Family vacations are a great opportunity to relax and bond. However, sometimes going somewhere new isn’t an option. Here is a list of 15 completely free staycation ideas for families to do right at home.
The only problem with a staycation, especially those with more kids, is that it can be difficult, if not impossible, to find something that everyone likes and is engaging enough. These are the exact problems we had growing up.
So, hopefully, this list will provide at least one idea that everyone in your family can agree upon for a free and fun staycation!
1. The Amazing Race: Family Addition
Based on the American reality TV Show The Amazing Race, this family adaptation is perfect for a staycation. You split the family up into teams and have each team race around the neighborhood doing small activities at different places here and there before returning home. The first one home wins. This game works best with a clear route; however, this route can be given to the teams in the form of riddles or direct places.
The activities through the neighborhood could be as simple as taking a selfie with a tree or as complex as completing a piece of art only using maple leaves and glue in ten minutes. When my family did this in the past, we found that having about three stations with varying levels of difficulty around the neighborhood is just the right amount of time.
The great part about this staycation idea is that this game is tailorable to your surroundings. It’s all about what is in your neighborhood and is only limited by your imagination. It gets everyone out of the house, and you work together in teams, which will help with sibling and parent-child bonding.
However, someone does have to set up the course and activities, so if you don’t have a lot of time as parents, then this might not be the best idea for your family.
Also, while it can be tailored to a younger audience, my experience from playing this with my own family is that it’s more enjoyable when everyone is a little older.
2. At-Home Olympics
From archery to how fast someone can run up the stairs, this activity is only limited by your imagination. Depending on your family size and age, your At-Home Olympics can be real sports or silly little at-home games tailored to your home and what you have access to.
Weightlifting milk cartons of sand (or even milk); rolling ping-pong balls across floors into cups; seeing how many candles you can blow out in a line; how fast you can run around the house; wall-sits, push-ups, sit-ups, and pull-ups competitions; how long you can hold your breath; how fast you can type; how long you can stand on one leg; how many shirts you can wear at once; the possibilities are endless.
Prizes for winning can be anything from collecting gold stars to getting a point to winning a piece of chocolate. There doesn’t even need to be prizes for winners; all of that depends on how competitive your family is.
You can find “Olympic” sports for anyone. Are your kids more into flexing their minds? Spelling contests, math questions, or even random trivia can be Olympic sports. Are your kids super musical? Scales, fast licks of music, sight-reading, and rhythm counting can be Olympic sports. The possibilities are endless and can be tailored to fit your needs.
It can work for any and all ages and everyone can participate. The best part is that there isn’t just one winner. Everyone can win a “sport” or even multiple.
3. Writing Wars and Sentence Games
This is one my family has been doing for years. Writing wars get those creative juices flowing by giving everyone the same creative writing prompt and having a designated amount of time—I would suggest 10-30 minutes—to write their hearts away. Afterward, you get to share your stories with everyone.
Sentence games are very similar but require less creativity. Everyone selects a book. Once again you set a designated amount of time—I would suggest 5-15 minutes. During that time, you each read a sentence of your book out loud, going around in a circle, creating a ridiculously funny story.
4. Obstacle Courses
A family classic. These obstacle courses can be as intense as you’d like. From a few pillows on the ground to hurtling couches and rolling under tables, obstacle courses can be tailored to you. They can be timed, done in teams, or just a fun way to get rid of excess energy. It all depends on you, your space, and how much furniture you are willing to sacrifice and move around in the name of fun.
Everyone in the family can participate, and you can make different courses for different age groups. Just make sure that no one gets too rowdy and hurt.
5. I Spy Neighborhood Walks
This is a great activity for little ones. The idea is that you are looking for specific things as you walk around the neighborhood. It can be as simple as pink flowers to 3 garden gnomes. It can even get a bit more complex for an older audience by adding things like identifying specific flowers and plants or finding the Fibonacci spiral. The fun in this activity is all up to you, the time you’re willing to spend walking the neighborhood, and the amount of area you want or don’t want to cover.
