A few years ago, we were on that dream family holiday. It had taken months upon months of researching every last detail, ensuring we made the most of our time in each of our glorious destinations.
And now, that holiday seems a lifetime. We hadn’t left our city, never mind our state, for so many months due to the pandemic. We’ve had to change our attitude and approach to the way we take vacations, as I am sure you have too. There is a high likelihood that you, too, were locked in your town, held ransom by the COVID-19 virus.
With school holidays looming, it is a timely reminder that planning a successful vacation is key. With limited options for most of us, a staycation that won’t require you to leave the comfort of your home is perhaps the predictable option these days.
This article will share a few things we have done to ensure that everyone, including you, gets a much-needed break, even if it is at home.
When home becomes the hotel
Fabulous if you are like me and you like your own bed. It is also suitable for those who always forget something and spend a fortune replacing all the stuff sitting on the bench at home.
Staying at home every night allows you to maintain good routines with the kids. We’ve all had those nights in the best restaurant in town; the whole trip has already been planned, then your child decides they don’t want to be there. And no promises of candy or binge movies later will dull their moans. There is always a silver lining in every situation, and I think that being able to keep family routines familiar is one of them.
One of the negatives to staying at home is that you don’t really get a break. Dishwashers still need to be loaded and unloaded, laundry washed and folded, and the other myriad of chores done. And did I say there is no one to make your bed each morning, nor the feeling of fresh, crisp linen sheets each night as you lay your weary head on the pillow?
Fortunately, there are solutions to every problem, just like this one.
How to create a relaxing vacation at home with the kids
COVID has most certainly ruined many a fine plan in the last two years, including vacations. On the plus side, it has made people think outside the box and do things a little or even a lot differently. Take school and how it has had to adapt.
And while it may not be ideal, our children have survived it, so let’s apply the same to staycation in your backyard!
1. Plan the activities to do at home
Since you’ll have your vacation at home, why not plan it out properly? Going on holiday usually takes planning and often involves getting ideas from family members. Given the continuing restrictions, not being able to stay somewhere else besides home is very likely for many of us, and this too needs planning.
A great place to start planning for a family staycation is to have a family meeting and list what you love doing on vacation. When you have this list, there will be things that you just cannot do due to living in the wrong area or needing too much equipment, but there will be lots you can do at home with a bit of imagination.
If your kids are older, set them the challenge of making their favorite vacation activity work at home. Give them boundaries and a budget and come back for a follow-up meeting to ensure they are on track. If your kids are younger or the meeting did not come up with too many options, you could try a few ideas below.
2. Sort out your home
When we go away, we usually have a list of things to do in anticipation of our break, including sorting the house. Getting your home in order is similarly crucial for a comfortable stay.
When we decided to have a staycation, we cleaned, organized, and sorted out the house so that it was sparkling from head to toe and ready. I got things over that I associate with holidays like fresh flowers and individually wrapped fancy chocolates. I stocked up on sparkling water (because who drinks tap water on holiday?!) and filled the pantry and fridge with a mountain of holiday-type nibbles that I usually get when we go away.
With a clean and sparkling home and all the holiday must-haves, the most important aspect of staying at home on a staycation is to set some ground rules around household chores.
What would you do if you were to stay in a home booked on Airbnb? Would you do laundry every day? Would you mop and vacuum daily? Would you pop out to the grocery store? Probably not. If your staycation at home is going to be a real break, you must set some ground rules. Otherwise, there’s no point in staycationing. You may as well have kept working!
3. Book a babysitter
Booking and using a babysitter is, of course, restriction-dependent. If you are lucky enough to have other people come into your home, use your babysitter to make it feel like a vacation.
Remember, one of the reasons we go away is that everyone gets a break and has a good time, not just the kids. Having the babysitter means you could set up the dining room into a beautiful space where you and your partner can enjoy a glorious delivered meal from your favorite restaurant in peace.
