The Complete Guide to Planning a Family Daycation

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Are there places nearby that you’ve always intended to visit with your kids but you haven’t? I know the feeling. Even though we’ve lived in northeast Ohio for several years, there are still plenty of places we’ve heard about but never gone. We’re changing that this summer and embracing the idea of staycations. The sentiment – planning a vacation to a site in your area –  is a great way to have an affordable, fun adventure with your kids. We’re taking it one step farther. We’ve dubbed our mini daylong explorations as daycations.


The Complete Guide to Planning a Family Daycation


If you’ve been meaning to get out and explore your area while making summertime memories with your kids, here are a few suggestions about how to have a successful (meaning all smiles at the end!) daycation.


Go for three. Depending on the ages of your kids, my suggestion is that you try for at least 3 new-to-you destinations. With my kids, who are older, we aim for five destinations for the day, including places to eat.


Make them NEW activities. This is important – choose places that none of you have been before to make this truly an adventure. It’s not as much fun to watch a movie if half the people in your group have already seen it and decided if they like it or not. Same goes for your daycation. This is an adventure for everyone!


Eating at Sweet Moses, Cleveland. From The Complete Guide to Planning a Family Daycation


Have a mix of activities. No matter how cool the museum or the park, you want to include a variety of activities – not just one type. For example, on our Cleveland Daycation, we started out at a cool, local restaurant then walked to an ice cream parlor for lunch. We headed to a legendary comic book store followed by an outdoor park after that and did a loop hike. We finished off our day with a movie. If one kid didn’t like one of the activities, I could assure her that she might like the next.


Fort Hill Loop, Cleveland. From The Complete Guide to Planning a Family Daycation


Tap into your child’s interests. Find a way to pair your adventures with your something of particular interest to your child. If he loves insects, maybe there’s a special exhibit at a science center or nature preserve. Does she love flying? What about an air museum or even a local airport where you can pack a picnic and watch the planes take off. For us, my teen has been getting into comic books. We’d never been to a comic book store, however. On our daycation, we made a point to visit one together. It helped my daughter get excited for our daycation knowing we had planned something so that we could share her interests.


Do your research. Sure, all the locations are nearby, but that doesn’t mean you should skip looking up the info online or figuring you’ll know where to park, the hours when the location is open, etc. Get your kids involved in the planning, too.


Eat food. Part of our daycation involved trying out new restaurants. We looked for unusual hotspots that were both unique and kid-friendly. We made our plans so that we could arrive early and skip the crowds. I also packed plenty of water and munchies for our hike. Full tummies = happy adventurers.


Ice cream at Sweet Moses, Cleveland. From The Complete Guide to Planning a Family Daycation


Make a plan – with times! We came up with an itinerary, including times, and then made a printout for my youngest. I can’t emphasize how important this is to keep your family on track. We put our youngest in charge of the schedule – which she loved -- and she kept us on task. Make sure to include travel times on your schedule. Be realistic about your timing. I knew my kids wouldn’t be up for an adventure that started at 6 a.m. We made our plans so that we started with an early lunch and then played until the evening.


Invite family and friends along virtually. We thought up a hashtag for our adventures and posted pictures on Instragram and Facebook. Later, people were able to ask my kids about what they did because they’d seen the photos – and then my kids could share more about their favorite parts of our day.


Ready to start planning your daycation?




Kristen J. Gough is the Global Cuisines & Kids Editor for Wandering Educators. She shares her family's adventurous food experiences--and recipes--at


All photos courtesy and copyright Kristen J. Gough




A daycation? YES! It's a great way to explore your area - and try new things.

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