Staycation Ideas: Best Ways to Travel Without Leaving Home

Last Update: August 18, 2023

With nonessential travel cancelled for the foreseeable future, many families are embracing backyard upgrades to bring vacation vibes close to home. This post is filled with staycation ideas—so even if you were headed to the bustling streets of Paris or a family-friendly theme park, you’ll still find great ways to enjoy yourself this summer.

What Is a staycation?’s staycation definition explains it as: “a vacation spent in one’s home country rather than abroad, or one spent at home and involving day trips to local attractions.” In the midst of a pandemic, many staycations have become even more narrow in focus, emphasizing reimagining yard space, utilizing public parks, and staying in your own city.

Destination: Paris

Staycation Ideas

Wondering what to do on a staycation? There are more options than you might think. Strolling through the City of Lights might not be in the cards this year, but you can still linger over a French-inspired picnic. And we have the perfect recipes and wine recommendations.

French Picnic Food

Roll out a blanket, open a basket, uncork a chilled wine, and you’re halfway to Paris.

Bruschetta on a Grilled Baguette

Pantry-friendly diced tomatoes are the main ingredient in this delicious appetizer. Just add EVOO, garlic, and a few other pantry staples to finish the dish.

Marinated Olives

This essential dinner party appetizer is ideal for enjoying outside. The olives are marinated with coriander and other spices, and can be made a day ahead. Perfect for your picnic in Paris!

Marinated olives

Salmon Niçoise Salad with Green Olive Vinaigrette

Instead of chicken, salmon takes center stage in this classic French salad. Using canned salmon instead of grilling a fillet means it’s a low-fuss recipe, too.

Nicoise salad

No-Cook Picnic Nibbles

Cook a couple of dishes and assemble the rest—here are our picnic basket must-haves.

French Wine

Our curated French wine collection features reds, whites, and rosés.

  • Terra Domitia Rosé Costières de Nîmes 2018: This delicate rosé blends two of Provence’s most famous grapes: Grenache and Cinsault. It pairs beautifully with fruit desserts and grilled dishes.
  • Château de la Gravelle Muscadet 2018: A refreshing, organic white blended by a mother-daughter duo in France’s Nantes region. Notes of peach and citrus make it an ideal bottle for the season.
  • Marquis de Talandier Côtes de Bourg 2016: Strong tannins and notes of blackberry and black currant make this bottle a winning combination with grilled meat.

Destination: The Beach

From coast to coast, the beach is always a favorite warm-weather destination. If an oceanfront rental has dried up or you live too far for a day trip, it’s time to channel sea spray and beach vibes through food, wine, and a few fun outdoor activities.

How to bring the beach to your backyard

Reef-safe sunscreen? Check. Beach towels? Check. A wide-brimmed hat? Check. It’s time to set up shop on the lawn. Start by arranging everything you’d bring for the sand like blankets, chairs, and a good book. To entertain the kids, organize a few water activities like a slip and slide or kiddie pool so everyone can have a good splash. You could also install a sandbox (complete with sifters, buckets, and more) to bring the shore to you.

Best Beach-Inspired Meals

The best beach meals are no-fuss dishes that can be made ahead and enjoyed whenever the mood strikes.

Zucchini and Lemon Pasta Salad

Pasta salad is quintessential portable fare. Make a bowl the day before you want to relax and it’ll be waiting in the fridge when everyone gets hungry. Chickpeas offer some added protein, and bright lemon and basil add freshness.


Pad Thai Salad

Thai street food transforms into a beach-friendly dish with chilled zucchini noodles, fresh carrots, sliced chicken, and a sweet cashew dressing.

Quinoa Tabbouleh

Protein-rich quinoa is a canvas for just about any veggies. This recipe ups the ante with cilantro, dried cranberries, crunchy almonds, and fresh zucchini.

Quinoa tabouli

California wine

California is known for its coastline (and wine country). While you’re channeling the laid-back energy of this popular vacation destination, don’t forget to sip on some of the best clean wine the state has to offer.

  • Wind Gap Soif Red Field Blend: An easy-to-drink red made from organic Zinfandel, Petite Syrah, and Dolcetto grapes.
  • Agharta Pinot Noir: From the Santa Barbara mountains, this vibrant wine has aromas of orange peel, dark cherry, and just a touch of oak.

Coastal Cookbooks

No need to choose between East Coast or West Coast—embrace the bounty of both with these regional cookbooks.

Destination: Rome

italian food

Pasta, gelato, and historic ruins make Italy’s capital city a tempting destination. (File this under romantic staycation ideas.) Now it’s all about twirling pasta at home, curbside pickup from your favorite local ice cream spot, and maybe a film or two to put you in the vacation mindset, even if you’ll be staying on your couch.

Best Italian Food

Bring the Mediterranean home with dishes that’ll help you feel like an Italian.

