As soon as it starts getting warm, you only have one thing on your mind: summer vacations. However, you don’t have to travel far from home to have an awesome summer vacation. Staycations are easier on the environment, so you can be greener and save some money in one fell swoop.

If this sounds like your type of holiday — and we’re thinking it does — read on to discover 15 ways to make yours as fun, cost-effective and earth-friendly as possible.

1. Take a Short Road Trip

If it’s an option, it’s almost always more cost-effective to drive, regardless of your destination. Plane tickets are expensive, and they’re not too easy on the world’s fuel reserves. Plus, when you only drive to local destinations, you help stimulate your local economy. In 2011, 110 million people took day trips, during each of which they spent about $100. That’s money going back into your local economy, rather than the economy of another state.

2. Unplug It All

Make the most of your family time by requiring everyone to unplug from their many mobile devices. Or schedule a short period of time when everyone can take a few minutes to check their social media and email. Not only will this help you get away from the “real world” and focus on your vacation, but it will also save electricity when you don’t have to charge your phone twice a day.

Parco di Monza
Image courtesy of A H T.

3. Trek to a Nearby Park

Whether it’s a city park, state park or national park, you’ve probably got some green spaces near your hometown. Spend your next staycation exploring your own backyard. You can take family walks, go hiking, have a picnic, bird-watch or something else – the possibilities are almost endless. And added perk is that most park entrance fees are either small or free.

4. Bring the Tropics to You

Many people dream of vacations in Hawaii or other tropical locales. Before you’ve saved the money necessary to send yourself and your family halfway across the globe, you can throw your own tropical-themed staycation at your house. A fun family luau complete with the cuisine of Hawaii could make a sweet — and budget-friendly — substitute for now.

5. Read Up

Your kids might grumble at the thought of reading over the summer, but your local library is more than just a few shelves full of books. They often hold events, such as book readings, concerts and other gatherings that could possibly be the highlight of your staycation weekend. Your kids might beg you to check out books more often, too.

6. Be a Tourist

If you live in a larger city, use a staycation as an opportunity to explore the places you don’t normally have time to see. Perhaps you live in or near Philadelphia, for example. You could take your family in for the day to visit a museum and eat a meal at a beloved city eatery. Use discount sites like Groupon to find these activities at a steal; you could also try taking a bus or train to save even more on transit.

7. Geocache? Geocache!

You may not have ever heard of geocaching, but it’s a simple concept. There are geocaches hidden around the world, but you can find their GPS coordinates online. Find one that’s nearby, grab a GPS-enabled device, and set out to find it as a family. You’ll all feel super accomplished, and you’ll spend the day exploring the great outdoors.

8. Sleepaway Camp

Camping is always a wallet-friendly option when it comes to family vacations, although it does require a bit of preparation to get all of your supplies into the car; with little kids, it might be even more difficult. If you feel the same way, try setting up camp in your backyard instead. You can still roast marshmallows, sit around a fire, tell stories and sleep under the stars, but without all of the planning and paying. And if anyone gets cold or scared, you can go inside and sleep.

9. Catch a Movie

You’re probably wondering how this made the list, considering how expensive it is to see a film in theaters these days. We’re not suggesting you do that, though; we want you to find a local drive-in theater. You can cut costs by paying per car, and your family can have fun while reliving the nostalgia of the 1950s.

board(ing) games
Image courtesy of Chris Blakeley.

10. Become Old-School Gamers

It’s easy to forget in today’s high-tech society that families once played board games. Reintroduce them to your brood one staycation evening. Grab games that suit your kids’ ages, or rely on classics like Yahtzee that don’t require more than a little luck. You can make it into an overall competition with prizes to up the ante, or simply make the entire event sweeter by prepping everyone’s favorite snacks.

11. Accomplish Something Together

Recruit your family to take part in a joint home-improvement project. We’re not suggesting that you all clean the rain gutters or re-pave the driveway. Instead, choose something that you all want to get done. Perhaps the kids want to paint their rooms, for example. You could all do it together to make the task faster and more special.

12. Look to the Sky

Another easy-to-accomplish staycation is one that’s centered on celestial bodies. Simply download a Smartphone application or print out a map of the constellations that dot the sky during the particular season in which you’re staycationing. Then, grab your comfiest blanket or air mattress and head outside to check them out!

13. Make a Weekend Feast

Kids often want to help when someone’s cooking. Take advantage of the extra hands on your next staycation. Head to the local farmer’s market to find fresh ingredients to inspire the dinner that you all will prepare — and eat — together. Or let someone choose which favorite family dish will be on the table. Don’t forget dessert!

14. Get a Little Fancier

While most staycations keep your budget in check, this one costs a little more than some other ideas on this list. Many families consider staycations to be ones that take place within the vicinity of their hometowns, not necessarily in its heart. For that reason, they book hotels and spend time out of the house for the whole weekend.

This is a great option and perhaps the perfect middle ground between a full-fledged vacation and a simple activity that you can do with your kids nearby. You’ll get the glamour of staying in a hotel with the ease of doing so near to your home. You’ll have even more fun, too, if your hotel has a pool.

15. Be Creative

The best part about a staycation is that you can’t go wrong. No matter what, you’ve prepared a weekend or a day full of activities for everyone to enjoy, and no one will fault you for that. Let go of your inhibitions and have an amazing staycation with your family. You might find yourself loving home a little bit more with every staycation you take.

Feature image by Linh Nguyen

By Kayla Matthews

Kayla Matthews is a writer and blogger with a passion for wellness and eco-friendly living. She has contributed to Earth911, Mother Earth News, The Huffington Post as well as other healthy and green living publications. Follow her on Google+ and Twitter to read all of her latest posts.