in order to catch up. If everyone pitches in a little each day, these things shouldn’t be too cumbersome.

Stay flexible.

This is one of the beauties of a staycation. If you wake up and decide you’d rather rent a movie and do a craft together in your pajamas, you can. The local museum will still be there tomorrow, or next month, really.

Photo by Mangus Franklin

Schedule in some recovery days.

Don’t plan too much, and for those all-day events, spread them out for the sake of the little ones. If they’re sunburned, exhausted, and whiny, the odds are, you’re not going to have as much fun. Take a day to chill, head to the library, play in the sprinkler in the backyard, and make a fun dessert.

Be brave.

Even though you’re in the city where you live, do something out of the ordinary. It’s easy with small children to rule out a lot of options, chalking it up to nap or bedtimes. On a staycation, it’s okay for your kids to stay up late for the sake of something special every now and then.

Do that thing in your town you’ve always heard was fun. If your kids are a basket case by the end, make the next day a Recovery Day.

Don’t let finances, time, or exhaustion at the thought of packing for a vacation stop you from spending good quality time together as a family. You’ll make memories, you’ll get a chance to reconnect, and you’ll remember what’s really important in life, all without leaving your home.

Do you have a vacation planned for the last half of the summer? How about a staycation? What are some things you’ve enjoyed together as a family?

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  1. The Urban Cowboy

    Great idea, the staycation. Often we are so preoccupied with where else we can go, often missing hidden treasures in our own town or city.

  2. Lisa

    Great post! We actually took a vacation to IN this summer. However, I plan a staycation the week before school starts. I will definiteley use some of your tips. Since St. Louis has alot of free things to do, we don’t plan on spending alot of money.

  3. CynthiaK

    Great advice! In fact, many can apply just as well to travelling as they do to a staycation. I may use a few on our road trip next week!

  4. Julie

    We are doing the staycation/vacation in October. We live in TN close to Nashville so we are doing the tourist thing for a few days. There are tons of things to do in Nashville that I have never done, I am a bad native! Then a couple days away in Chattanooga to visit the TN Aquarium.

  5. steadymom

    We do a staycation every year and love it! It’s so simple and so inexpensive, and we get to explore the “close-to-us” things that sometimes we don’t get around to during our normal weeks.


  6. Jenny

    We didn’t know about “staycations” when I was a kid, but when my dad got a bonus or a particularly large commission, we sometimes did what we called “minivacations”, where we would go to a park, performance, or museum exhibit in Houston (we lived in a distant suburb), and then eat in a restaurant that was, at least to us, exotic and different. The museums were great, since dad works in chemistry and mom was an art ed major. And the restaurants were exciting, since, with 4 kids, eating out was a rare treat. We learned to love Vietnamese, Indian, South American, and Ethiopian food, and since my dad is super friendly and a good talker, we usually ended up chatting with the owners and families of these little ethnic restaurants. We did travel a lot as a family as well, but learning to appreciate your family and your own city can be just as rewarding!

  7. Lisa Lynch

    Perfect, I am visiting my Grandson in Bend Or. right now and this is the perfect blog post. Today we are having a family fun dinner and ice-cream party so I am on the way to the store for the ingredients for home-made ice-cream!

  8. Shannon @ AnchorMommy

    This post comes just in time for me, because this week I have been lamenting the fact that the summer is halfway over and we have zero plans to go anywhere — zero! We just haven’t been forward thinking when it comes to planning something, and now it looks like we just might stay home. We’re considering driving to Yellowstone, but if that doesn’t pan out I will certainly look back at this post to help me enjoy a staycation! Thanks!

  9. Emma @

    Tsh, when I was reading the last bit “Don’t let finances, time, or exhaustion at the thought of packing for a vacation stop you from spending good quality time together as a family” – it was as if you were standing there and talking to me of all people. This is exactly what stops me so often – exhaustion at the thought of everything that needs to be organized for a vacation. Thanks for your words, you always have the right thing to say!

  10. aterhea

    i love these pieces of advise. we are also planning for a holiday or just an outdoor vacation for a week. now, ill be setting it in the most convenient, adoring place such as the Botanic Garden.

  11. Monica Williams

    Where is it that you live where gas is $14 ?

  12. Hairstyles For Girls

    I really like your tips about switching the sleeping in days with your hubby and also keeping up with some of the housework. My idea of a vacation isn’t coming back to 10 loads of laundry when it’s all over!! Good advice…

  13. Stacie @

    I love this guide for a stay-cation. We are planning one in a couple of weeks. Actually, our original idea was to unplug–meaning no technology (computer, DS, TV, etc.) for a week. My favorite suggestion is the one about alternate sleeping in with your spouse.

  14. sterndal

    alterante sleeping is a nice idea

    and yeah i agree

    even on vacation, we still need to think about the dishes

    (which happpens to be my not-so-favorite part)


  15. sterndal



  16. Liz

    We got lucky this year….in June we were invited to stay at a friend’s condo in Florida, in July my parents put us up for a week in Portland for a family reunion and we just now got home from a week in the Smokies – courtesy of my grandfather…without the generosity of friends and family we would have been vacationless this year and we’re so thankful to have had such fun opportunities. Your suggestions for staycations are great…a wonderful way to break up the remaining few weeks of the summer. =)

  17. Nina

    These are great tips, thanks for sharing them. I have school-age kids and I think these will help with them too.

  18. Gretchen

    We staycationed last year and had a blast! We did something “special” each day and even made a photo album of our adventures. Things like going to the local pool & paddleboats at a nearby park were so much more special as a family with no other commitments to rush off to. I’d highly recommend it for anyone!
    .-= Gretchen´s last blog ..Flip Flop Fancy =-.

  19. Margaret

    Sorry made a mistake with my pasting on the comment. What I meant to write was that I have included this post in the Buddy’s Extra Best Blogs of the Week. It is a great post and I hope my link will bring you new guests.

    .-= Margaret´s last blog ..‘Buddy’s Extra’ =-.

  20. Dena

    This is a nice post. I’m technically on vacation at my MIL’s for two months and at my mother’s for 2 but it doesn’t feel like it. There’s a lot I can’t change because I’m not in my own home, but I CAN change my attitude about it and change the feeling to FEEL like I’m on vacation since this is not my normal place.

  21. Minnesotamom

    What a timely post! We are having (taking?) our first staycation next week. I have already done most of the things on your list, except I was planning on ignoring chores completely. Now that you mention the rationale behind staying up-to-date on them, I think I’ll change my plans. 🙂
    .-= Minnesotamom´s last blog ..Feeling the Love =-.

  22. craftshalloween

    I like this guide for stay-cation.It is useful for my children for the next summer trip.the ideas are good.every mom will follow and they should agree this useful tips for stay-cation.
    .-= craftshalloween´s last blog ..Water Color Painting Fun =-.

  23. ideas

    wow, this is so great. i just happen to check on details about my child and come across this.thanks for sharing

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