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Let’s face it—although vacations can be great experiences, traveling with children can be exhausting. Airport delays, long car rides, and a hefty price tag can take their toll. So what’s a parent to do? Say it with me now…STAYCATION!

The key to success during a staycation is to create a little bit of structure. I’m a big believer in turning off the alarm clocks and getting plenty of rest, but too much idle time can leave you (and the kids) feeling antsy. A handful of well-planned activities will keep everyone entertained and engaged. Here are a few ideas to help get you started.

1. Plan a Backyard Camping Night

Pitch a tent and set up your sleeping bags right in your own backyard. Just like you would in the wilderness, build a campfire and look for shooting stars. Play outdoor games together like horseshoes or have a glow stick dance party. And don’t forget the ingredients for s’mores!

2. Host a Family Film Festival

Depending on the ages of your children, pick a movie genre and have each family member choose a movie to watch. Pop some popcorn and settle in with some cozy blankets. There’s nothing sweeter than snuggling your kids during family movie night.

3. Start a Cooking Competition

Plan a Top Chef-style cooking competition. This is a fun activity to include a few friends. Be sure to involve everyone in the planning and grocery shopping before the event. You’ll teach them some valuable meal planning and kitchen skills along the way. And here’s the best part—dinner is covered for a night!

4. Host a Sports Tournament

No matter the sport, hosting a mini-tournament is a great way to get everyone outside for a little exercise. You can even invite some friends and neighbors to join in the fun. The winners get to choose the next day’s activity for the family.

5. Create a Carnival Day

Transform your yard into a fun-filled carnival. Set up games like ring toss, corn hole, balloon darts, and bobbing for apples. Everyone loves a good carnival!

6. Organize a Scavenger Hunt

Print up a list of things for your children and their friends to find. Be creative! Use a mix of people, places, and things—then set them loose. The winning team gets a prize.

7. Go Hiking Together

Check the forecast and plan a nice day to go hiking. Find a trail close to home, pack a picnic, and make a day of it. You’ll reconnect with nature and get some exercise right in your own backyard.

8. Be a Tourist for a Day

Get out and enjoy what your city has to offer. Explore a local museum, visit the zoo, or try out a locally-owned restaurant. Life gets so busy that we often don’t have time for these things. Staycations are the perfect opportunity to get out and act like a tourist.

9. Learn Something New

Pick something new that the whole family would like to learn. You could learn a new skill like crafting or cooking. You could take up a new sport like golf or tennis. You could even visit the local zoo to learn about a new animal. The opportunities are endless.

10. Volunteer Together

Find a local organization you love and volunteer together. Serve at a local food bank, animal shelter, or participate in a park cleanup. It’s a great way to teach your kids compassion and model the value of helping others.

No matter how you choose to spend your time, remember that a staycation is still a vacation. Plan just enough to keep things interesting but create space to rest and recharge. Vacations are important opportunities for families to focus on one another and reconnect—even if you’re spending it together at home.

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