family playing soccer together outside

How to Plan a Magical Spring Break Staycation for Kids

If you’re like us, going on an actual vacation seems borderline impossible. With three kids ages 6 and under, it requires a herculean effort. Do I wish we were better at traveling together as a family? Heck, yes. Am I likely to get our act together before March this year? Nope. You (who am I kidding, WE) need ideas for a Spring Break Staycation with kids.

On the one hand, 2020 has left me SICK of being at home. But on the other hand, there are lots of reasons to continue staying in. Perhaps your family isn’t fully vaccinated and comfortable traveling yet.

Maybe that budget of yours needs a serious crack-down, and you just can’t imagine spending money on hotels and restaurants at this moment. 

Or perhaps you’re just overly busy, disorganized, and feeling bummed that you don’t have a plan for Spring Break, which is now three days away. 

Whatever the reason you’re looking for Spring Break Staycation ideas with kids, I’ve got your back. Just be thoughtful, and it will be great!

My posts often contain affiliate links. If you click on something, I may get a few cents from Amazon, but it won’t affect your purchase price.

Change your mindset about your Spring Break Staycation for kids by planning early.

mom working on a computer to plan a Spring Break Staycation for Kids

Our kids can tell when we’re feeling guilty, stressed, worried, or uninspired. If you’re feeling any of those things abou not planning some extravagant Spring Break, they’ll feel that way, too.

Start planning early and get yourself excited about your staycation plans. If you’re at peace with it and even energized, they will be, too!

Choose your priorities for a Spring Break Staycation.

family eating dinner together at the table during their spring break at home

We all have different parenting priorities when life hands us the gift of extra time. But it can be too easy to just continue the status quo rather than being truly strategic about how you really want to spend the time.

What’s important to you when it comes to family time? Do you need a break from screens to really connect?

If you’re a religious family, are there aspects of your faith that have been rushed or neglected lately?

Are you hoping to be intentional about being less task-oriented? Do you desperately need to de-stress and quit yelling so much?

Think about your big goals for spending time together, and use that to guide your plans. Better yet, write down your three(ish) goals. Mine look something like this:

  • Be more present with my kids and less task-oriented.
  • Explore local/regional attractions and nature.
  • Get back in the habit of connecting faith practices with our daily life.

Once you identify those goals, it’s so much easier to outline an itinerary that you’ll love.

Once you’ve got an itinerary, it’s easier to get excited. 

Looking for more faith-filled holidays? Check out Holy Week for Kids: Teach Beyond Easter Sunday

When planning a Spring Break Staycation for kids, pay attention to your pacing.

child taking a nap wrapped in a blanket on the couch during her spring break staycation

Here’s a life lesson I learned while in youth ministry. 

Kids need food. Kids need naps. Kids need alone time. And so do adults!

I love to travel, so whether just planning little day trips or overnight excursions, I find myself very tempted to DO ALL THE THINGS. This will not serve you well, friends. Pick one big thing to enjoy each day, and then lay low. Stick as closely to your family routines as your little adventure will allow. Everyone is much happier if you can plan outings that allow for a bit of down time. 

Think about the distance you need to drive between different activities or meals if you’re enjoying regional attractions, and plan accordingly. One time, we had a difficult day as a youth group because the travel time between different events made the day feel over-full. 

Car rides CAN feel a bit like down time, but not if everyone is hungry or just ill-prepared for the traveling. Teenagers will usually just put on headphones and zone out, but little kids often don’t know what’s good for them. They’ll start wiring up and hollering at each other when they should be napping. 

So don’t shoot yourself in the foot – err on the side of planning fewer places to actually visit and more filler-type activities that can be done at home. 

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    Consider planning around a daily theme or lesson.

    mom planning a Spring Break Staycation for kids on a computer

    This part is, of course, optional. After all, Spring Break should be fun. I’m not talking about school skills here; rather, I’m thinking of new things your child might learn about independence, soft skills, or something about your family faith. 

    You might consider teaching a new life skill every day – or even one big life skill for the week. Maybe Spring Break this year has lots of fun, but also LAUNDRY EDUCATION, ha! Perhaps during Spring Break, your kids will plan the dinner menu for the whole week, and then learn how to prepare easy meals. 

    This Spring Break, I’m conscious of how my kids haven’t been to church in a year because of Covid. Honestly, my at-home education hasn’t been up to par. I’m going to take this week to really dive deep with my kids into the Bible and focus on a new Bible story every day that matches the theme of the day. 

    Creating an overarching theme can be really helpful as you plan!

    Create an itinerary for spring break with a special focus activity for kids each day.

    Begin by choosing one really special activity for each day. Go ahead and book tickets if necessary, or decide what time of day would work best and put it on the itinerary. Plan every other activity around that one special focus event. 

