COVID-19 has squashed travel plans and large group gatherings this spring, but it doesn't mean you can't mentally escape for some fun with your family. Consider one of these safe staycation alternatives for kids of all ages.

By Alesandra Dubin
March 16, 2020
Gary John Norman/Getty Images

Mid-March is typically an exciting time for families: Spring is on the horizon, and vacation plans may be counted by just a few remaining “sleeps.” But this is not a typical year, as the coronavirus pandemic threatens families’ health and financial welfare, and many state and local ordinances currently limit both travel and gathering in sizable groups.

That means many families have been forced to cancel their previously scheduled vacation plans—sometimes involving international flights, cruises, or theme parks. It’s an essential matter of public health and safety, but it’s also a reasonable source of disappointment for families who saved, planned, and counted the days with their children.

If you’re among those who canceled spring vacation plans—or your school district has canceled classes altogether—consider these alternative ideas for staycations that can still cheer up your children and keep the family entertained safely under such unusual circumstances.

Take a road trip.

While far-flung travel might be out of the question right now, road trips might be a fun alternative that gets the family out of the house to see new things—all amid a vibe of togetherness. Load up the car with sing-a-long music (and plenty of hand wipes) and hit the road for a destination accessible from your region. CDC guidelines are limiting, so consider what’s appropriate and safe for your region. But you don’t need to gather among crowds on your getaway: Stop at curious roadside attractions, even for photo ops from afar. (No admission tickets or interaction with others required.) Admire scenic coastline or mountains and enjoy the peace of the open road.

Make it a spa-cation.

Keep out of the crowds and on a streamlined budget with a staycation structured like a spa experience for a bit of family pampering and self-care. Set up an air of luxury at home with robes for everyone. Create stations for nails, skin care, and hair services—a la mom, dad, or a sibling with skills. Pick up some goodies like Insta-ready sheet masks, so even if you’re not getting the family photos you expected this spring break, you’ll still have indelible memories of the silliness you shared when the going got tough.

Plan family games.

If you were planning on hitting a major theme park like Disneyland or Universal Studios, you had to cancel those plans when the parks closed amid coronavirus concerns. So the kids might not get all the rides, games, and attractions they were hoping for, but you can still recreate some version of the experience. Of course you can gather all your board games and puzzles for cozy family time, but you can also get creative with more structured and active ideas such as an obstacle course, water balloons, or DIY human Twister in the yard. You might even organize the troops under your own roof for an extended Olympics-style set of competitions. You might not get Splash Mountain, but you get some fun and levity in an environment of healthy competition.

Hit the beach.

If you live near a region with a beachy coastline like Florida or California, now’s a great time to get outside. You’ll feel more comfortable being in an outdoor environment, where crowds are dispersed widely. Bring a picnic, a beach blanket, and games. Not only will kids be having fun, but they’ll have a chance to be physically active—while spiking a volleyball or chasing a frisbee—if they’ve been otherwise cooped up in the house amid canceled vacations and school closures.

Plan an artists' retreat.

Not only does art inspire creativity, but is also a well-documented form of therapy. So adapt your vacation plans with an art staycation in and around your home. Assemble age-appropriate art materials and let your group go wild. Or scour Pinterest for some more organized projects for older kids with longer attention spans. Protect your indoor environment with plastic drop cloths if weather doesn’t permit outside art making.

Go camping.

A local campground is a smart alternative to a trip involving a cruise ship, flights, or an overcrowded environment. Not only does being in nature soothe rattled nerves, but it’s a chance to escape crowds in an open-air environment. Bring musical instruments, s’mores for roasting, and a sense of adventure. This may not be the far-flung trip you planned this spring break, but it will be one you’ll never forget.

Set up science camp.

If your kids find not only their spring break canceled, but also their formal instruction in school, try a staycation that includes an element of learning. Facilitate STEM instruction in a playful way by creating an at-home science camp filled with exciting chemistry projects that make learning fun. Scour Pinterest for projects like glittery slime or rainbow-hued bath bombs for a school break that keeps their brains engaged until normalcy returns. Here's some more inspiration:

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