It may even be a good idea to have little cards with all of the things you are looking for so you can check them off once you have found them. It may also be helpful to have someone walk the neighborhood beforehand so they can create an I Spy card. You don’t want to accidentally put something on the card that can’t be found in the neighborhood.
This game can be played with music for a bit of singing and dancing fun or completely silent or anything in between. It’s totally up to you.
6. Nerf Wars
This activity is a classic. Having a Nerf war or battle can be as intense as you want it. You can split into teams and each of you take one end of the house; you can have a free for all; you can build forts first and try and take down the “enemy’s” fort; you can turn off all the lights for an extreme game; you can even do target practice with pictures on the wall or empty cans on the side of a table; the possibilities are endless.
7. Fort Building
Once again, another classic. Fort building can take many forms. Anything from using the couch cushions to building a fort out in nature goes. It’s all up to you.
You can make it into a contest via teams or solo; you can build one to have a movie or storytelling night in afterward; it can be used for a sleepover for all of the family; it can be used for any kind of made-up game; your fort can become anything you want.
8. Bob Ross Night with Crayons
This is one of my family’s personal favorites. The idea behind it is that no one’s art will be amazing regardless of their art background. That way, no one feels self-conscious or dumb for not being able to do what the people around them are doing. Following a Bob Ross painting with crayons as your only art tool is hard, but it can be very funny and fun.
You don’t need to use crayons either. You can use whatever you want. And if you want to make it even harder and as a result a bit funnier, have everyone pick up to 7 crayons before picking and starting a Bob Ross tutorial. They can only use those 7 colors for the whole tutorial.
This activity works no matter what art supplies you have. Just pencils? It’s always good to learn how to make different shades based on how hard you push down. The same goes for pens. This activity always gets everyone laughing, and it allows everyone to let their artsy side loose, no matter how good or bad you think you are.
“Makeover” is used lightly in this instance. It can be a legit makeover: makeup, fancy clothes, fancy jewelry, the whole shebang. But it can also mean dressing up and trying any look you’d like. Always wanted to try black lipstick? This is the perfect time to do it because you aren’t going anywhere afterward. Have you always wanted to turn your little sibling into a clown? I’d count that as a makeover. Miss dressing up in the 80s style? That’s a makeover to me.
There are two rules. One, your makeover must be a different look than what you do every day. Take that as crazy or as simple as you’d like. Two, someone else must do your makeover for you. You can not do your own makeup, pick your own outfit, or do your own hair.
Afterward, you can have a fashion show or a photoshoot to show off your new looks.
This activity is great because everyone in the family can participate, even if you have young children. Even two-year-olds love to put makeup on! This can be a great bonding experience between siblings and parents and their children.
This activity can be messy, especially with younger kids, so make sure everyone is wearing an outfit that you don’t mind getting makeup on.
10. Plays and Puppet Shows
This is one of my siblings’ favorites. This can be anything you make of it. Improv? Why not. A retelling of a fairytale? Love it. Your own version of your favorite movie? Lovely. You can set a time limit, make it a competition, make it solo or teams, or just give the kids free reign. Whatever you decide, prepare to laugh and be creative.
You can make a stage or hang up some blankets to create curtains. You can even just tip over a table to create the perfect space for sock puppet presentations. Go nuts!
11. Making Music
Music is a great means to bring people together. Especially if everyone makes their own instrument and plays them all together to create something new and jazzy. Half of the fun of this activity is creating your own instruments. This can be as simple as rice in a container or as complex as rubberbands across an open container that each make a different pitch.
After making your instruments, play them together and make some music. You can even videotape the performance to make your own music video!
12. Lip-sync Battles
This is my personal favorite. This can be as complex or as simple as you want it to be. You could split the family into teams and have each person do a whole or part of a song; you could have it be a free for all; you could do multiple rounds or just one; you could do just dancing or singing or both; the possibilities are endless. There doesn’t even need to be a winner. It’s all up to you.
