Between travel restrictions and tight budgets, not to mention avoiding crowds, this may be the summer of the staycation. But hold tight! Before you resign yourself to a bummer summer, we’re here to show you that staycations can be a beautiful thing – even if you feel like you’ve already maxed out on family time, or if you're operating on a shoestring budget.
So sign out of Netflix and throw the remote out the window. It’s time to learn how a little outdoor space, some inexpensive supplies and a dollop of creativity can yield the best staycation ever.
Transform your backyard (Estimated cost: $25 - $100)
With a little planning and some budget-friendly buys, any outdoor space can become a kid (and adult!)-friendly oasis.
Build a DIY waterpark So you can’t go to a waterpark this year. That’s OK! Bring it to you. All you need are some sprinklers, a Slip ‘N’ Slide-style water slide, kiddie pools for your little ones, some good ol’ fashioned water balloons for the older ones and voilà! A homegrown waterpark. You may be tempted to run through a sprinkler or two yourself.
Have a personal luau Sure, Hawaiian resorts are great. But you don’t actually need to visit one to enjoy a luau. Whether you go fun and festive with décor (plastic leis, tiki torches and drink umbrellas) or get fancy (seashells and twinkling outdoor lights) there’s no wrong way to luau, and there are plenty of easy recipes to make you smile and fill even the pickiest of bellies. Pair the decorations and food with a luau playlist and let the island vibes flow.
Throw a family carnival You may not be able to hit the local carnival or fair this year, but with a little ingenuity, you can make your own. Games like ring toss, balloon pop and bobbing for apples are all easy to build and are sure to bring on the cheers. Inexpensive prizes – and lots of carnival-style snacks (think cotton candy, caramel apples and popcorn) – make it even better.
Embrace the night (Estimated cost: $2 - $100)
The fun doesn’t have to stop when the sun goes down. Sprinkle a little fairy dust (glitter will also do just fine!) on your evenings with these magical nighttime activities.
Enjoy an outdoor movie Outdoor movie projectors are now reasonably priced and easy to find online. Buy one that suits your budget, make your own screen and, once the sun sets, settle in for a blockbuster surrounded by fresh air and the sounds of nature. Make it even more fun with pillows, blankets and theater-style munchies. An alternate but equally fun idea? A drive-in movie. Do a search for “drive-in theater near me” and see if there’s one close by. Then drive, park, put your feet up and enjoy.
Go skating under the stars If you’ve got some skates, take an evening to feel like a kid again – and bring your own kids into the action – with skate night. Pump up the jams, don your most glittery attire (or dive into the kids’ arts and crafts bins for some actual glitter), then skate up your block (or in your driveway!). Heck, flip on a tabletop strobe light if you’ve got one. There’s nothing like the feeling of smooth pavement under your feet, especially under the stars. Once your neighbors are done gawking, they might surprise you by joining in.
Chalk it up While you’re amping up your nighttime creativity, how about chalk night? Here’s how to do it: Buy some multicolored chalk from your local dollar store, grab some cold drinks, turn up the tunes and flip on the porch lights (or flashlights). Draw your name, a cartoon, a flower, anything you’d like. Even just play some tic-tac-toe. You’ll be surprised how quickly your creative juices will start flowing – and how you can make lifelong memories for just a couple of dollars.
Go old-school(Estimated cost: $0 - $100)
When you’re done with innovation – or maybe you weren’t feeling that innovative in the first place – get back to basics with some simple, old-school fun.
Host a tournament Badminton, horseshoes, bocce ball, corn hole – they’re all classics for a reason. Whether you play them in the park or on your patio, backyard-style games are fun. And the more people you have playing, the better. Keep it in the family or invite neighbors for some socially distant, friendly competition.
Plant a garden Nothing says summer like flowers, plants and farm-fresh herbs and veggies. If you don’t have a yard, look into community gardens. Whether you plant at home or a nearby park, most kids love gardening. The act of gardening is satisfying, budget-friendly and little ones love checking in on their seedlings. Plant kid-friendly crops like basil and tomatoes and save yourself a trip to the store – not to mention grocery money – on pasta night.
Go camping in your backyard This is an oldie but goodie. And you don’t even need to own camping equipment to do it. (Rent the basics from an outdoor store or put out a call on social media to borrow some.) As for entertainment, keep it simple: ghost stories (around a fire pit, if you have one), singalongs (guitar optional but always a plus) and s’mores (up your s’mores game with some rich dark chocolate). While this decidedly old-school activity is sure to go over well with the kids, it’s something the kid inside you will love, too. (Enjoy the great outdoors? And saving money? Here are some more quick tips on camping on a budget.)
A staycation is still a vacation
If you’re with people you love, or at home relaxing by yourself, a staycation is still very much a vacation. It doesn’t matter what your budget is or how creative you get. The most important thing is to take a break from your normal routine, kick back, unwind and recharge your batteries. And sometimes staying home is the very best way to do it.