free staycation ideas

Free Staycation Ideas

Let me guess. Money is tight, but you still want to do something fun as a family during your kids’ school vacation. I’m right there with you! (Yes, even homeschoolers like us take school vacations.) How about some fun, free staycation ideas?

A little creativity will beat any budget challenges! Even if you can’t fly the entire family to Cancun, you can make the most of your time off. Your kiddos will have a blast, you’ll create great memories, and nobody will even mind that you didn’t spend a penny.

Each of these free staycation ideas will work well for families with children. And all of them are free, though a few may use supplies you probably already have around the house.

Take a look at these fun, free staycation ideas for families:


1. DEAR Camp  

DEAR stands for Drop Everything And Read. It’s probably my kiddos very favorite way to spend a day, and I have to say that I agree! I should also admit that I use the bejeebers out of this fun activity by telling all my kiddos we can’t get started until the house is clean — according to my standards.

We head to the library the day before, or the morning of our DEAR camp, and fill a laundry basket with books. Then we hit up the snack aisle at our local grocery store and let everyone choose their favorite.

Then we head home and enjoy the rest of the day reading. I occasionally read with my kiddos, but I usually work on projects. But for a staycation, I’ll indulge myself and read along with them!

free staycation ideas



2. Build something wonderful together

Kids can be amazing helpers! Not only do they have limitless energy, but they also have boundless enthusiasm! My kiddos and I have completed innumerable building projects over long weekends and holidays, and they’ve enjoyed our projects as much as I have.

There is nothing quite like the pride of having created something amazing!

If you don’t have much experience, you’ll want to start small. Think birdhouses, doghouses, or mailbox stands. But if you have a little know-how, dream up something wonderful, like a fort for the backyard or a picnic table the whole family can enjoy.

Search your local classifieds for free materials. I find them there all the time! Building is one of our favorite, free staycation ideas!


3. Take a day trip

Use google to find a fun destination within an hour or two from your home. Where I live is nothing special, but we’ve got rockhounding sites galore, dinosaur tracks, abandoned mines (be safe, though!), geocaching, state and national parks, and more exciting places all within a two hour radius.

Staying close to home means you don’t have to pay for a hotel! Be sure to take a picnic.


4. Scavenger hunt

Use your phone to take pictures of at least twenty things you have around your house or your neighborhood, then send everyone out to find those items. We like to have two teams, one headed up by me and the other headed up by the hubs, or you could just pair up.


5. DIY spa day at home

The great thing about a good DIY body scrub or facial, is that you probably already have most of what you need, so it won’t cost you anything. You can keep things incredibly simple!

We usually start by slathering our faces with whatever mud mask I have on hand. Then we all sit around our master bathroom tub to soak our feet in hot water with a bath bomb thrown in. Be sure to have a bowl of sliced cucumbers on hand for everyone to place over their eyes so you all feel legit.

And be sure to take some fun pictures to remember your staycation by!

Once our skin is nice and wrinkly, we use a sugar scrub to remove dead skin. I just melt a Tablespoon of coconut oil until it’s liquid, then I stir in 1 Tablespoon of sugar. That’s enough for all of us to thoroughly scrub our hands and feet, leaving them super smooth and moisturized.

Next up is grooming and polishing all of the fingers and tootsies. I hate wearing nail polish, but my daughters love it, so I just go with it. Then we wash off our mud masks and we’re all done.

But you can add whatever you’d like to truly make your spa day your own!


6. Video game tournament

I’m not a huge fan of video games, but even I will play when the kiddos break out Wii Rock Band. Surely you can find something for everyone. Be sure to plan a few, fun snacks and prizes to round out your tournament!


7. Have an Iron Chef competition

Go through your kitchen cabinets and round up all the things that you never seem to use. Those are your ‘featured ingredients’. Divide your family up into two teams and prepare a meal featuring these ingredients and whatever else you have on hand. Besides getting a ‘free’ meal, it’s a lot of fun for everyone involved.


8. Visit a state or national park

I don’t know about you, but there are multiple state and national parks within a two hour drive from my house. We can hike, swim, rock climb, kayak, or raft to our heart’s content, and pay nothing for it since we have a 4th grader pass. If we take a picnic, this super fun day is completely free! This is another of our favorite, free staycation ideas.


9. Backyard campout

Pitch your tent in your backyard. Make sure your sprinklers are turned off. Ask me how I know, lol! Cook your dinner (and smores!) over a fire and tell scary stories before going to sleep. Be sure to ban phones and electronic devices, because the whole experience is about spending time together as a family!


10. Have fondue night as a family 

Fondue night is a fun treat at our house. I keep it simple by making one crockpot full of swiss fondue and one crockpot full of chocolate fondue, and letting the kids help me chop up vegetables, bread, fruit and cake for dipping.

Preparing it together as a family makes it much more enjoyable than going out to eat and SO much cheaper!

free staycation ideas



11. Family read aloud

DEAR Camp is more of a solitary activity that everyone is doing at the same time. No complaints from this mama, who often feels like a mama lion overrun with playful cubs!

