The Extreme Staycation

Look through family photo albums to relive old trips and memories (photo by Heather Lusk)

Airports are cutting back on flights and cities around the world are closing all “non-essential” businesses, which means museums, events, movie theaters, and many other things you would normally do are no longer available. Staying at home has become a necessity for some and legally required for others. The quarantine comes at the time of year that many of us have been eagerly anticipating time away from home; instead we can’t leave. It may be time for an Extreme Staycation, when everything for a vacation is in your own home.

One of the best things about vacationing is separating ourselves from the daily routine and never-ending tasks: laundry, dishes, telling kids to clean their rooms. Part of an Extreme Staycation is to mentally remove yourself from those tasks. That may mean packing a suitcase or getting a change of scenery by switching rooms with family members. Have frozen dinners or order takeout instead of preparing a meal, or perhaps enjoy dessert instead of dinner. Dress up to dine one night. Above all, avoid ordinary tasks. If it’s something you wouldn’t do on vacation, avoid it.

To get into vacation mode our family requires unplugging, which is exponentially more difficult when we don’t leave the house. Locking away devices for most of the day (parents too) lets you focus completely on time together without being distracted by dings.

Ideas for a (mostly) tech-free week:

Day 1: A road trip down memory lane.

Look through family photo albums to relive old trips and memories (photo by Heather Lusk)

Find photos and videos of your favorite family vacation and reminisce. What made the vacation special? What are the stories and events behind each picture? Go a step further and pull out older albums or even home movies. It’s time for kids to see their parents’ middle school hair styles and watch grandma learn to waterski. Old family albums open an abundance of stories. Consider Skype or FaceTime with relatives to add even more details to those memories.

Day 2: Explore mysterious worlds. 

Search through an off-limits space like an attic to unearth forgotten treasures (photo by Heather Lusk)

Being able to wander through an attic, corners of the basement or a storage closet that’s usually off limits can be very exciting for kids. If safety prevents full investigation, bring down a few dusty boxes. There may be old toys, clothing, or forgotten memorabilia with plenty of stories.

Day 3: Tournament of Champions.

No sports on TV? Create your own tournament. Outside play games like basketball or frisbee, or create your own events like bouncing a ball into a box. Inside, push tables out of the way and create a bowling alley, challenge one another to cup stacking, or compete in Zumba. Board games and trivia can be added to the mix. Keep a running tally all day so the winner can assume appropriate bragging rights.

Day 4: Family cooking lessons.

Cook as a family and create new favorite meals and sample foods that can be enjoyed during future travels (photo by Heather Lusk)

Learning to cook local dishes has become a new passion when my family travels. During your Extreme Staycation, think about places visited in the past or anticipated future trips. By finding distinctive recipes to that region your family can try foods that normally wouldn’t be on the menu. If you’re not feeling confident in the kitchen, visit YouTube for instructional videos.

Day 5: Camp out.

If you own a tent and have a backyard, no need to read further. Otherwise create your own campsite in a living room or outdoor space. Eat meals outside or at an open window and enjoy fresh air, looking for shapes in the clouds. Open the windows again at night to search for emerging stars. Indoors, create a fort with blankets, then crawl inside with sleeping bags and flashlights. Adding an appropriate soundtrack completes the camping atmosphere. (Hey Google, play outdoor sounds.)

Day 6: Go on safari. 

As spring approaches, plants and insects are beginning to emerge. Unearth leaves and stones to find a variety of species, noting different types of insects living in different areas of a yard or park. Older children can use binoculars to search for different types of birds and all ages can listen for different bird calls.

Day 7: Spa Retreat. 

A spa day is a relaxing end to the Extreme Staycation that will linger after the routine resumes (photo by Mara Lusk)

Start the day with yoga or stretching. For help visit the Yoga for Beginners app or Next try different spa treatments: face masks, neck massage, manicure or pedicure. Recipes for homemade masks can be found online, but those on are also edible. Use plenty of moisturizer for hands – additional washing can take its toll on skin. Then play with crazy hair styles for each family member using gel, mousse, and hairspray. End the spa day with quiet meditation and no electronic interruptions. Tell children to focus on their breathing and think about being calm and present in the moment.

Like any vacation, it will eventually end and the house will get back to normal. Until that day allow yourself to be in vacation mode and enjoy this time with family and the memories you’re creating.

Heather Lusk is a freelance writer in Indiana. She’s currently looking through old photos wishing she could be wandering the cobblestone streets of Williamsburg, skiing in Colorado, or seeing a show on Broadway. Until that’s possible she’s trying to keep her family entertained and as happy as young teens can be. Her recent articles have appeared in Indy’s Child and American Farmhouse Style.