    For example, let’s imagine you’d like to go to the zoo. If you know the best time to be at the zoo is 8 am, go ahead and put that on the schedule. Try to anticipate how long your family can be at the zoo before kids start melting down, misbehaving, and getting tired. Put a stop time on the itinerary, too, and then plan out the rest of the day from there. 

    Spring Break Activities for Kids

    If your family is still trying to avoid indoor gatherings and crowds, here are some outdoor and stay-home activities you might consider for filling in your Spring Break itinerary. 

    • Create a nature collage on canvas
    • Hiking at a nearby national or state park
    • Homemade treasure hunt with map
    • Scavenger hunt
    • Zoo
    • Arboretum
    • Rent a boat for a special day at the lake
    • Camping – out of town or in the backyard
    • Spa day at home
    • Visit a nearby beach
    • Kite flying at a park
    • College campus tours
    • Golf – play a round or hit range balls nearby
    • Create a science or art camp in your kitchen
    • Movie marathon in pajamas
    • DIY fashion show

    Make use of the library for supplemental resources.

    father reading to two small kids during their spring break staycation

    If you’re stuck at home, it can REALLY help to freshen up your reading materials and DVDs (if you’ve got a DVD player in your family van). Of course, most families use streaming for movies, but on the road, our family still relies on DVDs. 

    We have a daily read and rest time that is rarely skipped. Keeping a daily read and rest gives us valuable time alone (can I get an amen, Mamas?!), allows kids a daily and healthy dose of boredom, and gives all of us time to do some independent learning via good books. 

    When my oldest is home all week, it’s really important that she has fresh reading material to keep her from rebelling against read and rest. The library serves exactly that purpose. Plus, returning books every 48-72 hours and choosing new ones is yet another simple and free activity to fill up our Spring Break Staycation itinerary.

    Create new family rules or guidelines for your Spring Break Staycation for kids.

    kids jumping on the bed during their spring break staycation

    One way you can make a staycation feel more special with little kids and teenagers is to modify your rules or guidelines. 

    You can layer together several things to change the way staying home together feels. 

    For example, maybe older kids get a later bedtime, with a nightly ritual of watching a new movie together after the little kids go to bed.

    Sometimes the new guidelines might not be appreciated at first. Perhaps you need to set up different screen time rules for your family to help with bonding. Whereas a normal week may not be very strict with phone usage, a whole week together might warrant a different approach.

    Perhaps you’ve got a strict rule that your family always eats together at the dinner table. To make things feel extra special, you could let kids know at the start of the week that dinner will be in front of the t.v. all week, and each kid gets to take turns choosing the show. Or, the reverse might be true! Even favorite traditions can be turned on their heads to change the way family bonding happens during the week. 

    The exact rules or guidelines being changed are less important than to simply shake things up a bit. Any change at all will make the week feel special. Just make sure that the changes you make aren’t too detrimental to your little ones. Having a week of full-blown tantrums brought on by insufficient sleep is no fun for anyone. 

    Post your Spring Break itinerary on a big piece of paper on the refrigerator or the walls. 

    Some kids do really great with a mystery vacation or Spring Break vacation, whereas others really love to know the plan. Kids who are skeptical of anything new might adapt better to big changes if they’ve got access to the plan in advance. 

    You can post the daily itinerary or weekly itinerary in plain view for kids to see. Just make it clear that plans can change at any time due to weather, sickness, or just a mood change!

    Alternatively, consider a mystery staycation for an extra dose of fun at Spring Break.

    child with a blindfold on his eyes awaiting his mystery staycation

    Every Spring Break for six years, I planned and led a “mystery ramble” for my youth group. It was such a blast!

    The Spring Break mystery ramble worked like this:

    • The entire youth group was invited to participate in a 4 day mystery trip, but they didn’t know where I would take them, and neither did their parents. They had to simply trust me.
    • The only information they had at sign up was the following: the trip cost $150 for all four days and we would not travel farther than 12 hours away from the church by bus.
    • They received a packing list the week before.
    • Sometime that day, we would arrive at our final destination and sleeping quarters. They would unpack, and be told to report back to the bus at a certain time.
    • Each morning, I would text the group suggested clothing and the high temperature for the day, plus any gear they needed. That’s ALL the information they got.
    • No matter what question they asked, whether “What’s for dinner?” or “Where are we going?” or “Why do I need to pack a swimsuit?” the answer was always the same:

    It’s a mystery!

    Why plan a Mystery Vacation or Staycation for kids?

    The wonderful thing about a mystery ramble is that it builds trust and creates excitement. Some of the activities end up being kind of boring, and that’s a life lesson all in itself!

    There’s a legendary story from my youth group about the time I forced our entire youth group of 20 out of their beds at 7 am, loaded them on the bus, and drove them down the street to look at a 2000+ year old tree that was literally older than Jesus. I thought it was spectacular. They thought it was lame, but it made for a great story.

    To be fair, we went straight from Treesus to the beach, so they didn’t complain for long.

    Ask any kid from our church who graduated between 2012 and 2018 to tell you about “Treesus.” They’ll groan and laugh and remember it fondly.