13. A Day Outside
The goal of this activity is to spend a day entirely outside, minus bathroom breaks, of course. You could go for walks, play outside, cook with a campfire, and finish it all up by sleeping under the stars. How you spend your day outside is up to you. Any, if not all, of the above activities, could be tailored to be done outside.
The drawbacks to a day completely outside include bugs, heat or cold, sunburns, dehydration, and fatigue. If you want to do this activity, be prepared and smart. If you can’t make it all day, do your best to stay outside for as long as you can.
14. Making Fairy Furniture and Houses
This is my youngest sibling’s favorite activity. The goal is to make miniature furniture out of nature. Fallen tree bark makes perfect chairs and tables, twigs can be used as legs for anything, leaves are great blankets and sometimes clothes, and acorn tops are good bowls. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination.
You can make all of the fairy furniture outside using only natural materials, or you could grab some twigs, leaves, etc., and bring them inside to build. You can also use tape or hot glue to make more complex items.
Broken flower pots make great fairy houses. If you make them of good enough quality, they can even become yard decorations. Free ideas can be found online. All it takes is a little creativity.
Like the cooking battles you see on tv, your own can be anything you want. You can split the family into teams, there can be rounds, it can be done solo, and you can cook anything from meals to snacks to desserts. You can add any extra rule or bonus, there can be prizes, and you can make your contestants express what they have prepared.
This activity is best done with cold food so that no one has to use the stove or oven, especially if you have young children.
16. Minute to Win It
I have probably done a Minute To Win It activity with my family, friends, or youth group at least 10 times. The reason it is so popular is that it is so fun.
Divide into two or more teams and plan out a number of games. Usually, more than 5 games are best. There are endless lists of possible games to play and lots of online resources to help plan this super fun activity.
Whether it’s the old Oreo on the forehead or shaking ping-pong balls from an empty tissue box, Minute To Win It is classic and a winner every time.
17. Bob Ross Outside
Known for his calm nature and his nature-focused art, Bob Ross is a legend among modern painters, and he has been gaining popularity because of the revival of his TV show The Joy of Painting. Just painting along with one of his videos that can be found on Netflix or Youtube is extremely fun and worth trying.
But for this activity, you need to take it one step further.
I guess it’s not really Bob Ross Outside if you aren’t using one of his videos, but maybe trying watching one beforehand to get into the spirit of painting!
Drive or walk to somewhere nature-y and have everyone try to paint it! You can either be right on the ground or on a picnic table. It is not easy to paint what’s in front of you, and even harder when you don’t know what colors to use, but that’s half the fun!
You don’t have to be artistic to do this. It’s being outside and giving it a try that makes it a wonderful family activity.
18. Drive-In Movie
My family does this once a year and the whole event is perfect.
We follow a rigid routine from which we do not tire. We pack all of our blankets and candy in the car and head to the store to buy a case of Baumeister Root Beer. We get to the drive-in movie early and play with a volleyball or football and watch as our playing field shrinks from the other cars. We always fight about who gets to sit outside the car in the lawn chairs and who sits inside safe from bugs. It is almost always a double movie and I have never once stayed awake for all of both movies.
This annual event holds a dear spot in our hearts and is perfect for any family (as long as the movies are appropriate).
Alternatively, if you don’t want to spend the money to go to the actual drive-in theater, you can make your own at home! All you need is a tv and some large cardboard boxes to make homemade cars.
You can get free boxes from most local furniture stores if you just call and ask them! Couch boxes or fridge boxes are nice and large, perfect for making into a car. After you get the boxes, you just need some tape, scissors, and markers (all of which you probably already have) for construction and decorating.