The kids will (if you have a fabulous babysitter) be delighted that they get to spend time with the sitter, whom you could encourage to plan some fun activities to do with the kids. My kids love our babysitter as she does the crazy stuff that I always say no to. Staycation is the time to let all of that happen! It is perfectly okay to keep it just family-focused time and leave the babysitter out of the staycation.
Staycation ideas for a happy holiday at home
We were lucky enough to have days when we could go and explore fabulous things in our city that allowed us to still socially distance and have fun-filled days at home. For those who don’t have the privilege of stepping out of the house with their kids, here are some exciting backyard staycation ideas if you’re stuck:
1. Backyard movie theater
Outdoor cinemas are popular in the summer in many cities and you can easily host them in your backyard. You may already have an outdoor projector and a screen, but audio-visual equipment is easy to hire and set up.
Choose a few kid-friendly movies that people may want to watch and assign different jobs to each family member. Snacks, decorations, and seats would be the starter kit, but your kids could come up with their own.
2. Bake off
We once lived on a street where we had the tradition of a “Lasagne Bake Off” each year. Households in the neighborhood all entered a lasagne competition and each family would bring out their garden furniture as the whole street shared a meal. You could also keep it “in-house” and throw your own bake off.
Conventional wisdom tells us to always stick to tried-and-tested recipes but why not mix things up and let the kids pick out fun new recipes to bake? Assign family members different things to cook and come up with judging criteria. The best part after a bake off is tucking into those delicious treats as a family.
3. Rent a pool
A relatively new, and dare we say, very novel idea of making the most of a shared economy! If you and your tribe face blistering hot days over staycation time and you don’t have a pool in the backyard, you may just want to rent someone else’s.
Swimply, the pool seekers app, certainly provides some amazing pools to explore. It is an affordable and fun way to cool bodies and have some outdoor fun without the headache of being responsible for your own pool.
Our investigation found that some pools came with cabanas, basketball courts, and pool toys. Certainly a fun day out, without the headache of cleaning up after. Just the way vacations should be.
4. Virtual museum tours
When we travel to different countries or cities, we often explore the local offerings, including museums. Many famous international museums are now offering virtual tours. It is always good to have such activities up our sleeve for a “rainy day” when the “weather is less than perfect.”
These virtual museum visits allow you and your kids to pop into Paris and visit the Louvre to see their Egyptian artifacts and the moat around the Louvre. Don’t forget to have some French delicacies on hand to make you feel at home.
The British Museum, Vatican, Van Gough Museum, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art are just a few museums currently offering free virtual tours. This list will increase as museums look creatively at ways to engage with audiences at home on a staycation.
5. Fun online class
When we visit other countries, we usually try and take a cooking class to learn about the local cuisine or take a family class lesson on local cultures and traditions. Why not do this as a family on a staycation?
It doesn’t have to be a cooking class; it could be a class of something you have always wanted to do or is just so weird and fun that you just have to do it. You could set a challenge to see which member of your family learns the whackiest new skill.
There are many courses for children from 3 years, perfect for the little ones in your family. Some fun ones include hands-on science, origami, learning a language, and writing your own song or play. These courses were designed with children in mind and are very affordable.
For the adults, the choices are endless, but we liked learning to play harmonica, baking sourdough bread, how to write your first song, using a knife like a chef, and knitting. And when all else fails, a course on self-hypnosis could come in handy, especially towards the end of the staycation!
6. Downtime special
When we go on vacation, we usually have a ‘down day’ or two, days where we just relax and kick back in the accommodation or around the pool. Planning for staycation downtime ensures you’re not trying to fit too much into the family schedule.
Use this time to play those family games you never get around to playing with your kids. Games like UNO are fantastic for setting up ongoing competitions where the person who wins the most games wins a prize. It is also a great time to get out a game of Monopoly because you may actually have time to finish it! Puzzles are also a great option to fill when waiting for your takeout to be delivered or if you’re winding down before bed.
Making the most of the current times
As we know it now, life is quite different on so many levels for many people. And the reality is that it may never be quite the same again. That doesn’t mean we have to give up on our much-needed breaks to relax and recharge.
It just means that we may have to do it differently. And sometimes, the best treasures are right on our doorsteps.