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Skip the Slopes: 20 Creative Staycation Ideas for Winter

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With rising gas prices, freezing snow storms, and a still tough economy, many families are trimming their vacation budgets in response. Instead of purchasing expensive airfare, lodgings, and more, many have opted to take their vacations closer to home. Dubbed “staycations,” they can be far cheaper than the traditional ones and packed with just as much fun.

As with many things, planning a staycation of your own is easier said than done. To help out, we have the below 20 creative staycation ideas for winter. Whether looking to save some money on or off the slopes, get the kids learning during school break, or make the world a better place, they are full of ideas for everyone.

Creative Cultural Staycation Ideas for Winter

Combine education and fun in these staycation ideas.

 

    1. Museum

    Learn all about science, history, and more by visiting a local museum. The Museum Spot lists tons of locations in all 50 states, along with a little about each museum. You can also find loads of other fun stuff for your staycation.

    2. Zoo
    Get a look at a living museum by checking out a local zoo. This site gives a directory of zoos by state. You can also find natural habitats, botanical gardens, and more in your area.

    3. Visit a Park
    With hundreds of thousands of square miles in parks, there is sure to be one near you. The National Park Service offers this tool to help you find one your area. You can also choose by activity or topic. Be sure to learn more about Fee Free Day while you are there.

    4. Find a Festival
    No matter what the season, there are festivals constantly being held around the country and even in Canada. Stop at this site to find over 22,000 events in North America. They include music festivals, art and craft shows, home and garden shows, and many other specialty events.

    5. It’s Fair Weather
    Visit here to get the official site of the International Association of Fairs and Expositions. Simply type in the name of the fair you would like to go to, or select by state, Canadian province, or other country to get results. The site also has more about the fairs it lists.

    6. Organics Can Be Cheaper
    Love fresh produce as much as you love cheap vacations? Then going to an organic farm just might be the answer to both. Many organic farms are willing to exchange room and board for volunteer help. The World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms was started in 1971 in the UK to help peoples and farms connect. It has now grown to loads of options around the world, including North America, Europe, Asia, and Africa.

    7. Workaway
    Similar to the above, this site helps those who are willing to work find vacation opportunities. With a philosophy of a few hours of work per day in exchange for food and accommodation with friendly hosts, there are many options across the world. Current offerings include help needed in a Chateau, Spanish resort, and Scottish Highlands. Choose by most popular countries such as Portugal, Italy, and Canada, or by your preferred location.

    8. Volunteer 
    Use your vacation time to benefit others by volunteering. It can be a great way to help families connect and help out the community. This site matches volunteers by interest and location. There is also a resource library with tons of ideas on volunteering.

Creative Outdoor Staycation Ideas for Winter

Get in touch with nature during your staycation with the help of the below.

    9. Make it Campy
    Who needs plane tickets and fancy hotels when a family can get loads of vacation fun with their own car and a tent? Visit here for a premier source for information on private parks and campgrounds nationwide. Whether you’re looking for the perfect park, traveler’s tips, or things to do when you get there, they are there to help. There are also sections for camping rentals, park reviews, helpful tips, and even a kid’s corner.

    10. Get Your Hunt On!
    Whether up in the mountains or down in the swamps, there are loads of hunting options to choose from. Hunt Find provides a listing of guides, camps, and outfitters to help in your hunting staycation. There are also items for other outdoor adventures, leases, and:

    11. Gone Fishing
    With a tagline of “no day spent teaching a child to fish is wasted,” this site helps everyone from first timers to experienced fishers find a spot. Simply choose your state to begin. You can also get tips for freshwater, saltwater, and fly fishing.

    12. Trail Mix
    The experts at Trails.com keep track of all the country’s top trailing destinations. There are options for hiking, backpacking, bikes, ATVs, and much more. You can choose by state and even most popular trails.

    13. SE7EN
    Is your love of the outdoors fueled by Mother Earth? Then this is the staycation spot for you. The members of SE7EN help provide free and low cost opportunities for volunteers who are interested in social and environmental engineering. Projects can be at schools, orphanages, wildlife reserves, parks, and many other choices. Visit to learn more.

    14. If You Build It…
    Put your handyman skills to use by volunteering to build a Habitat for Humanity home. They accept volunteers at all levels. Simply type in your zip code, affiliate name, or other location to begin.

    15. Because Gravity is Free
    So too should skiing be. However, nowadays it can be the most expensive vacation a family can take during the winter. But if you live close to the slopes, a skiing weekend can cost less than $100 per person. The site Sliding on the Cheap constantly features the lowest in skiing prices and links to them all. You can even find out which places are giving away lesson packages.

Other Creative Staycation Ideas for Winter

Think outside the box with these cheap staycation ideas.

16. Couchsurfing
This is a worldwide network for making connections between travelers and the local communities they visit. Use the site to find someone willing to host you in your area. There are over two million people currently using the site with nearly three million successful experiences. Check out the testimonials of those who have done and/or are doing it.

    17. Warmshowers.org
    Similar to the above, this is a site to help cyclists find cheap and free places to stay while biking. There is an introduction section, as well as an FAQ, with much more. The site is also available in several different languages.

    18. Can You Dig It?
    Archaeological digs are not just for George Lucas movies. Real digs often take on volunteers. In exchange for some tedious work, staycation-ers can view the world and history like never before. Visit this resource from Biblical Archaeology Review to learn more about current digs and who needs volunteers.

    19. Time it Right
    Do you have an invulnerability to high pressure sales tactics? Then a timeshare vacation may be right for you. With enticing introductory offers, many sellers of timeshares get loads of people to visit and stay for free or cheap in exchange for hearing a pitch on purchasing a timeshare. Check out this blog entry by Rob Zucker with more on the timeshare industry, as well as where to find deals.

    20. Plant Your Flag
    Younger staycationers will have the time of their lives at one of the many Six Flags theme parks located across the United States. Rollercoaster previews, deals, events, and more are listed on the homepage. You can also get group discounts and learn more about Season Passes with a visit.

And the above top 20 creative staycation ideas for winter are just the beginning. With a creative mind and a flexible schedule, there are loads of options available for cheap, memorable vacations. To learn more about the idea of staycations, check out this article from the experts at CNN. There is also this blog that is entirely devoted to coming up with and sharing inventive staycation ideas.

by Debbie Owen

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