How to plan a last-minute staycation

Posted on July 28, 2015 at 6:00 am

By Rachel Edmondson

How to plan a last-minute staycation by Rachel Edmondson | Spokane County Library District

With August only a few days away, the end of summer is coming way too fast. Or, if your kids are driving you crazy with their refrain of “I’m bored,” maybe it’s not coming fast enough! Either way, this is the time of year when I start to feel like summer is getting away from me. I suddenly realize I’d like to squeeze in one last little vacation, but it feels like it’s too late in the game. However, I’ve found it’s never too late to plan a staycation! Through trial and error, I’ve discovered a few critical components to making a last-minute staycation a success.

Get away from your house

Yes, I know “stay” is in the name, but if I truly stay in my house I just don’t relax. I see the projects that need to be done, the dishes in the sink, and the dirty corners that always seem to get missed and I feel the need to work on them. For this reason, my family likes to plan lots of outings and then come home just in time to tumble into our own beds.

Plan activities ahead of time

Staycations are a great time to do those activities you always say you’re going to do but don’t. Visit the places you drive past, but never take the time to stop and see. I don’t know how many times my husband and I said it would be fun to take our kids bowling, but then didn’t do it. So, on our last staycation, we hit the bowling alley and had a great time.

Of course, your list will depend on your budget, so when you sit the family down keep that in mind. You can start by brainstorming free activities, then add some low cost activities, and finally list a few splurges. Then look at your list and narrow it down according to your budget. If agreeing proves difficult, then maybe each family member gets to pick something free but the splurge has to appeal to everyone. My family usually tries to include at least one splurge and then keep the rest fairly budget-friendly.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:


  • Visit a park you’ve never been to
  • Look online for free days at local museums and attractions, and for free community events
  • Get messy–mud pies, goop, finger paints or water fights make your own backyard extra fun
  • Take a hike
  • Go for a bike ride
  • Go to the lake
  • Have a family movie night and stay up way past your usual bedtimes
  • Sleep in a tent in the backyard or have a family sleepover in your living room


  • Try a new ice cream place
  • Ride the carousel in Riverfront Park
  • Visit Green Bluff or a farmer’s market, let each family member pick a fruit or vegetable, and then incorporate all of them into a meal
  • Buy glow-in-the-dark bracelets at the dollar store and play games in the dark
  • Go buy a new game to play as a family


If you really want to splurge, stay at a hotel for one or two nights. Even staying in the next town over can provide new activities and places to visit. Last minute prices can often be a great deal when you check out sites like Priceline.

Be flexible

Although planning ahead is an important key factor in maintaining a budget and not spending your entire staycation making decisions, you also want to stay flexible. Half the fun of a staycation is that you are out of your regular routine and free to stop and do something if it strikes your fancy. If you’re headed to a new park you want to check out and you see another one along the way that looks fun, stop for a while. The other park isn’t going anywhere.

Set Ground Rules

Since my kids are younger we haven’t had to sit down and have a talk about ground rules yet; but, I’ve heard from many a friend that doing this ahead of time can save some grief and help make for quality family time. Each family will have their own rules, but here are some common ones: no video games, internet, telephones, TV, work or fighting (good luck with that one). Or, you may choose to limit technology to certain times and not allow them at others. Think through your goals for the staycation and set rules accordingly.

Prepare the House

As all parents know, once you have kids you are never truly on vacation, unless the kids are staying with the grandparents! With that in mind, think through those tasks that can’t be avoided and, where reasonable, plan ahead to make them as easy possible.

Unless you are going to eat out for every meal, which I highly doubt, plan some easy meals and buy all the ingredients ahead of time. Better yet, go ahead and make meals ahead of time and take a vacation from cooking altogether. For some families cooking or baking together might be a fun, planned activity; however, it’s still helpful to have the ingredients ahead of time so you can avoid a grocery run. Nothing is less like vacation than grocery shopping.

Another key to preparing our house is to make the important rooms restful. It’s hard for me to relax when I can see messes or projects that need to be done. When we are at our house during a staycation, we primarily stay in our living room playing games and watching movies. We focus on making sure the living room is clean and tidy and don’t worry about the rest of the rooms in the house.

Think through other onerous tasks you can avoid. Is picking clothes a battle in your house? Have kids pick out their outfits ahead of time. Always fighting over which movie to watch? Select a few as a family before the staycation begins. Can’t stand dishes? Maybe you go with paper or plastic (sorry environment).

While I wrote this post with families in mind, the same principles hold for a solo or duo staycation. So, go forth and get out of your house, plan ahead, be flexible, set ground rules, and prepare your house. For even more ideas, checkout our Spokane Staycation Pinterest board. Your next staycation awaits!


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