We don’t use the word ‘vacation’ in the UK really. But ‘Planning a great stay-in-your-local-area-holiday’ doesn’t have quite the same ring, does it?
Regardless, ‘holidaying at home’ is a great way to have a break. I think there’s a misconception that it’s somehow a second choice for the much better ‘real holiday’ Which I think is guff.
There’s a ton of benefits that people often don’t consider.
- You don’t have to spend a ton of money
- You don’t have to deal with a ton of hassle
- You don’t have to book a block of time off work
- Great for people who are bad travellers, have little children or elderly people in their group
- More flexible than a traditional ‘go-away’ holiday – you can ‘be back’ at a moment’s notice
- Helps you feel more connected to your local area
- Benefits local services and business, building the community
Those are just ones I can think up off the top of my head as I type away.
But what goes into planning a great staycation? I’ve been considering this as I plan my own this year. With family events we’re not going to go on our usual holiday and so we’ve been working out to make the best of summer regardless. Here are some of the ideas and tips I’ve come up with.
I love day trips. Dipping in and out of activities and experiences is a perfect way to have fun without stressing out too much over the extended planning and the day-to-day. If something goes a bit wrong, just don’t go back. You’re not stuck there the entire week, regretting the entire venture.
Anyone in charge of keeping little kids involved in one activity for a length of time will agree with me that it’s a task of its own and so day trips provide a nice, compact set of activities compressed together. And there’s a range of experiences you can bring all together, packing in as much fun and learning as possible.
You can plan them perfectly around the interests of your group and what’s available in the local area. See if there are any:
- Zoos/animal parks
- Farms that let you visit the animals, a lot of them are geared towards mini-educational visits for children and have play parks and experiences to try
- Swimming pools and water parks
- Art galleries or exhibitions
- Local beaches
- Nature reserves
- Fairs and community fun days
- Open days – Our local fire station does a couple every summer where the kids get to ‘ride’ in a fire engine, they do car washes for charity, have barbecues etc.
- Have a picnic in the park
- Go to the local sports team matches, no matter how small. This ends up being a lot more fun than you think it will!
- Community theatres or pantos
- Look up whether you live near something like an English Heritage or National Trust site
I loved taking Little Bug to the animal park and seeing them meet different animals for the first time. But what was really amazing was the ‘Island Experience’ part, where they’ve set up a trail through different sections, each one representing a different part of the world. I think I ended up enjoying it more than the child it was meant for!
The only thing giving it away is the lovely British clouds in the background.
Act like a Tourist
I’ve lived in the same town my entire life, with the exception of a few years when I was away for uni. There’s still places I’ve never been. Treating yourself like a tourist in a new place is a few way to gain a new perspective on your area.
Make a list of all the ‘local attractions’ and tick them off your list. Go to the next town over and act like it’s a million miles away. Do stuff you wouldn’t usually because when in Rome…or down the road.
You might need a passport after all…
No, not a proper one. I’m not advocating the filling out of a single form. A little cutting and sticking, maybe. Making a ‘staycation’ passport to document your adventures helps you keep on track and have a lasting record of how you spent the summer.
If you need to get away, consider a swap
I’m going to steal an ingenious idea from an old family friend here.
One sibling lived in the country. One sibling live in the city. Every year for a week or two in the summer, they’d swap houses. The country lot got to experience the bustle of the city and check out all the attractions they didn’t have in their little village. And the city dwellers got to have some time to just chill out and do absolutely nothing, surrounded by the beautiful nature they didn’t often get to experience.
No rent. No hotel fees. A bit of petrol and a train ticket maybe. They did a weeks shop as they usually would. They knew exactly who was sleeping in their house every night and trusted them not to come back to a mess. The perfect arrangement.
Speaking of alternative accommodation…
The place where we usually go on holiday is right near a university town. And every year for about ten years, we’ve scheduled our holiday at the same time as a religious community group. Families from all over the country meet up for a few weeks in the summer and stay at the empty halls on the uni grounds. The kids all come down to the beach, the parents go hiking, they have family dinners all together in the dining hall.
It saves them a bunch of money on hotels (every year there’s at least a couple hundred people) and they get to have a real community atmosphere because they’re all right there. There’s no running from house to house, moving across town to see someone who couldn’t fit in your hotel. It looks really lovely.
Even if you’re not planning a major meet-up, universities will sometimes rent out their halls for accommodation in the summers, while students aren’t there. I know my uni used to host concerts and sports events while there were no classes, and people could arrange to stay on site. The space is only going to waste, so the uni gets a bit of money back, and you get a more homely environment. They’re often a lot cheaper than a hotel room as well.
Even if they’re not official university accommodation, there are private flats that get rented out much the same way. My uni was near a big city and they had private flats for commuters that were empty a couple of months of the year and the landlords would clean them up and re-decorate for a few weeks and then rent them out. Freshly decorated cheap accommodation in a city for the summer? Good deal.
Try looking up a local uni or finding a site like University Rooms to do the work for you.
Home is where the really fun activities are
Saying all that, you don’t have to go further than your garden to make some great memories. Just planning a ton of little activities and having fun can make a summer seem extra special.
Maybe go with a theme for each day – you can pick a different part of the world for instance:
- Read a book about them, watch a film that’s set there or just look up some YouTube clips.
- Make some locally inspired food.
- Listen to their music.
- Learn a little bit of the language at home – there’s a ton of sites that have little phrase books or short courses with the basics.
- Learn about local costume and have a fashion show with your best inspired designs.
If you want to go for the ‘summer fair’ feel check Pinterest for garden games and have your own carnival at home. You can check out mine here.
- Popcorn is a super cheap but super fun snack and you can get creative with different toppings and flavours. DIY Slushies and ice-pops can be made from freezing lemonade, pop, fruit juice or smoothies.
- You can use recycled bottles and frisbees for ring toss games and it’s so easy to find ball-pool plastic balls for target games. You can use chalk to mark areas on a wall or use hoops or empty tins.
- All you need for “Bury the prize” games are some storage boxes, some sand or some shredded paper, and some cheap ‘pocket money’ toys or lollipops or whatever you want to use!
- You’ll see so many different ideas for making your own mini golf courses on my Pinterest board. Because I think they are super cute, pretty easy and cheap to make, fun to customise, and good for teaching hand-eye co-ordination and motor skills for children without them realising they are even practising. We always played mini golf on holidays when I was little so it’s a real holiday activity to me.
And there’s so many more ideas:
- If you have outdoor space, you can buy super cheap play pools every summer.
- Water balloon fight
- Have a family barbecue.
- Camp out on the lawn!
- Have a DIY Spa day.
- Draw with chalk all over the paving tiles.
- Get together with some neighbours and have a mini street party or do a meal swap where you go to a different house each night or each weekend.
- Use the library reading scheme and travel in your mind.
- Make a giant blanket fort.
- Make tie-dye t-shirts
- Paper airplane contest
- Make DIY Musical toys
Did I miss anything? Let me know your ideas in the comments!