Staycations become especially appealing when the price of fuel rises, cranking up costs for air travel and road trips; when the economy falters; and when air travel gets so stressful during peak seasons that "just staying home" looks pretty good.
Just be sure to have a real vacation that breaks up the usual routines, and offers some new adventures, and gets the family together for relaxation and fun.
Staycation in Your Home Sweet Home
The basic "staycation" is staying put in your home, yet experiencing the R&R of a getaway. The challenge is to not fall into the usual patterns of everyone in the family being busy with their own activities, friends, and electronic media.
Do Day Trips
Make a plan to go sightseeing at some of the best attractions in your area: the ones visitors enjoy, but locals somehow never find time to visit. Take the money you're saving on airfares or gas and spend it on fun outings: like a Duck Tour, or a Ghost Walk, if you live in a city, or an outdoor adventure if you're not near a town. Virtually everywhere, these days, has some kind of fun activity being marketed to tourists: when you're on staycation, that tourist is you.
For more budget-minded outings, try local parks or a local aquatic center (perhaps one with a wave pool and waterslides). See also Free Things to Do, in Cities, and Free Things To Do, Outdoors.
Spend time just relaxing and enjoying family time at home. Ease up on the pressure to clean and cook: for example, splurge on a house-cleaning service. You're on stayvacation, right? And unless it's your pleasure to get creative in the kitchen, eat meals out or order in.
The word "vacation", by the way, comes from the Latin word "vacare", meaning "to be free, empty, to be at leisure". The challenge of a staycation is how to be at leisure in your own home, and turn off all that busyness of daily life? It's not easy, especially for those who work at home. Meanwhile, kids may get busy with friends or their usual pastimes. You may have to get serious about sticking to "staycation dates", resisting regular activities, and nixing any temptation to clean out the basement with everyone's help.
Or try this solution ...
Staycation at Local Lodgings
With this "staycation", you still stay local, but you do make a move away from home. Stay at a local family-friendly hotel, maybe one with a cool kids' program: upscale brands such as Four Seasons and Ritz Carlton have some creative programs at their kids clubs. And of course many more budget-minded choices are available too.
Once you've got your home-away-from-home, do sightseeing, take outings; or just chill out.
The Bottom Line
Ultimately, "vacation" is more about a state of mind than about where you are. If you can relax, leave work behind, do fun stuff with your kids, then that's a staycation, even in your own house.
Meanwhile, many people travel far, far away on holidays, and yet don't enjoy a good mental break or getaway because they stay wired to their busy lives -- or even to their workplace -- via cellphones and Blackberries.