7 Family-Friendly Staycation Ideas for School Breaks

Staycations are a great way to enjoy school holidays without worrying about budgeting or logistics. From setting up a science camp to hitting the beach, here are seven ideas your family will love.

Young boy sitting alone in tent
Photo: Gary John Norman/Getty Images

Every parent dreams of taking their kids on a fantasy vacation and making memories that last forever. But these days, planning a traditional "dream getaway" can be stressful, thanks to crisscrossing flights, high gas bills, and huge entry fees (a week at Disney now starts at $5,300 for a family of four).

Here's the good news: You don't need to shell out thousands of dollars to have a great time during your child's school holidays. Check out these kid-friendly staycation ideas will save you time, money, and sanity—and keep everyone entertained along the way.

1. Quirky Themed Road Trip

You'll be glad to skip the long lines at airport ticket counters when you hit the open road. Fire up some sing-a-long music, pack a bunch of yummy snacks, and throw cameras and swimsuits in a bag as your family peels out of the house. Choose easily accessible destinations nearby, but consider a theme (historic libraries, giant statues, bizarre restaurants), or simply visit parks, lakes, and oddball roadside attractions, all of which offer room to roam. No admission tickets or annoying reservations required! Admire your state's mountains or scenic coastline and enjoy the peace of the vistas before you.

2. Silly Spa-cation

Plan a staycation spa experience for a bit of family pampering and self-care. Make it feel luxurious with robes for everyone. Create stations for nails, skin care, and hair services—all provided by mom, dad, or a sibling with skills. (For a twist, the kids can make face masks with food, or concoct lipstick from beets and coconut oil, then slather it on you.) Pick up Insta-ready temporary hair chalk or nail stickers, and snap some photos for indelible memories of the silliness you shared together.

3. At-Home Olympics

Get goofy by installing miniature play stations at home. Gather all your board games and puzzles for a bonding session in the living room, then head out into the backyard for more expansive ideas like an obstacle course, water balloons, Slip 'N Slide marathon, or DIY human Twister. You could even rally the troops into doing an Olympics-style competition and have them face off for small prizes or the right to pick the next family movie. At the end, you can award ridiculous trophies or chocolate coin medals.

4. All-Day Beach Bash

If you live near a region with a beachy coastline like Florida or California, there's never a bad time to get your feet wet. Bring a picnic, blanket, swim goggles, and games to the beach, and set up a tent under which everyone can camp throughout the day. Kids will love running around in the salty air and gathering shells, and they'll have a chance to get physically active—spiking a volleyball, chasing a frisbee, or diving onto a raft. Don't forget to pack cold drinks and sunblock so nobody gets burned!

5. Tiny Artists' Retreat

Art projects do more than get kids' creative juices flowing—they also send them into an energizing state of flow, in which stress disappears. Assemble absorbing art supplies (think: finger paint, sidewalk chalk, paint-by-numbers) or collect leaves and sticks outside for use in nature collages. Little ones might like drawing the family on a long sheet of paper, or having their bodies traced for a coloring project. Older kids will love choosing Pinterest projects you might never have picked. Remember to protect your indoor environment with drop cloths if the weather doesn't permit outside art-making.

6. Enchanted Campout

There's nothing like sleeping next to a stream, in the woods, or under the stars to make kids forget all about vacations requiring flights and cruise ships. Being in nature works magic on rattled nerves, and it has even sparked a meditative new trend: Forest bathing. Bring musical instruments, ingredients for s'mores, and paper bags to collect 'treasures' like stones and pinecones. If you're going somewhere that's really off the beaten path, check out books from the library on local flowers, plants, and birds, so the kids can identify things they see. At night, break out old-school card games and spooky stories.

Young boy sitting alone in tent
Gary John Norman/Getty Images

7. Inventors' Workshop

For curious children, try a staycation that includes an element of learning. Facilitate STEM instruction by doing science-based kitchen experiments to make invisible ink or rock candy. Projects like glittery slime or rainbow-hued bath bombs will fascinate kids of all ages, and items like Oobleck (a gooey quicksand) and balloon rockets are super easy to create. Here's some more inspiration:

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