But if you desire a more family-oriented reading activity, reading aloud is perfect! Pop a giant bowl of popcorn, grab a fuzzy blanket to snuggle under, and check out this list to find a perfect read aloud:

>>>63 Family Favorites to Read Aloud<<<


12. Cultivate a new skill

People used to learn handicrafts, like quilting, embroidery, and crochet, when they sat around the fire during long winter evenings. These arts have nearly disappeared with the advent of TV and as lives have grown busier.

All you need to get going is some spare fabric (old clothing or sheets work great), scissors, a needle and thread, and a youtube video to learn to quilt. If you have two knitting needles and some yarn, you can learn to knit or crochet.


13. Create a blanket fort and sleep inside

Your kiddos probably make these all the time by themselves. But when was the last time you crawled inside and experienced the fort alongside them? I bet your children would love your help in creating the Taj Mahal of blanket tents, plus a picnic dinner. And sleeping alongside them in the tent would be the icing on the cake!


14.  Tour a local factory

I remember watching Mr. Rogers as a kid and being enthralled with the little videos he’d show about how things were made. In-person factory tours are even more interesting and exciting!

So far we’ve toured a Don Julio tortilla factory, the Pepperidge Farm factory, the Gossner cheese factory, two candy factories, a water plant, a sewer plant, various dams and hydroelectric power plants, a computer microchip making plant, and more. I’ll bet you can find a local factory or two to tour!


15. Find a free, local attraction to visit

Our local zoo is free the last Wednesday of every month. The local museums have free days, too, if you check their websites. I’ve found that the free days are uncomfortably busy in the afternoons, but far less busy in the mornings. So we just go in the mornings!

Also, you might be able to find a local blogger who compiles lists of all the free things to do in the area by googling your locale. That could be a fantastic sours of further free staycation ideas!


16. Organize a potluck neighborhood party

If you’re kiddos are out of school on a break, chances are good the neighbors are, too. And maybe they’re also looking for something fun to do! Ask around in the neighborhood to borrow seating and tables, have everyone bring a potluck dish, and you’re good to without spending a fortune!

This fun, free staycation idea has the added benefit of nurturing neighborhood relationships!


17. Hold your own sports tournament

Since my kiddos have never gone to school, they haven’t learned the old standby games I always played at recess: 4-square, jump rope, kickball and dodgeball. What a shame! So I teach them at home. And it seems like whenever we work on those skills, the kids love it so much they could just go on and on and on forever.

I just know that if I were to set up a whole day of fun, outdoor games, complete with winners and prizes, that my kiddos would be over the moon about it!


18. Organize a self-guided walking tour

Search google for all the interesting, fun, cultural or historic sites to see in your city. Research them and map out a walking tour. Pack a picnic and a couple of water bottles, and pretend you’re a tourist. Chance are good that you’ll find something amazing you’ve never seen before!


19. Go exploring on your bikes

If you’ve got a bicycle and a helmet in your garage, you already have everything you need for a fun day around town. We used to go on family bike rides every week. We’d just tuck the baby in a bike seat, the toddlers in a bike trailer, and off we’d go. Bonus — if you do this often you’ll build up muscles you never knew you had!


20.  Help out an elderly or disabled neighbor

Spend a day serving loved ones. The elderly, especially, need to feel thought of and remembered. Don’t worry if you can’t think of anything monumental to do for them. If you just stop by and visit, you’ll likely be able to spot a need you didn’t originally know about, but can help with.

Few things can make you feel more fulfilled than helping someone you care about feel loved! This could end up your very favorite of all of our free staycation ideas!





It will be critical to act like your staycation is a ‘real’ vacation. What do you do on vacation? You spend every waking moment together, you take pictures, you go to bed late and sleep in, and you revel in all the little things.

I hope you found a couple of FREE Staycation ideas you can use! I know your kiddos will really appreciate your efforts and your creativity. I hope you have the best staycation ever!



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  1. these are great ideas. you dont have to go away to have a golod time, and anything FREE for the kids is a win!

    1. Amy Saunders says:

      Free Staycations can be a lot of fun!

  2. These staycation ideas are fabulous! I would have been thrilled with five ideas, yet there were so many creative and fun ways to spend FREE time with the kids. I see building some backyard forts and visiting some state parks in our very near future!

    1. Amy Saunders says:

      I love that it never matters too much where we go or what we do, but my kiddos are always just thrilled to have my time and my undivided attention. So free staycation ideas are just as enjoyable and memorable as expensive, international trips. We do many free staycations so that we can save up for the occasional expensive vacation.

  3. I am so glad I came across this post! These are brilliant ideas! It might sound lame, but I’m a softie and pretty emotional person and I got shivers from thinking of enjoying time with my kids doing some of these. I love that you added acts of service at the bottom. I absolutely want to do that. The DEAR camp is an amazing idea. We have a public library for the community right in our school so I think this is a fantastic plan that we will be doing this March Break!

    1. Amy Saunders says:

      That’s not lame at all! I love it! I hope you enjoy a few of these free staycation ideas over spring break! Let us know what you end up doing!

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