Drunken Pasta

This pasta uses an entire bottle of red wine to achieve its rich, burgundy color. Perfect for date-night-in, you’ll love how quickly the dish comes together—and you can enjoy a bowl in front of an Italian film (suggestions below!) that’ll have you dreaming of your next vacation.

Keto Cauliflower Gnocchi

Here’s a keto-inspired twist on traditional gnocchi. Made with cauliflower instead of potatoes, the whole family can get involved in making this recipe.

Vegan Almond and Apricot Biscotti

In addition to pasta, Italian cuisine is known for sweets. This vegan biscotti recipe is a special addition to your morning coffee or afternoon espresso, and every bite has hints of orange, almond, and apricot.

Italian Wine

Don’t start your Italian-inspired evening without a bottle of wine to enjoy.

  • Tenuta dell’Ugolino Verdicchio Classico Le Piaole 2018: Want to know one of Italy’s best-kept secrets? Verdicchio. This varietal tastes like a cross between Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio, with aromas of citrus, green apple, and melon.
  • Crespaia Spumante Brut 2018: Celebrate the little things with a bubbly suited for any weeknight. This organic wine is made with native Bianchello grapes from the Adriatic coast and Chardonnay.
  • Antica Masseria Venditti Buchette Rosso 2017: Made without added sulphur, this blend of three grapes (including Sangiovese) pairs easily and has plenty of ripe fruit flavor.

Italian Films

From classic masterpieces to modern-day romances, escape to Italy through films that put the region front and center.

  • Roman Holiday (1953)
  • La Dolce Vita (1960)
  • A Room With a View (1985)
  • The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)
  • Under the Tuscan Sun (2002)
  • Eat, Pray, Love (2010)
  • Letters to Juliet (2010)

Destination: Disney World

If your family has shed some tears about not being able to travel to the “happiest place on Earth,” you can still salvage a trip to the Magic Kingdom with a few simple ideas (and a whole lot of imagination).

Theme Park Food

One of the hallmarks of a theme park is the good (but not-so-good for you) food. With a little kitchen magic, you can recreate treats that’ll put a smile on everyone’s face.

Apple Cider Donuts

Baked instead of fried, these donuts bring the spice with cinnamon and nutmeg.

Dark Chocolate Popcorn Bars

Popcorn bars make a truly sweet ending for movie nights. Made with dark chocolate chips, almond butter, honey, and pecans, these portable treats are delicious indoors or out.

Dark chocolate popcorn bars

Raw Chocolate Ice Cream

If getting a giant ice cream cone is a family tradition, make your own and enjoy it outside. This raw version happens to be dairy-free—but no one has to know. The base is made with rich coconut milk, and Medjool dates add sweetness.

Raw chocolate ice cream

Disneyland Staycation Ideas

Here are some simple ways to bring the Disney magic home until you can enjoy quality time in the park again.

  • Screen favorite Disney films together
  • Make sugar cookies cutout in popular characters
  • Watch Disney World’s famous fireworks show online (streamable on YouTube)
  • Print out Disney-themed coloring pages, or pick up coloring books
  • Pretend it’s Halloween and dress up as favorite characters

Destination: The Mountains

Turn your backyard into a campground, complete with creature comforts like a full kitchen for morning breakfasts and access to clean restrooms. Once the sun goes down, gather around a fire pit for s’mores, card games, and maybe an adult beverage or two.

Best Grilling Recipes

Fire up the grill! These recipes make good use of seasonal produce (grilled salad, anyone?) plus classic proteins like chicken breasts.

Grilled Romaine Salad with Avocado-Lime Dressing

The grill isn’t only for your favorite cut of steak. Try searing hearts of romaine for added smokiness.

Grilled romaine salad

Grilled Chicken Fajitas

To finish off grilled fajitas, just add tortillas and a giant bowl of guacamole. (Cheese is optional; a squeeze of lime is not.) Everyone can fill their own plate and enjoy a meal with tender chicken and plenty of grilled peppers.

Grilled Chicken Fajitas

The Ultimate Grass-Fed Burger

Seasonings like Dijon mustard, garlic powder, and Worcestershire sauce make a patty you won’t soon forget. Impress your family with homemade ketchup leather, or just stick to the bottled stuff.

Backyard Camping Ideas

Food is only part of the equation when you’re bringing the campground to you. Here are some more backyard camping tips to make the experience a memorable one.

  • Screen a movie on the side of the house
  • Make s’mores around a fire pit
  • Install a trampoline to let out the wiggles
  • Find a nearby park to “hike” with your family before coming home and grilling on the patio
  • Order vintage thermoses for your hot chocolate
  • Pitch a tent and look for constellations before bed
  • Organize a backyard scavenger hunt—kids can look for insects, flowers, rocks, pine cones, and more

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Nicole Gulotta

Nicole Gulotta is a writer, author, and tea enthusiast.

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