Staycation Ideas That Don’t Suck

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Staycation ideas don’t have to play second fiddle to out of town trips. If lack of money is keeping you home, make the most of it with a staycation.

I have a confession to make – I started out this summer a little bummed. We usually try to take a trip to another city within 8 hours’ drive of us once a summer, but we aren’t doing that this year. That’s what had me bummed.

Then, we started brainstorming staycation ideas and my attitude brightened. I realized there’s a lot of fun things for our family to enjoy in our city. Plus, I remembered why we’re not going on vacation this summer. Mrs. Frugal Rules is from San Diego and we’re planning a family road trip out there next year.

We’ve been looking for last minute vacation deals on Expedia and frugal summer vacation ideas so we can afford that trip.

Anyways, back to this summer. After all our searching, we decided to ditch a summer vacation this year, no matter how much I felt like I need a vacation, and come up with some staycation ideas – fun things we can explore in our own city on a budget.

I’d like to share some of our staycation ideas with you in hopes that it will help spark your own family staycation ideas. Hopefully you’ll agree with me that these ideas don’t suck

First Things First – Unplug


Before I get to my staycation ideas I have to share something that I must keep reminding myself to do – unplug. When I go away on vacation it’s easier for me to truly disconnect from work. Maybe that’s because we run our own business from our home, so a staycation brings the temptation to keep working even just a little bit each day. I am going to literally unplug my laptop and put it underneath my bed. I can’t promise I won’t check Twitter or look at my blog each day but I won’t have my computer up and on because if I do, I’ll rob myself of the vacation we’ve been planning and looking forward to.

Six Staycation Ideas


This list could probably easily be three times this long but I’ll just give you six staycation ideas that fit my family.

Staycation Idea #1 – Geocaching


We’ve never tried geocaching but after reading about it, I decided we’ll give it a try. This inexpensive idea just requires GPS, time and a few toys. Our kids will love it as hunting for buried treasure is all they seem to talk about these days.

Staycation Idea #2 – Take a Dip in a City Pool


We have a few great public pools in our city. Mrs. Frugal Rules recently discovered one not far from us with two slides, diving boards, water features, a playground and a zero-depth entry area. You might want to check out your city’s website and look under the parks area to find ones you could include in your staycation.

Staycation Idea #3 – Beaches, Lakes, and Parks


If we still lived on a coast, a trip to the beach would definitely make it on our staycation ideas list. It’s funny when we go back to visit friends and family in San Diego, we want to spend as much time as we can at the beach and are always surprised when our friends who live within 20 minutes of the ocean can’t remember the last time they went. Unfortunately, we’re land-locked but this summer, we’re going to explore a new park or lake nearby on our staycation.

Staycation Idea #4 – Movies at Dusk & Free Music


While trying to come up with staycation ideas, we typed something like “free family fun Omaha” into Google and found a number of nice parks offering free movie screenings at dusk. A number also paired free local concerts and food from vendors as well. We’ll be taking a picnic basket, our lawn chairs and some cool drinks to one on our staycation.

Staycation Idea #5 – Visit A City Nearby


Within an hour’s drive there are at least half a dozen smaller cities  that can could easily get to and explore. Planning a staycation gives us a chance to visit our state capitol, pick apples, taste wine at a local vineyard, visit historical farms and go antiquing if we want to. Sometimes it just takes thinking outside the box a little to realize all that your city has to offer.

Staycation ideas don’t have to play second fiddle to out of town trips. If lack of money is keeping you home, make the most of it with a staycation.

Staycation Idea #6 – Museums


Art museums, children’s’ museums and cultural museums are all located within our city but we’ve never taken the time to visit any of them. Next week, we’ll take one day of our staycation to visit a local railroad museum, drive down the road to enjoy some authentic local Mexican food followed by a trip to a Latino museum and then will finish up with a jaunt through the sculpture garden at our local art museum. The art museum is free and the price of admission for the other two is relatively inexpensive.

I hope these ideas get you started imagining how much fun your family could have on a staycation in your city. We’ll end up spending less money and more time together with less stress by staying local this summer. While I didn’t feel this way initially, I can now honestly say that I can’t wait for our staycation to begin.


What fun staycation ideas do you have to share? What are your summer vacation plans?



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John is the founder of Frugal Rules, a dad, husband and veteran of the financial services industry whose writing has been featured in Forbes, CNBC, Yahoo Finance and more.

Passionate about helping people learn from his mistakes, John shares financial tools and tips to help you enjoy the freedom that comes from living frugally. One of his favorite tools is Personal Capital , which he used to plan for retirement and keep track of his finances in less than 15 minutes each month.

Another one of John's passions is helping people save $80 per month by axing their expensive cable subscriptions and replacing them with more affordable ones, like Hulu with Live TV.


