Vacation is an adventure, and anyone who’s ever changed a diaper in a tiny airplane restroom can attest, adventure isn’t always, uh…easy. Take the distance out of traveling and take “staycation” to heart by playing tourist in your own town. Whether you live in the city, the country or somewhere in between, we’ve got some great ways to make your everyday into something postcard-worthy. Read on for ideas.


Dress the part: Comfy walking shoes, a fedora and sunglasses and weather-appropriate layers. Giant camera around neck is optional, but it’s ever-so-fun. Binoculars make a great accessory. Bonus points for socks with sandals, brightly colored floral tops and anything that has your town’s logo on it.

Pack lightly and carry a big crayon: Any parent ever will tell you that the packing process for a vacation is just that: a process. Get the kids involved in this small-scale version by creating a checklist, with items like pens or crayons, stamps for your postcards, a journal, a camera, small bags for collected treasure or whatever seems to fit your day out.

Create an agenda without an agenda: Visit your chamber of commerce (or chamber’s website) and check out the brochures for local fun! Let your kids choose one totally touristy thing to do, likely something that you’ve never done before. Go on a duck boat tour, rent bikes if you don’t have any of your own, stop into a local museum you keep walking past or just take your time going into a few shops.

Look up and look down: Observe local architecture. Use binoculars to view the features of downtown buildings in greater detail. Stop and admire a sign. Let the children lead without a rush.

Ask out loud: Take time to ask the barista, shopkeeper or local on the park bench a question or two. What do they know about the history of your town? How long have they lived here? Tourists are known for being friendly and curious!

Make a written record: Stop by the local drugstore/tourist shop/gas station and grab a postcard or two. Then find a spot in a park or a coffee shop, grab a drink and write out your cards. Send one to your best friend, even if they live next door. Use the postcard to record a cool observation about your town. Parents can secretly write one out to their kids. If you didn’t pack stamps, tromp over to the postoffice to grab a few. 

Get lost: Try using a paper map to navigate your way. Have each person in your crew pick a place from the map they’d like to visit. Don’t use your GPS to get you back on track unless you’re in dire need or feel unsafe. Enjoy what comes your way. If you get really lost, ask someone for directions! Nothing says “tourist” more than that!

Spend your hard-earned extra cash: Book a hotel room (try a last-minute deal on a travel site like Priceline). The beauty is you barely have to throw more than PJs and toothbrushes into a suitcase. And you can jump on the bed, splash in the pool and basically just vaycay without any muss or fuss (or too much cleaning up).

Put down the selfie-stick: If you have an older digital camera you don’t use as much, let the children be in charge of taking photos all day. At least once, whether with your phone or your camera, stop and ask a nice-looking local to take your group photo. It’s not just about getting the shot; you’ll make a connection and bring a smile to a stranger’s face. If you see someone you know, have them take your photo or get in on the photo! They’ll love hearing about your crazy local adventure.

Gather souvenirs: you don’t have to load up on magnets and shotglasses. Save a receipt from a meal you loved, a penny you found on the ground, even a wayward pinecone your kid insisting on picking up. Put all these items in a mason jar with a label for the day, or press them into a scrapbook.

Got any ideas for playing tourist as a local? Share them with our community in the comments below! 

photo: faungg’s photos via flickr

—Amber Guetebier