When a huge snowstorm hit DC last week — on the heels of a two-week school break, and in the midst of renewed COVID restrictions — I can’t have been the only parent hiding in the bathroom running Google searches for snow day activities. We and our kids felt stuck at home, unable to travel, wondering how in the world we were going to find ways to enjoy another cold, winter Saturday.
We desperately needed some inspiration. The solution: A Family Staycation.
I often emphasize that family travel is important to me because it makes me feel like a better parent. When I step away from the daily grind, and put down my list of chores, I can be more present and enjoy my time parenting.
But as it turns out, there are ways to create that same separation from our daily routine without leaving town. With a family staycation — meaning a deliberate and intentional effort to enjoy the place you live as though on vacation — we can achieve a similar refresh.
So when the snowstorm hit, we booked a last-minute suite at a local hotel. The dreary winter weekend was immediately transformed into a staycation with kids. Our preschoolers spent the morning playing in the indoor saltwater pool, after brunch at a DC landmark restaurant in the hotel.
One night away from chores left us feeling refreshed and reenergized. Plus, the kids had a renewed sense of energy about them too.
If you need a similar break, here are my top 5 suggestions for a staycation with kids.
One quick note: Many internet lists of staycation ideas for families focus on different activities for planning a staycation at home, like a movie night or board games. That’s not for me. For some resemblance to an actual vacation, my staycation with kids needs to be out of the house and away from my to-do lists.
1. Have a Staycation At A Local Hotel
I’ll start the list with the staycation with kids idea that sent me down this path: Experience a local hotel! It’s no secret that I’m a fan of hotel stays with kids. The right hotel can make us feel pampered and rejuvenated, especially if it has a family friendly restaurant with delicious food and is near local activities. It may seem silly, but having even a little bit of physical separation from our homes – and dishes and laundry – might be enough.
Check out the prices of your local hotels during the off-season, or make a last-minute reservation to get a good deal. I now have my eye on the eclectic Eaton DC boutique hotel, which has record players in every room and a gorgeous rooftop patio. The hotel offers discounted overnight stays for DMV residents, along with a curated selection of records from DC musicians in the guest room. An overnight stay there would be something totally different for our family and would certainly feel like an adventure.
2. Create a Tourist Itinerary For Your Family
I learned one thing about myself during COVID: I’m terrible at playing pretend. But even I get a little bit excited about the idea of pretending with my kids to be tourists in Washington, DC.
Clear your schedule and plan an itinerary full of the touristy things you always said you’d do but haven’t gotten around to. Involve the little ones in setting up the game: Pretend you’re experiencing your city for the first time. Leave behind the talk of obligations and to-do-lists and stay present on your first-time tour of your own city. Consider museums, local landmarks, biking tours, hikes, breweries or wineries — the things you would do on an actual vacation.
3. Get Dressed Up For A Performance
Kids love to play dress up. But guess what – that doesn’t have to be limited to superhero or Disney princess costumes! Enjoy a dress up event together by putting on your formal wear for an evening out. One thing many travelers do while trying out a new city is to experience the fine arts (symphony, orchestra, etc.). Perhaps you’ve thought about doing the same in your own city but haven’t had the chance.
So put on your fancy shoes, find a local performance, and make it part of your family staycation. Consider a matinee, or an outdoor music event if the weather permits, followed by your hotel stay nearby. Getting dressed up may not make every kid feel like they’ve had a break from the daily routine, but it certainly might help you.
4. Go Out For Dessert
Some kids may appreciate going out to dinner. Others may not. But almost all of them may be more enthused about going somewhere fancy for dessert. Pick somewhere where mom and dad can have a cocktail or a quick bite, and where the kids get to splurge on a ridiculous dessert or ice cream.
5. Find a view and watch the sunset
When we’re on vacation, we often seek out the best locations to catch a sunset. But have you ever researched the best places to do this at home? I haven’t. But what a great way to get out of the house and see your city from a new vantage point. Pack a picnic if it’s summer, or bundle up and bring coffee or hot chocolate if it’s not. Be sure to bring along the camera from some great family shots.