Fun Summer Staycation Ideas to Save on Gas This Summer
With pandemic regulations lifting, it might seem like the perfect time for that dream vacation.
But high gas prices are getting even higher in many areas, and don‘t even ask about airfare. As a result, many Americans are thinking twice about going away for summer vacation.
But just because a road trip may not be in the cards doesn’t mean summer has to be boring. In fact, there are probably plenty of things to do at home this summer that can help you to have fun and save money.
Our guide to cheap summer activities and affordable vacation and staycation ideas is here to help.
Related: The Top Outdoor Party Games for Summer Fun
What You'll Miss Out on Doing a Staycation
No doubt about it, staying home for the holidays means missing out on a few things.
- Summer travel stress
- Credit card bills
- Overcrowded theme parks and attractions
- Skyrocketing travel costs
- Airbnb woes
- Blacked out travel dates
When you vacation at home, you can relax and enjoy yourself, and maybe even learn something about your area that you didn’t know before.
Summer Staycation Ideas Near You
Ready, set, stay! Here are some things you can do without even leaving your state.
1. Hit the Parks
The National Parks Service is an incredible resource. There are national parks in every state, and each is an opportunity to experience natural wonders that you won’t find anywhere else.
Parks have opportunities for hiking, camping, picnicking, and other outdoor activities. Many parks also include sites of historical importance. Most national parks have activities for the entire family, and many offer accessibility options, as well.
And if your family is lucky enough to have a fourth-grader, your whole family can get in for free.
State Parks are another opportunity for outdoor adventures right in your backyard. And in many places, you’ll find local forest preserves or wildlife areas that are good, clean -- and often free -- fun for explorers of all ages.
2. Playground Passport
How many playgrounds are in your neck of the woods? Probably more than you think! Go to the website for your city, town, or municipality, and make a list of nearby parks and their facilities. Then get your paper and crayons ready.
Enlist your kids to pick out the local parks that look like the most fun to them. Make a schedule, and put it on the calendar, where everyone can see it. Now, help your kids to put together a booklet, where every page represents one of these parks.
The day after you visit each park, sit down and talk about what you did there, and what you remember. Then the kids can draw a picture for that park visit.
For extra fun, set a prize for finishing (or “stamping”) each page in the passport.
3. Summer Fun Classes
Summertime means a host of classes, performances, and activities for kids and families — and a lot of them are inexpensive, or even free. Here are some places to look for low-cost, low-travel summer fun for your kids:
- Your local library
- Your town’s Parks and Recreation Department
- Universities and community colleges
- Religious organizations
- Community centers
You can often find family-friendly concerts, plays, classes, workshops, games, sing-a-longs, storytimes, movies, and more.
The humble picnic can be a great opportunity for learning, as well as fun.
Ask your kids to help you plan the picnic. Where will you go? What will you do when you get there? Planning the meal and shopping for it provide opportunities to teach kids about putting together a balanced meal that they’ll want to eat, as well as comparison shopping.
For extra gas-saving points, walk or take your bikes instead of the car.
5. Public Transportation Explorers
A lot of us only see the part of the bus or subway line that we ride — if we use public transportation at all. But where does the bus start? What’s at the end of the subway line? Why not find out?
Public transportation is a low-cost way to explore where you live, and in many places, children under five ride for free. A colorful transit map provides an opportunity to learn:
- How your town or city is laid out
- Where things are located in your area
- How to get from here to there
- What types of transportation are available in your area
- How public transportation works
And, let’s face it. A lot of kids just think buses and trains are really neat.
If you have older kids, consider this. Some cities, like Los Angeles, commission special artwork for transit stations. Other stations, like Grand Central in New York, have historic importance. If this is the case in your area, why not put together a tour?
6. Neighborhood Treasure Hunt
A good old-fashioned scavenger hunt can keep your bunch happy and engaged for hours.
For little kids, try a supervised hunt around your house or yard with friends.
Older kids could team up and scour the neighborhood to find the things on the list.
Instead of saying, “find a pencil,” encourage creativity and discussion by giving open-ended instructions like “find something you can draw with.”
Older kids could take pictures of things to share when they meet up at the agreed time, rather than bringing the actual items back.
Make sure to have prizes for the most objects found, the most interesting objects, the most original answer to a question, and so forth.
7. Block Party
When temperatures rise, we’re all tempted to sit inside with the air conditioning. But that gets boring. And your neighbors are probably bored, too.
A block party is a great way to bring the summer fun home. And it’s an excellent way to get to know your neighbors.
It doesn’t have to be fancy. Serving homemade food in the front yard is fine.
Police departments and fire stations often have community officers who are happy to come to neighborhood events and do talks and demonstrations. And you might even discover a few amateur musicians, magicians, and performers among your neighbors.
Just make sure to check your local regulations, and obtain any necessary permits.
How to Save Money on Gas This Summer
Even if you’re not going on a road trip, you may still feel the bite at the gas station. Here are a few money-saving hacks and travel tips to help with fuel economy during your local getaway.
Speeding up and slowing down while you’re driving uses more fuel than driving at a constant speed. Many cars have a cruise control feature that keeps the car at a constant speed. This can help you to use up to 20 percent less fuel.
Get the Gas Buddy App
The Gas Buddy app can tell you where to find the cheapest gas in your area! It does the searching for you, so you don’t have to drive around and use more gas while searching!
AAA isn’t just a roadside assistance organization, though that service alone is worth becoming a member. AAA membership can also get you discounts on movie tickets and other entertainment, hotels, restaurants, and, yes, even gas for your car.
And if you sign up for an AAA credit card, you can get cash back on certain purchases, too.
Rent a Hybrid or Electric Car
If you’re using a rental car, a hybrid or electric model can save you big time, and many car rental companies offer them. All you have to do is ask.
Get Out of the Car Altogether
The next time you need to take a short trip to the grocery store, library, or to a playdate, why not walk, bike, or take public transportation?
It might seem like a bit of a pain at first, but it’s a great opportunity to spend quality time with the family and to get some exercise. In some cases, walking or biking might even be faster than taking the car.
Are You Ready to Stay In?
Travel can be full of expense and hassle. Why not skip the stress and explore the area around you?
For even more great and cheap ways to make the most of your summer vacation, check out our Ultimate Summer Bucket List for Kids and Families!
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Jess is a qualified teacher who is experienced in teaching different languages and linguistics. Jess speaks multiple foreign languages, including Russian and French.