Everyone loves a good vacation, but getting away, relaxing, and visiting somewhere new can be pricey and can take a lot of work. However, with a little creativity you can turn a mundane weekend into a fun excursion while staying local. Weather is often a significant contributor to planning activities, but by thinking outside of the box and with a little planning, you can get your family vacation experiences without breaking the bank, any time of year. If you are looking for fun, indoor staycation ideas consider the following:
#1 Find a Local Children’s Museum:
Free or low-cost museums are found in most cities and towns. Many of these museums have interactive exhibits just for kids. Find admission information, current attractions, and locations, you may not know about here.
#2 Rent a Cool Airbnb, or go to a Hotel:
- Choose your budget. Most lodging websites will let you sort by price, and it is strongly suggested that you do so. Otherwise, you will likely be presented with premium properties that are out of your price range.
- Decide what experience you want. Access to a pool, cable TV, walking distance to restaurants, free breakfast, etc., should be discussed before booking. Additionally, most Airbnb rentals will have a list of “extra” amenities that they offer, such as a baby gate, high chair, or kids toys and games. The less you need to pack the better.
- Check out reviews. Not all rentals and hotels are created equal. Customer reviews will be a good indicator as to whether the lodging you are considering is kid-friendly or not. Most rentals have a shower, but what about a bathtub? Was reliable WiFi an issue for past guests? These are all questions that should be on your checklist that may not be answered by the property’s description.
#3 Go Ice Skating:
Ice skating can be found in nearly all cities. Be sure to check out rinks that you may know are not open to the public. Ice hockey rinks often have a few hours set aside each day for public skating. Here are some tips to ensure a fun and safe skating experience:
- Always dress in layers. Athletic kids may get overheated if they are wearing full winter clothing, while beginners may be cold as they move slowly while learning how to skate. Packing more layers than you might need ensures that you can remove them if you’re too hot and most rinks have lockers you can rent, so you stuff extra jackets in there until you’re ready to pack up. Finding the ideal temperature is key to enjoying this cold-yet-hot activity.
- Make sure the skates fit properly. Skates should fit snug to avoid injury. This may initially be a shock to your child and they may insist that their skates are too tight. Have an employee assist with fitting if you are unsure of the proper fit.
- Consider having your child take an introduction class. If you plan for this to be a regular thing, an introductory class will teach skating basics, such as how to fall and how to take “baby steps” on the ice instead of gliding. Many rinks have skate trainers for rent for those that are not ready for hands-free skating, which may include you and not just your child.
- Decide if your child should wear a helmet. If your kid is prone to “giving it their all” and will take on skating as if they are a pro, a helmet will help keep them safe. One fall onto the ice shook my nerves as a kid, but a fun helmet helped bring back my confidence and try again.
- Don’t push them. Ice skating isn’t for every kid. While some will take to the activity quickly, others will be reminiscent of Bambi on Ice. Give them the confidence they need to try it out by being ready to catch them but give them enough space to try skating railing-free. When everyone is ready for a little boost, break up the session with hot chocolate or a snack.
#4 Have a Movie Marathon Day:
- Plan your movie lineup before you start the marathon. This will help curb disagreements of what and when to watch a certain movie. You can also have your kids put together a detailed program of the movies they have chosen using craft materials or ClipArt.
- Have movie-themed snacks. Think of what you might have at the theater and recreate it at home. Make a big bucket of popcorn, buy their favorite movie-theater sized box of candy, get those terrible movie theater pretzels from the freezer aisle - everything to make it an authentic theater experience.
- Get comfy. Let your kids bring down their pillows and comforters to the family room and settle in before the first movie starts. Move the coffee table, lay out some blankets and sit on the ground or set up everyone’s comfiest spot on the couch. lose all blinds to create a movie theater ambiance. You can ake it a step further and hang a blanket where light is coming through, such as a doorway. Turning your family room into a theater is exciting, and a few extra touches will make it feel like a real cinema.
- Remember to take breaks between each movie and encourage some physical activity. This break time is a great time to make a fort to watch the next movie from, talk about your favorite parts of the movie, or what you’re excited to see in the next one. You can even use these breaks to do routine tasks such as walking the dog, or bath time. Don’t be afraid to take bathroom breaks during the movie too, you are at home after all and don’t need to make any mad-dashes to the bathroom so you don’t miss anything.
- Turn off your phone, or at least turn off the sound and leave it on the counter. Nothing sucks you out of an engrossing movie faster than the ring and beeps of a phone or that gnawing need to check for any notifications. There’s a reason an announcement is made at the theater to turn off your phone before the movie starts.
#5 Create an Escape Room:
An escape room will take some thoughtful planning in order to pull off an engaging and challenging experience.
- First, plot out and put together puzzles and clues that are geared towards the ages of the participants.
- Include hands-on interactive props that would be found in professional escape rooms. Hide objects separately that are needed for escape, such as a lock in plain view and a key somewhere behind a puzzle.
- For one of your puzzles/clues include glow in the dark stickers that will only be found if the lights are turned off. Escape rooms are a great way to teach children to problem solve .
- Give each child a “lifeline” in the form of a one-time voucher to use if they can’t figure a puzzle out, and need an additional 10 minutes, to solve the room. If you want to extend the fun, put a firm time cap on the escape. If no escape was made, rehide the clues and have your child start over.
- Have a prize ready for escape room solvers. Having a tangible prize to work towards escaping will motivate your child to want to finish the room.
#6 Take a Virtual Trip:
Thanks to the internet, virtual trips to just about anywhere in the world are available. Safari tours and tours of the world’s largest toy store are just a click away. Many virtual trips are live and allow for questions to be asked throughout the tour. A few ways to make your trip feel more authentic are:
- “Pack” and dress for the occasion. Break out the khakis and pack binoculars in a backpack for a hike of the Himalayas, or dress to the nines for a play - Check it out here
- Virtually check out a science museum,. and have your child pick out topics they would like to explore further. This will help you figure out where to physically take them in the future.
- Plan a meal to make that fits the trip you are taking. Taking a virtual trip to Japan? Plan to have sushi and mochi ice cream. Virtually checking out The Outback? Chicken parmigiana or meat pies are delicious meals to prepare. Or simply make whatever you normally would, and call it wombat stew or grilled kangaroo tails.
- Tour the world’s largest zoos and invite all your child’s stuffed animals to come along. That’s right, line all those animals up for the tour. Barbies and toy cars should be allowed to attend too. Regardless of where you virtually visit, consider doing an art project afterwards that ties in to where you visited. You don’t need to make a trip to the art store for this; cotton balls double as snowballs for an art project after touring Antarctica.
Having fun as a family doesn’t require a lot of money to accomplish. There are so many ways to entertain your kids indoors in your own city. A little planning and creativity can go a long way with ensuring you and your kids don’t feel that you missed out on a vacation.