    I love mystery rambles because it teaches kids that the fun is in the togetherness, not how spectacular the planned activity might be. They learn to just be present, instead of constantly worrying if the next thing will be exciting or not.

    There’s no reason why you can’t plan something similar from home. No one needs to see the itinerary but you! However, the key to a good mystery ramble is keeping EVERYTHING a secret. It works best as an all-or-nothing situation.

    a huge tree in an open field - parks are a great idea for a spring break staycation

    Consider a daily treat during your staycation with kids.

    You could add something little bitty and special into every day of your Spring Break Staycation for kids. The wonderful thing about children is that they’re so easy to please. You could buy 7 Dollar Tree toys – one for each day – and they would probably love unwrapping them at breakfast each day. 

    Alternatively, you could purchase a single box of Universal Yums – see my review here – and plan a whole staycation around learning more about the world from the comfort of home.  

    Sample Spring Break Staycation Itinerary for a Family with Little Kids

    planning a spring break staycation for kids with headphones and notepad

    First of all, this is just to get your creative juices flowing. This itinerary is a very Mama Manages type of plan and wouldn’t be appropriate for families with older kids, or non-religious families. But you can mix and match your own fun things and use this framework!

    This is only a very rough outline because I didn’t include times or specific days. Sometimes it can be smart to plan by theme rather than a certain day of the week until you get close enough to check the weather. 

    I only planned 7 days worth of activities, because it’s important to have a day or two to prepare for school resuming. After all, laundry never ends!

    Also, you might notice that the big event days are spread out throughout the week. It’s to be expected that some days will be a little more action packed than others. Embrace the lower-key days as recovery opportunities, and sprinkle them throughout the week. 

    My posts often contain affiliate links. If you click on something, I may get a few cents from Amazon, but it won’t affect your purchase price.

    Animal Day

    • Morning Devotional: Read Noah’s Ark passage from the Jesus Storybook Bible. Discuss the rainbow and God’s sign of hope for His people.
    • Zoo Outing in the morning with a sack lunch
    • Afternoon snack ideas: Animal Snacks!
    • Late afternoon: walk dogs as a volunteer activity at the Humane Society – call in advance to make a plan
    • Movie night: watch the Lion King, Homeward Bound, or the Secret Life of Pets
    child petting a giraffe at the zoo during spring break staycation

    Games Day

    • Morning Devotional: the story of Joseph and his brothers from the Jesus Storybook Bible. Discuss family competition and forgiveness.
    • Play minute to win it games found on Pinterest
    • Take turns choosing which board games to play, and be sure to incorporate some outdoor activities like throwing a football or baseball back and forth.
    • Make your own pizza night!
    • Watch a kids’ movie about competition, like Sandlot, Leap, or Akeelah and the Bee.

    Garden Day

    • Morning Devotional: Read the creation story from the Jesus Storybook Bible. Discuss how God made everything and it was GOOD.
    • Visit the arboretum to celebrate all the beautiful plants; make sure to visit the conservatory.
    • Afternoon snack ideas: plant snacks
    • Late afternoon: create a nature canvas
    • Movie night: watch the Lorax or Fern Gully
    echinacea plant with butterfly on it - enjoying nature for spring break

    Serving Day

    • Morning Devotional: Read the story about Jesus washing the disciple’s feet and discuss serving others – from the Jesus Storybook Bible.
    • Baking goodies for first responders, nurses, or teachers in the morning.
    • Late afternoon: deliver baked goods to chosen recipients
    • Movie night: watch Pollyanna or the Incredibles
    siblings baking during spring break with bags of icing

    Beauty and Art Day

    • Morning Devotional: Read the story about Esther from the Little Girls Bible Storybook.
    • Discuss what is considered beautiful.
    • Have a special Bob Ross morning! Gather up painting supplies, put Bob Ross’ show on the big screen, and try to duplicate his painting together. Utilize the pause button on your remote. Canvases can be bought in bulk at any art supply store. Or, explore a new form of art, like Pencil Shaving Art for Kids. 
    • Late afternoon: dress up like you’re having a beauty pageant, as in the book of Esther. Let kids experiment with makeup and costumes. Line up stuffed animals on the couch, use tape to create a “cat walk” and have a family-friendly fashion show.
    • Movie night: instead of watching a movie, do a couple of Art for Kids Hub activities together at the kitchen table.

    Ocean Day

    • Morning Devotional: Read the story of Jonah from the Jesus Storybook Bible. Discuss obedience and following God’s call.
    • Visit the local aquarium
    • Afternoon snack ideas: ocean snacks!
    • Late afternoon: make an ocean themed craft
    • Movie night: watch Moana, the Little Mermaid, Free Willy or Finding Nemo
    shadow of a child looking into an aquarium tank during spring break outing

    Nature Day

    pinterest pin - how to plan a spring break staycation for kids

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