This post contains affiliate links.
I had high hopes for 2020 – trips were booked last fall and I was pumped. Spring Break in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, a long weekend in Yosemite, a business trip to San Antonio and an Asian adventure in June to South Korea and Boracay in the Philippines. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic struck and, suddenly, we were housebound with no trips in sight.
After initially feeling a lot of anger and sadness, I have moved onto looking at the positives and planning for a fun summer at home. We are fortunate to have a large yard that we have been investing in the last few years and, with a few finishing touches, I think we will be in staycation mode every day this summer.
Check out my list of things to include in a Staycation Ready Backyard and then let me know about your yard in the comments!
1. Make It Shady (in a good way)
Our yard faces west and gets pummeled in sun from midday through the late evening hours. It is not very enjoyable and we found ourselves not using our yard for this reason. A few years back, we decided to put in a 12′ x 12′ pergola which literally changed our life. We lined the top of it with shade cloth and the temperature instantly reduced underneath it.
Our pergola is permanent and with this not falling under essential services, you could opt to buy a pre-made pergola or even use a sun sail (just need 3 points to attach it to) to create some shade. Alternatively, a basic umbrella (I got one from Pier 1 last summer that I love) also does the job.
2. Seating 101
My second must-have is a place to sit. We started off with some inherited wicker furniture with a basic cushion on the bottom. It was small and not very comfortable and prevented us for from fully utilizing our yard. Once we got a dining table with chairs, there was more incentive to get outside. Now, we’re taking it to another level with an outdoor couch this summer. With 5 of us, the couch provides a wonderful spot for us to hang out while being comfortable.
I also extensively looked at outdoor day beds – they seemed perfect for the kids to hang out and read on but I ultimately went with the couch. I may consider this down the line for the pool area, though.
When looking at seating, consider the following:
- How many people will typically be using it?
- Will you be eating meals, having drinks or just hanging out? (Helps to consider table space)
- Will it be used primarily by adults? Or kids, too?
- How important is comfort of the seating? (I have definitely noticed a range of padding in my outdoor furniture search!)
I am also a fan of supplementing with kid-friendly seating if you have little ones. I have the Little Tikes picnic table with umbrella which comfortably fits 4-6 kids. This one folds flat for storage and has a removable umbrella that is actually compatible with other products such as our water table. You can also add some kid-sized loungers to up the resort feel.
3. Keep Them Entertained
Even before I had kids, I always want a yard where my kid’s friends would want to come over and play at our house. As soon as my girls were old enough, I invested in a Gorilla Playsets swing set complete with swings, a double slide and a clubhouse. In addition to this, we did a cement trike track around the yard and got a few different wheeled options for them to use (tricycles and scooters have been favorites).
Regardless of your size, some things to consider are:
- Water table
- Sand table (can use sand, smooth pebbles or even dry beans)
- Outdoor Play Kitchen (hello, mud pies!)
- Playhouse (so many choices between plastic and wood, even lots of DIY ideas on Pinterest)
- Chalkboard (another great DIY)
- Oversized board games like Jenga and Connect 4
- Explorers’s Kits with magnifying glasses, binoculars, etc.
- Jump ropes
- Sporting equipment (balls, badminton, t-ball set, etc)
- Bounce House (love this one for the toddler crowd)
And don’t forget toy storage! Keep everything accessible but tidy. I used cheap mesh laundry hampers hung on hooks we have added to a few of the posts on our patio. I have also used large plastic totes with lids and have a lot of friends who opt for a simple basket or tub to make clean-up a breeze.
4. Light It Up!
I missed a huge opportunity here – I had my entire backyard torn up and my contractor never suggested running lighting. I didn’t use that guy again but now I am reliant on solar powered lighting or running an extension cord. Consider those summer nights when you may want to linger outside a little longer. While your patio lights may work, consider outdoor string lights (including solar powered options), battery powered lanterns or even candles in a safe container.
No staycation is complete with music! My portable speaker is the greatest thing – bringing music anywhere inside or out has been wonderful. I got the Ultimate Ears WONDERBOOM years ago and it is so easy to use and even comes with a hook for placing almost anywhere. This is a great option if you don’t have a yard wired with speakers.
6. Time for Decorations
If you are going to spend your vacation at home, might as well jazz it up a little bit to get the feeling of being on a holiday. A few other touches to enhance your backyard staycation:
- A new set of melamine cups and dishes for outdoor dining (Pier 1 and Cost Plus World Market are my fav stores for this type of stuff)
- Bright colored washable napkins to be eco-friendly and chic at the same time
- A table runner or placemats can instantly elevate your dining table
- A few accents like little accessories or vases – just look for materials that will handle the elements
- A bar cart – how fun to have your drinks wheeled out in style for happy hour at home
Tell me more about your yard – what have you done or what would you like to add for this summer?