Spend as long or as short as you would like building cars. You can split into teams or have everyone make their own. You can even make it a competition if you want an added element. Once you all have a car, just pop in a movie, grab some popcorn, get some pillows to sit on in your car, and voila! Your very own drive-in theater right at home!
19. Build a Blanket Fort
This is another event that I did with my siblings pretty often, and my favorite part is how different it ended up being every time.
We almost always did it in my older brothers’ room, but never once did the fort look the same, nor did we use it for the same reason. Sometimes it was a fort used for every make-belief story we could think of. Sometimes we watched movies there on a small laptop. Sometimes it was a battleground for Nerf Gun soldiers. Other times it was a battleground for pushing and punching… just whatever the occasion called for.
The great part about a blanket fort is it is two-fold in fun. The first part comes in actually building the fort. Sometimes we would spend 20 minutes on it and immediately get onto the games. Other times we would spend hours building it, adding decorations and extra entrances as we went.
The second part of the fun is what you’re going to use it for. It can be a magical setting for almost anything.
For practical reasons, the smaller the kids and number of kids, the easier it will be to make the fort.
20. Go Ice Blocking
This is essentially reverse sledding, where instead of riding down a hill of snow on a sled in the winter, you ride down a grassy hill on a block of ice in the summer.
I haven’t been in a while, but I must’ve gone down the hill a hundred times. It can be tricky to find a block of ice big enough, but if you can get your hands on some, do this with your family as soon as you can.
The cold ice during a hot day is perfect, and this event can be an all-day excursion. Just make sure to put a nice towel in between the ice and yourself before you “sled.”
21. Slip-n-Slide Kickball
This could require some extra-familiar people, but this is an extremely fun thing to try!
It’s kickball, but you replace the running lanes with slip-n-slides and the bases with inflatable kiddie pools filled with water. The prep and take-down is not the most thrilling aspect of this activity, but everyone will love sliding head or feet first into a pool of water while someone is trying to peg them with a kickball.
You can even add foam/bubbles to make it more exciting and messy!
22. Sidewalk Chalk
The key to this staycation idea is making it last more than 20 minutes.
Sidewalk chalk is cheap and, hopefully, you don’t have to go out of your way to find a driveway or a sidewalk. The beauty, besides the chalk art, is that everyone can do this, and in being able to draw whatever you want, there should be something for everyone.
In order to really make an event out of this, try either all collaborating on one giant piece of art or telling everyone to draw the same thing and vote on which is the favorite. Usually the bigger the drawing, the more fun it’ll be.
Simply and easy, don’t discount a little fun on the driveway!
23. Backyard Camping
This was one of my Dad’s favorites and justifiably. Camping in your backyard has a few prerequisites, like access to a tent and a day off the next day, but it shouldn’t be too hard to compile everything you need.
We would start with putting up the tent (or tents) and then staking a claim on our corner of the tent. We would then build a fire and cook hotdogs for dinner while we told stories or played games.
Not sure why, but there’s something about neglecting a comfortable home to sleep amongst mosquitos and nature that is super fun, especially for kids. This is another fun activity that is versatile and easy to cater to the preferences of the family.
24. Clothes Swap
My wife has 5 sisters, and this is a favorite of her family.
At least once a year, all the sisters and their mom would come out with piles of clothes they didn’t want and would model the clothes for everyone watching and let the competition begin.
Witnessing this hilarious procession is one of the most fun parts. Yes, getting rid of and receiving clothes is the main result, but everyone acting so silly and trying to make clever trades is much more entertaining.
The beauty of this spectacle is that it satisfies that itch kids have to constantly be getting new things without actually having to spend a dime. Everyone comes away with fewer old clothes and more new clothes.
25. Root Beer Tasting Contest
I’ve only done this once with my family and once with my friends, but I am itching to do it again.
On one rainy day, we all went together to 4 different stores and brought home over $50 worth of root beer. We had 14 different types and together we tried all of them in an extremely fun afternoon. The sister who doesn’t like root beer graciously (she probably liked her job more than we liked ours) agreed to bring out the root beer in a random order in red solo cups for all of us to try. We had a hilariously pseudo-scientific discussion of what we liked about each one and gave each a score.
