Staycation 101: How to Vacation at Home

By the time I finish surviving Summer or Christmas break, the idea of planning and going on Thanksgiving or Spring Break seems daunting.  Staycation has been my motto.  Today a friend asked me - begged me - to share ideas on what to do over the next break.  Adding to the quick text I sent her, here are a few of my favorite staycation ideas.  Note: most of these ideas work well for families with & without kids.

The Start and Finish line:  Libraries

Ok, so Thanksgiving or spring break are not races, but my recommendation is to start and finish (by returning items before school/work start up again) at the Library.  Libraries are amazing places… you don’t even need to leave your home to check out e-books and audio books.  Talk about the ultimate in entertainment delivery. 

Everyone in the family should take out a book and read it.  Yes, of course.  But what about libraries that let you borrow museum passes, use Free WIFI, offer conference rooms to study in, seminars on social media, build your own comic strips groups, all the Pok√©mon you can catch, borrow musical instruments or board games or even use their 3D printer… What about the teen focused maker lab at the Harold Washington library that reeks of pizza, raw talent and inspiration?  Take another look at your local library.  You may just be surprised at what you find. 

To shake things up, go visit another library affiliated with your library.  Even hanging out in a new space will trigger creativity and excitement. 


I love museums.  What was the best part about elementary school besides recess?  Field Trips… And where did you go on field trips?  That’s right, museums!  Museums are more hands on than ever.  Interactive exhibits, middle of the summer dance parties with pretend “snow”, behind the scenes tours and so much more.  They even offer sleep over nights for the whole family.  Inflatable mattress, ear plugs & a sleep mask, anyone? 

Museums also offer a wonderful gifting opportunity for grandparents, aunts and uncles and other family members wanting to gift but without an idea.  Being a member to museum normally opens even more perks, allows you to spend 2 hours and go home when your toddler has a melt down and can even bring your extended family or out of town visitors closer to you.  Bet you never knew your Aunt Mary ran an archeological dig in Belize?  Well, in the Americas exhibit you just might learn that from her and much more. 

This category of entertainment also includes zoos, botanical gardens, conservatories, aquariums, historical sites etc. etc. etc.   If you have a place you want to share, please post with my twitter handle @4chances2parent so I can share it and hopefully drag my kids there.

My Chicago favorites are many… top two are the Museum of Science & Industry (as large as an amusement park and a million times more educational) and the Shedd Aquarium (that much water has got to induce naptime in one of your group).  Plus, the Shedd conservation and animal advocacy really touches the heartstrings.  On a weekend excursion driving past the Shedd, my kids and husband spontaneously started singing “Count on Me” by Bruno Mars.  Granted none of us remembered the lyrics correctly or stayed entirely on key, but tear inducing memories of the Shedd Aquarium dog rescue show that featured this song will never leave us.   All other museums in Chicago… yes, I love you too, but I have been told blog posts should have a word limit by some smart people.

Go play outside

We are so lucky to live in an age of digital amazingness… even now you are benefitting from the wise words of someone possibly halfway around the world… maybe not wise… but seasoned.  But all the experts say too much screen time is bad for us.  So close that laptop.  Read Goodnight, iPad and If you give a mouse an iPhone… for inspiration.  My inspiration for writing most of the time comes to me while walking, biking, hiking, swimming & paddling - outside.

Get outside with your family.  Chances are that is not where your desk or workplace is located.  If it is…I am so jealous.  What do you love to do with them outside?  You are probably paying for them to be in some sport, why not play it with them?  Find a new park or track or ball field you have never been to before… The range of American Ninja Warrior inspired playgrounds has expanded over the last 5 years.  Kind & dedicated people worked hard to raise money to build that playground.  Go use it! 

Plan a silly Olympics… Inspired by using whatever objects are found in your garage, backyard or other outdoor gear space.  Try relay races of cotton balls on spoons or old laundry baskets filled with assorted sports balls.   Stacking a warehouse club sized bag of cups on a driveway, front porch or condominium entryway as tall as an SUV.  Invite other staycationers that live near you.  With any luck, they will suggest going out for pizza afterward & you will avoid another night of doing dishes.  Yeah! 

Final ideas

(Don’t worry I will be adding AP Staycation & Graduate Studies in Staycation in the future!)
Shake up your routine to make the staycation feel like vacation.

Wear clothes meant only for vacations.  Flip flops in the house, that hat that only looks good on a cruise commercial, summer clothes in winter (with layers), pajamas all day. 

Eat special foods and pair with music.  Try Jerk Chicken & play Reggae.  Make homemade Vindaloo & listen to Bollywood.    Cook multiple types of pasta & play a little Dean Martin. You get the idea!  Add a table cloth, cloth napkins, battery operated candles & the finest in acrylic stemware.   Please share your favorite food & music combinations on my twitter @4chances2parent so I can add some new ones to our dinnertime. 

Play board games, card games, family member celebrity, puzzles or a Just Dance marathon.  Snuggle on the couch & watch your cousin’s YouTube channel or pull out your last vacations photos/videos.

Sleep in late… eat more pastries…share your favorite joke, origami, or magic trick…play Legos.  Do not do workbook pages (I tried that… did not go over well.) 

And as I say every time my kids leave for school or practice or a game or party… have fun!

Enjoy your Staycation from 4chances2parent! 

Heather is a mom to 4 awesome kids.  She loves reading children’s books in silly voices, visiting museums & libraries, singing along with the car radio, seeing kid-placed glitter & stickers on other parents, & tiring out her kids by spending time with them outdoors. 

Please follow & tweet me at @4chances2parent

Look for more blogs to come at the blog 4chances2parent.


  1. I love all these ideas, and despite being a travel addict, have used most of them when we're staying put in Kingston, Ontario.

    I actually lived in Chicago for 4 years, and one of my favourite places was Navy Pier, especially in the summer. We loved going there, even though we didn't go often—we lived in a suburb (Berwyn) and tended to stay in our area of town. I volunteered at the Berwyn Public Library as a teenager. I also worked at the Pav YMCA in Berwyn, and it's a great place to go on a rainy day (if you're not a member, you can pay a daily fee to get in. It's not the cheapest outing, but can be a lot of fun).

    So many great things to do in Chicago; I think it's the perfect place for a Staycation.


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