How to Make the Most of Your Next 'Staycation'

Filed under: Activities: Babies, Places To Go, Cabin Fever, Activities: Toddlers & Preschoolers, Activities: Big Kids, Activities: Tweens, Family Time

Staycation go to the zoo

Visit a local zoo on your next "staycation." Credit: Getty Images

Maybe money is tight or you're short on time, or you just want to stay at home during your next vacation. It's still possible to plan a fun and memorable time.

When planning a "staycation," travel experts recommend turning to an unexpected source -- your kids. Children often have great ideas about what might make a fun family outing, says Eileen Ogintz, travel writer and editor of takingthekids.com.

"Let the kids do the heavy lifting with planning," she tells ParentDish. "You'll probably be amazed at what they come up with."

Getting the kids involved also will build excitement about the plans, adds Deborah Way, senior editor at Disney's FamilyFun magazine.

The key to a successful staycation, both women say, is doing something unique as a family.

"It doesn't have to be expensive," Ogintz says. "You just want to step out of your every day rut."

Ogintz and Way offer the following staycation planning tips:

  • Pretend you have company coming into town. Think about the places you would take an out-of-town guest and go there. If you plan to visit multiple locations, find out whether your city offers a pass that will cover admission to several attractions.
  • Consult your city or county's chamber of commerce or visitor's bureau. These agencies will have information on tourist destinations in your community and calendar listings of special events and exhibits. Ask whether attractions offer discounts to local residents.
  • Build a day around your children's interests. If they're curious about knights, find out whether a local museum has an armor display, check books out of the library on the topic or try to build a suit of armor. Days themed around art, dinosaurs or science also would be fun.
  • Don't forget about local, state and national parks. Many are free and offer programs geared toward children.
  • If there's a university in your town, find out if they have any sporting events, plays, concerts or special exhibits scheduled. Admission fees are usually more affordable than professional events.
  • Check whether your family's membership to a local zoo, children's museum or science center will allow you to visit a similar institution in a neighboring city. Your membership often will gain you free or discounted admission.
  • Use public transportation, like the bus, taxi cabs or the subway. Kids will think it's a great adventure.
  • Don't rule out staying a night in a hotel. Kids love the chance to swim in an indoor pool and sleep in a new place. Many hotels have dramatically dropped prices because of the economic downturn.
  • Turn your home into a hotel. Incorporate little extras into the plans that will make it more fun for the kids. Offer room service by creating a breakfast menu and serving kids breakfast in bed. Make "do not disturb" signs for their rooms. Provide a turn down service complete with fancy pieces of chocolate.
Related: Are vacations more stressful than work?

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.