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Even though we parents know that an actual vacation isn't possible every summer, our kids may not be aware of that fact. So what's a parent to do when the kids are hearing all about the excitement of their friends' trips to Disney and the beach, all while sitting at home? 

Well, here are five ways to spice up that summer staycation and to convince the kids that they can have just as much fun at home.

Change up sleeping arrangements


Sure, when we're staycationing rather than taking a trip, we'll have to bypass staying overnight in resort hotels and beach houses. But there's nothing to say we have to sleep in our own beds every night! Why not try one of these out?

  • Hit up grandma and grandpa, a favorite aunt or uncle or a BFF to host a sleepover or two over the summer (And, if you return the favor, there's a bonus different sleeping plan in store!)
  • You know all those local hotels that look pretty nice that you never go to because they're just a few miles from your house? Why not spend a night in one of them just for fun? Enjoy the novelty of the new surroundings by taking advantage of the  pool and the free continental breakfast, not to mention the discounted prices if you go on a weekday.
  • Summer weather is perfect for sleeping outside even if you're not taking a trip to the beach. Check out some of these local campgrounds, or even just setting up a tent in the backyard is fun.
  • If you're a true staycationer in the sense that you don't want to even leave your house for summer fun, your kids will probably think you're pretty cool if you switch bedrooms with them for the night. Give them the chance to sleep in the big bed, watch a movie on your TV, maybe even eat a snack under the covers.

Take on a project...but make it fun

If you're lucky enough to get the chance to take some time off from work during your kids' summer vacation, it's a great time to get some much needed maintenance or cleaning done around the house. We all have a basement that needs to be cleaned, a few rooms that need painting or some fix-it projects we've been meaning to get to.

Of course, your kids may balk when you recruit them to help you with these projects. But it doesn't have to be all bad. Working together is a great time to connect as a family, plus you can make the work time more fun by splitting up the day (or days) with some unexpected surprises. Try one of these.

  • Instead of a normal lunch break, set up an ice cream bar with a few favorite flavors and a choice of toppings. What better way to make a work day more palatable than with ice cream for lunch?
  • Of course listening to music is a great way to make the time go by faster. Up the ante by taking a break every half hour to dance to the music.
  • After a long day working together, treat the family to dinner at a favorite restaurant or a movie at the local theater. If you're too tired to go out, there's nothing wrong with takeout and a movie at home.

More: 7 family films to watch and celebrate

Get crazy with late-night fun

Nothing says vacation to kids like the absence of bedtimes. Plan a few late-night activities or excursions, and you'll definitely be considered a cool parent.

  • Find a spot outside the city to watch a meteor shower.
  • Check out a late-night movie. There are plenty of free outdoor movies in metro Milwaukee. And, of course, there are all the local theaters. A tradition in our family every summer is to head to our local Marcus Theatre in our pajamas to check out a late-night movie.

More: Free outdoor movies in metro Milwaukee

Try out a new-to-you excursion


You know all those places you pass by every day when you're driving in the few blocks and miles around your house? You know how you always think to yourself that you should go to one of them someday? Take advantage of your staycation, and actually go to one of them! You might find a cool new destination. In my neck of the woods, I've found a great new place to shop during grilling season at Ray's Butcher Shoppe in Greenfield and an amazing piece of history at the Milwaukee Fire Museum on the south side of Milwaukee. And, while it's a little bit out of my neighborhood, we finally stopped in the Mars Cheese Castle a few years ago after driving by it every time we went to Illinois. And, yeah, it's pretty awesome.

Go one-on-one

If both you and your parenting partner have a few days off at some point during the kids' summer vacation, it's a great time to divide and conquer.

More: A Mother-child day out: 6 places to take your kid in Milwaukee

Split up the kids and the parents, and go on one-on-one excursions. It's a great opportunity to really get to know your children when they're away from their siblings and not vying for your attention. And it's a chance to give your child the opportunity to choose what he really wants to do -- without the need to constantly compromise which is just a natural part of everyday family life.

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