The financial realities of our time are that expensive family vacations are rare or even impossible for many families. If your family is in that situation, a staycation (a vacation planned at home) can be just as much fun as a vacation.

Here are some tips for a fun and successful staycation:

Treat your staycation like a real vacation

Make sure that everyone in the family is free of all commitments, with no one going to work, no one going to school and no soccer games. You're all on vacation. Dispense with as many chores as possible. Clean the toilets and do the laundry when you get back "home."

Think of your hometown as the destination

Get online and research all of the tourist destinations for your hometown and vicinity. Focus on sites that you can visit for cheap or free and places you've never been. Most native New Yorkers I've asked say they've never visited the Statue of Liberty. Your town likely has sites as important to your town as the Statue of Liberty that you've never visited. Now's your chance. Tour your home town with the eye of a visitor.

Avoid the routine

During your staycation, don't get trapped in your old routine. Don't go to the same old restaurants or fast food joints. Even if all you do is switch from McDonald's to Burger King for a week, you'll make your time together feel more like a vacation and less like a lame week at home.

Pick a day trip or two

During your staycation, you can plan a day or two where you travel outside your hometown, preferably to a place you've never been or rarely visit. A day or two outside of town, even when you return home to bed, will give your staycation more of the feel of a vacation.

Go to a movie-in the daytime

Not only will you pay less to go see a movie in the daytime, going to the movies when you normally work or are in school will feel even more vacation-like than going in the evening.

Fill the time

A staycation needs to be fun to be memorable. Having time to relax is important on vacation, but it's risky when you're on staycation. Time spent just relaxing at home may start to look a lot like just being at home, with the kids playing their familiar video games, Facebooking, and watching TV on the same old sofa. Plan lots of activities that are unusual for your family so that you come home every night exhausted and ready for bed. Treat your home less like a base of operations and more like a cheap motel you're trying to avoid by having fun away from it.

With a little planning, your staycation can save you a fortune on travel expenses and lodging and still allow you to have more fun than you've ever had on vacation before.

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