  • Canadian Budget Binder says:

    A mate of mine does the geocaching with his daughter and they love it. He says that it costs hardly anything, (mostly gas) to do and his daughter just thinks it’s a ball of fun. I’d like to try it out some time. We also check what free entertainment is in our city.

    • John says:

      Yea, my wife was pretty excited about it and I think the kids will enjoy it. There’s plenty of stuff to do in our city that is either free or fairly cheap.

  • Brian @ Luke1428 says:

    It’s so hard to unplug these days. I can see how it would be very tough for you guys to do that because you have a home based business. But I think you will come back refreshed if you can truly take a break for the week. We need that time to get away, especially with family. Enjoy the vacation and your geocaching (thanks for the link). I’d love to hear how that goes.

    • John says:

      It really is Brian and part of the problem is the “ease” of doing stuff on your phone. I think my wife is going to have to lock my computer away in the closet. 😉 We’re looking forward to trying it.

  • Laurie @thefrugalfarmer says:

    Great ideas, John. We also like to take in a semi-pro/minor league ball game during the summer sometimes. Much cheaper that a pro game, and super fun! Have a great staycation. 🙂

    • John says:

      We have a AAA team here as well, but the kids are still a bit young for it. That said, they’re pretty cheap and usually a good time.

  • Kurt @ Money Counselor says:

    We’re blessed with lots of opportunity for recreation in our immediate area–hiking, kayaking, swimming, fishing of all sorts, scuba diving, biking, etc. We take advantage, but I’m also taking a trip to Colorado to spend time with family at a brother’s vacation home. Assuming the seasonal wildfires don’t interfere!

  • Rita P @ Digital Spikes says:

    Enjoy your staycation, refresh and rejuvenate yourself, looking forward to see back , have fun

  • Alexa says:

    My kids would be plenty happy staying at a hotel that has a pool. That’s all they need to feel like they are on vacation!

    • John says:

      That must be a kid thing Alexa, because our little ones are the same exact way. We could go pretty much anywhere, but if the hotel has a pool then that’s what they remember. 🙂

  • E.M. says:

    Sadly I’m one of those who lives about 25 minutes from a beach and rarely goes. I am hoping to get there tomorrow as long as the weather will cooperate! I don’t take advantage of it enough, mostly because it gets super crowded by 10-11am and parking is around $10, but sometimes it is worth it. I think unplugging is definitely important – a vacation is for enjoying things you normally don’t get to do!

    • John says:

      I remember the crowds from when we lived in San Diego. They weren’t fun to deal with all the time, but often would be part of it. 🙂

  • Brian says:

    Geocaching is a great idea! It’s so much fun. I actually just explored some waterfront areas in my city that I hadn’t explored before, there’s always more to find!

    • John says:

      The more we read about it, the more fun we think the kids will have doing it. We’re planning on trying it later this week.

  • GamingYourFinances says:

    Great post! These are all great ideas to take advantage of the summer holidays! We love to take advantage of lakes and beaches in our area.

  • Greg @ says:

    We moved to Richmond just a few years ago, so we are still pretty thrilled that we can get to the beach in less than 2 hours. Makes for our favorite kind of staycation. We also have plenty things to see around the town still.

    For me, the best part of a staycation is I don’t feel like I need the extra recovery day before going back to work like I do on an all out vacation.

    • John says:

      Richmond…as in Richmond, VA? I grew up in Richmond and too liked that we could get to the beach in a few hours.

      I agree, one of the best parts of a staycation is not needing the recovery time.

  • Daisy @ Prairie Eco Thrifter says:

    I love the thought of geocaching, especially for kids. My cousins are big into it and it looks like so much fun! I haven’t been staycationing at all this year but I’ll have to do it next year to save my budget.

  • Pauline says:

    Just voted, good luck!! I often used to google “town + free” you can find free walking tours in a part of town you don’t know, free events for summer, ..

  • Derek - says:

    Great tips! There are literally dozens of parks, museums, and other attractions in our city that could keep us busy for months. It’s funny how you’re always looking for something to do far away when there are hundreds of opportunities right under your nose.

  • Cynthia says:

    Thanks for the museum idea. We live on a small island and sometimes it feels like we’ve seen everything but one thing we haven’t been to in awhile are the wonderful museums. We’ll be heading there on our stayvacation and then probably splurge on a good meal.
    Thanks and happy staycationing to all

  • Alice Morado says:

    We moved from the beaches of Florida to the mountains of Pa. my home state and we discovered geocaching and the kids love it. We are also surrounded by many beautiful mountains and lakes that we can hike along and just enjoy the scenery….found your site when i googled cheap staycation idea’s. Thank you.

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