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Staycation Strategies for Families with Teenagers

This year, Covid-19 restrictions are keeping us all close to home. While some of the activities in this article are not recommended by the CDC, we think there is some helpful advice about how to approach a staycation with teens as well as some good reminders about the keys to making teenagers happy: preparation and flexibility. 

Sometimes vacation just isn’t in the cards, perhaps because of sports with “optional” practices you really can’t miss, jobs, or college visits. Or maybe it’s not in your budget right now; travel costs can add up fast, especially when vacation includes airfare, hotel, and food for your adult-sized eating machines. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t still have a great vacation at home as a family.

With a little planning and preparation (and the comfort of sleeping in your own bed at night), a “staycation” can provide plenty of fun and relaxation. The key to a successful staycation is being intentional. But what do you do on a “staycation”?

How to Have a Staycation: 4 Steps

1. Set some ground rules

The point of a staycation is to feel as much like a family getaway as possible, so decide in advance what your family will and will not do during this time. That could include limiting screen time, phone usage, email, cooking, and chores. Set a reasonable budget.

2. Decide what you will do on your staycation

Hold a family meeting to discuss your staycation ideas and get input. If you like spontaneity, consider putting everyone’s ideas into a hat, then picking one activity each day. If your family prefers more structure, use your ideas to develop an itinerary for the week.

Think of a few activities teens would enjoy:

  • Enjoy a spa day with manicures and pedicures.
  • Get a group for laser tag or paintball.
  • Take a trip to an outlet mall.
  • Go geocaching.
  • Try indoor rock climbing, a challenge rope course, or zip lining.
  • Take a day trip to a nearby town or national park.
  • Try a new restaurant.
  • Build a fire pit, s’mores. Add a movie for great family time.

3. Get prepared to stay home

Get your home ready before the staycation starts so that your time will feel different. Clean, shop, and get the laundry done in advance. Get some takeout menus. Cook a few family favorites and put them in the freezer. Get everything ready so once your staycation starts, you can all relax.

4. Be accommodating

Teens can be very busy people, so their staycation ideas might just involve sleeping—and that’s fine. “Downtime is very important. If your usual morning routine is very hectic because of work and school, then I try to do the opposite of normal,” says Samantha McGarry, author and parenting blogger. “Let them have a lazy morning, and plan an activity for later in the day. To set a vacation attitude, I try to be more flexible and to say yes more than no.”

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Jane Parent, former editor at Your Teen, is the parent of three.

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