This is definitely one of the surest successes on this list, and it is well worth the money spent on food. You could rate foods like pizza, milkshakes, fries, burgers, tacos, or chicken nuggets. While this idea isn’t completely free, it is still a cheap and fun option!
26. The Olympics with Yard Games
You could have an Olympics with any genre of games, but yard games were always my favorite type.
Not sure why, but one of the most fun parts is picking a country to compete for. We have two great-grandparents born in Denmark so as kids everyone always wanted to be a representative for Denmark.
The extent to which you can execute this fun home activity is limitless. You can start by having to make flags for their respective countries out of paper and markers, or you could go as far as making t-shirts for the countries. You can even craft an Olympic torch out of a stick and some paper, just be careful with it!
Typically we would play cornhole, ladder golf, bocci, croquet, and horseshoes. Depending on the competitiveness or everyone participating, you can give out prizes that can be as simple as paper medals to something more material like candy bars.
Make it as complicated as you want.
27. Make a Family Cook Book
One of my favorite staycation ideas is to make a family cookbook. This staycation is perfect for kids of any age. And the best part about it is that it’s completely free! All you need to do to make this staycation happen is to make a pile of all of your family’s favorite recipes, type them all out on the computer, print them out, and stick them in a binder. Easy as that!
Does it seem boring? Well, I haven’t told you the fun part yet. Not only should you make a family cookbook, but you should make it custom to your family. You can do this by having different sections in the cookbook for each member of your family. This would make it so there would be no fighting over what recipes should be added to the cookbook. Another way to make the cookbook perfect for your family is to decorate it together with pictures, drawings, stickers, etc. And afterward, you can all choose one recipe to make together!
28. Treasure Hunt around Your Neighborhood
If you want to get your family out of the house and away from electronics, creating a treasure hunt around your neighborhood creates the perfect staycation adventure. You could even do this in the house if it’s raining. To make a treasure hunt, all you need to do is write clues that lead to each other and have some sort of prize at each point or a big final prize at the end.
A fun way to customize this to your family is to let each member of your family take turns making scavenger hunts. You could even have teams and see who could finish each other’s treasure hunt first.
This staycation will be perfect for your whole family and will make the weekend go so much faster!
29. Make Cookies and Bring Them to Neighbors
If you want to teach your family about service and giving back to the community, consider baking cookies or other baked goods and bringing them to your neighbors. Baking together will get your kids away from the video games and can teach them about service.
After you are done baking, take the sweets to your neighbors. You could take them to houses of people you don’t know, which will help your family get to know the neighborhood and make new friends. To add an extra level of fun for your kids, try ding dong ditching and leaving the food on the doorstep. This makes it so the neighbors don’t feel pressure to serve you back and adds even more fun to the staycation!
30. Bake-Off in Teams
Staycations can get boring really quickly, but if you and your family do a bake-off, there will be no more boring nights!
Split your family into two different teams. Pick one type of dessert for both teams to make. For example, cupcakes, cake, or cookies would work great! Next, let each team take turns taking over the kitchen to make the dessert. Bake the goodies and have someone be the judge. You could have grandparents, the parents, or a neighbor be the judge if you would like.
To make this staycation even better, you could make prizes, time limits, or rules to make it more exciting.
31. Family Yard Sale and Donate Proceeds to Charity
Do you have a lot of things around your house that you and your family don’t need? Consider having a family yard sale as a staycation. This will typically take multiple days, which is perfect for staycations. Sort out things in your house that your family wants to sell, set up some tables on your yard or driveway, set some prices for each item, set some signs up around your neighborhood, and get selling!
If you don’t want your family to keep the money from the yard sale, another good option would be to donate all of the money you earn to charity. This would be a good idea if you want to teach your kids about service.
