COVID-19 has squashed travel plans and large group gatherings, 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.

Last March, the coronavirus pandemic wreaked havoc on spring break plans. Families were forced to cancel their previously scheduled itineraries—sometimes involving international flights, cruises, or theme parks—because of stay-at-home orders and threats to public safety. And now, one year later, the pandemic is still still raging across the country, putting a pause on spring break plans yet again.

Are you desperate to shake up your quarantine routine during your kids' time off from school? Consider these alternative ideas for staycations that can still cheer them up and keep your family safely entertained.

Take a road trip.

While far-flung travel is out of the question right now, road trips could be a fun alternative that gets the family out of the house. Load up the car with sing-a-long music (and plenty of hand sanitizer) and hit the road for a destination accessible from your region. You don't need to gather among crowds on your getaway: Stop at curious roadside attractions, even for photo opportunities 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 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.

Are you dreaming about hitting a major theme park like Disney World or Universal Studios? You can still recreate some version of the experience with this clever idea. Of course you can gather all your board games and puzzles for cozy family time, but you can also get creative with more structured ideas like an obstacle course, water balloons, or DIY human Twister in the yard. You could 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 have fun, but they'll have a chance to get physically active—while spiking a volleyball or chasing a frisbee—if they've been otherwise cooped up in the house.

Plan an artists' retreat.

Not only does art inspire creativity, but it's also a well-documented form of therapy. To adapt your vacation plans with an art staycation, 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. Being in nature soothes rattled nerves, and it provides 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 usually plan for spring break, but it will be one you'll never forget!

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

Set up science camp.

For curious kids, try a staycation that includes an element of learning. Facilitate STEM instruction in a playful way by creating an at-home science camp. Scour Pinterest for projects like glittery slime or rainbow-hued bath bombs that keeps their brains engaged. Here's some more inspiration: