8 Brilliant Spring Break Staycation Ideas That Cost Next-to-Nothing

Spring break is upon us! It is a popular time for families to go on vacation but it is also one the worst times to travel. Everything is crowded and overpriced! And with a lot of families being affected by the downturn in the economy, staycations (stay-at-home vacations) are becoming increasingly popular.


Growing up, our family never went on elaborate spring break vacations; instead my wonderful stay-at-home mom would plan lots of activities to keep us kids busy and entertained. But moms and dads deserve a little break, too! I’ve put together this list of spring break staycation ideas and tips that will make both you and your kids feel like you’re on vacation.

  1. Backyard or indoor camping. This is one of the most popular staycation activities, and something my dad would do every year for a couple days with my brothers (I am not into roughing it, even in my backyard). Do some stargazing (download a constellation finder app), roast marshmallows over a fire (a couple candles will work), and tell ghost stories before bed. If you don’t have a backyard, living room camping works just fine, too!
  2. Turn an afternoon and evening into a movie marathon. Pick out three or four favorite movies (movies in a series such as Star Wars, Harry Potter, or Toy Story work well for this), serve popcorn or other movie snacks like hot dogs or Junior Mints (the only time I EVER crave Junior Mints is when I’m at a movie theater). Since you’re in the comfort of your home, go ahead and act out some of your favorite scenes and even dress up in costume!
  3. Take a day trip, even just to a nearby park! Pack a picnic and a few outdoor activities (kite, Frisbee, wiffle ball, etc.) and you’re good to go! National Parks, zoos, aquariums, theme parks, beaches, or children museums also fall under the day trip category.
  4. Set up a board game tournament. Plan a day of friendly competition with a series of board games. Pick up some small plastic trophies or award ribbons for everyone.
  5. Weather permitting, find a community pool in your area or at the very least, set up a sprinkler in the backyard.
  6. Plan an at-home spa day with manicures and facials, or better yet, go to a spa for a couple hours of pampering.
  7. Set up a scavenger hunt in the house or yard. You can hide clues with dollar store toys or candy treats. Or look up Geocaching in your area!
  8. If your family is into Disney (like mine is), you can plan an “At Home Disney Day!” Wear your favorite Disney clothes, have a Disney movie marathon, make “Mickey pancakes” for breakfast, and do some Disney-themed crafts. 

Once you’ve decided what your staycation will be, here are 4 tips to make it ABSOLUTELY wonderful:

  1. Restrict phone and electronics usage. You may get some push back from the kids (or it may be very difficult for YOU to give it up), but if you were on a real vacation you would be focusing on family time and not glued to your phones.
  2. Plan ahead for meals. One of the best parts about being on vacation is not having to cook for yourself. If you can’t afford to eat out at restaurants or have food delivered for every meal, plan ahead by creating “freezer meals” the week before or putting the slow cooker to good use.
  3. One of the other great things about being on vacation is having someone else clean up after you. While hiring a full-time cleaning service for a week isn’t exactly feasible, you can make the cleaning load a little lighter by utilizing the dishwasher or using paper plates and plastic silverware for just this one week.
  4. Discuss expectations with your partner in advance. This should be your vacation, too! How will you split up cooking, cleaning, driving, putting the kids to bed, etc? Planning it out in advance will help avoid one parent from feeling like the other parent is on vacation but they are not!

Have you ever planned a staycation? What activities and tips would you add to the list?

image: Roberto Muñoz / Getty