STAYCATION is the New Vacation


The average cost of a summer vacation in 2023 was $5606.05 according to data from Ouch! With that knowledge and the rising cost of – well, everything, many families are staying home this year.

Staying home for vacation does not mean mindless scrolling through social media or clicking through TV channels. Instead, make it a time for building fun memories with your family. There are many low-cost ideas for families who prefer to spend their vacation on a budget. Check out some of our ideas:

Go on a factory tour. Many local factories have tours for free or a minimal fee. Our family looks for tours in each town we visit and many within miles of our home. We have enjoyed several automotive manufacturers, candy factories, the Louisville Slugger Museum, Harley Davidson and a local quarry tour. Check out for tours in your neighborhood.

Visit a state park. State parks are great places to visit for the day to hike, picnic, fish, boat, swim, camp or learn some local history. Most state parks are free or charge a small parking fee for the day. It is a great way to get outside and recharge in nature. You can also capture wonderful photos of wildlife in action or Mother Nature’s beauty.

Check out the local live theatre. Not only will you find amazing talent in local theatre, but you can also see your favorite plays for a fraction of the price of Broadway. Most venues are small, with 200 or fewer seats, making every seat a good one. Check out college campuses, churches or simply Google “live theatre near me”.

Try a local food tour. While some cities offer an organized food and history tour with pre-selected restaurants and small plates to try, there is no reason you cannot create your own. The idea is to have a tasting at several restaurants, allowing you to try an appetizer, salad, soup or dessert without having a whole meal. For families, this might be a fun way to taste test a family favorite – pizza, chicken strips or blueberry muffins – and see which one is the best.

More fun with food. Our family vacations always seem to center around food, with everyone always asking about the next meal. If you are trying to keep things within a budget, why not make it a contest? Challenge the kids to make a meal for the family for $10 or create something with your pantry staples. Another option is to try to make something from scratch like pasta or sushi.

Go on a Daycation. Hotels and resorts offer options to use their pools and spas for a limited time during the day, usually 4 to 6 hours, without requiring an overnight stay. Check out the app ResortPass or the website for options near you.

Plan a house swap. If you know another family who is on a budget, this might be a fun activity. Everyone always thinks the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, so why not try it? Swap houses or even swap the kids for the day to plan a day with the other family – meals, activities, etc. Set a budget so everyone is on the same playing field.

Go someplace special for a bargain. Want to try out a new entertainment venue or get tickets to a major league sporting event? That can be a costly endeavor for a family on a budget. However, new venues often put discounts on Groupon to get more people in the door. has last-minute tickets for a fraction of the price for venues trying to fill all the seats.

Pam Molnar is the mother of three staycation survivors. She enjoys writing about creating fun with the people you love.


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