32. Bubble Blowing with Color
Do your kids love bubbles and want to have a great staycation activity? Try blowing bubbles, but with color! To do this, you can add food coloring to any bubble mix and get going! Go outside and see who can make the biggest bubble.
A way to elevate this activity is to use wire and make giant bubbles with the wires. This staycation idea is great for younger kids that need to get outside and get moving. Staycations ideas like this will get your family excited!
33. Themed Movie and Dinner Night
Have you ever wanted to have a themed dinner and movie night? Now is your chance! Have your next staycation indoors and have a themed movie and dinner night. Pick your family’s favorite movie. It could be anything! If the movie is set in Italy, make an Italian dinner then watch your movie. If it’s a princess movie, dress up as queens and kings and make and eat a feast. If your movie takes place outdoors in a jungle, grill your dinner outside on the campfire and watch your movie on a screen under the stars.
This themed movie and dinner night would be good for kids of younger ages or even for older kids. Even the parents can enjoy a staycation like this!
To make this staycation even better, if the characters in the movie eat a specific food, make that exact food and eat it for dinner. Even if it’s breakfast food! The more unique foods the better! Enjoy this awesome dinner and movie night!
34. Ultimate Board Game Championship
Every family loves playing board games together. This staycation is great for every family! Choose your family’s favorite board games, play them all, and keep track of who wins the most games. You can do it individually, or even have teams competing together. To make this even better, have a prize at the end for whoever won the most games.
You could even make this staycation last longer by playing one game a night over a period of time. This would make it so your ultimate board game championship can last as long as you want it to! Your kids will be excited every night to play a different game and possibly win a prize! Have fun and good luck!
35. Become a Professional Artist for the Day
Do your kids love crafting or using their artistic, creative abilities? Try having a creative day for your next staycation. You can have your family each create different pieces of art. They could paint, make a craft, draw a picture, make a sculpture out of clay, or make any type of art.
Next, after each person is done with their masterpiece, you should set them all up on a table. You should then have a showing of the pieces, and you could even auction off each piece. Your family members could “buy” each other’s pieces with candy or pennies.
This staycation is perfect for families of all ages, and any kid would love to spend time with their family creating art pieces they could be proud of. It’s an exciting idea and a great way to spend your next staycation!
36. Make Time Capsules
One of the most fun ways you and your family could spend a staycation is to make time capsules together. You could open them once all your kids are older and when you feel like reminiscing your family’s time together.
To make a time capsule, all you need is some type of box or bin. You could all decorate it together and customize it for your family. Next, you should each put something in the time capsule that represents you or your family at that time in your life. You could even have each person write a note along with their item talking about their goals for the future.
Next, you should put your items in the time capsule, seal it, and stick it somewhere you will remember it is for the future. You could bury it in the backyard, stick it in your favorite chest, or even just put it on a shelf in your house. Then, whenever you and your family decide, you can open it and reminisce about the past times. Your family will love this unique staycation idea!
37. Create Your Own Bake Sale
Do your kids love to bake and want to earn some money? Consider having your next staycation be a bake sale. Spend the whole day cooking your family’s favorite baked goods.
Next, you should set out tables on your driveway, set up signs in your neighborhood, and get to selling your goodies! This is the best staycation idea if your family loves baking adventures and making a little extra cash. Donate your earnings to charity or the community if you want to. Get your family to spend some quality time together by having an awesome bake sale!
38. Host a Family Fancy Dinner Night
If you are trying to think of a perfect staycation idea that is perfect for any family, no need to keep thinking! We have the best idea for you! You and your family should host a fancy dinner night at home.
Make it perfect with fancy tablecloths, menus for a four-course meal, and waiters. You can cook dinner together, decide who is going to be the waiter, and make your kitchen a beautiful location for a lovely evening. Make it even fancier by adding music, lights, candles, and dressing up. Your family will love making a menu and cooking a fancy dinner together.