Trying to squeeze in one more road trip or weekend getaway this summer? Consider taking some time off without battling DMV traffic or airport security. According to travel site, Washington is among the top three cities in the country in which to “staycation,” thanks to our broad selection of arts and culture, outdoor activities, and sports. Van Metre Homes is so inspired by this local trend that we’re offering up to $10,000 in complimentary upgrades this month to new homebuyers as part of our Summer Staycation campaign. Many of our community residents plan to beautify their backyards with these upgrades—because after a long day exploring the museum, bike trail, or baseball stadium, what could be better than unwinding in your own private oasis as the sun goes down? Here are a few simple upgrade ideas that will create a backyard getaway vibe for your next staycation.

  1. GO CAMPING IN YOUR OWN BACKYARD Backyard camping is a great way to sleep in the fresh air without the hassle of a hike (it’s also the perfect “trial run” for young ones unsure about a real wilderness excursion). These supplies will make sure your backyard is adventure-ready:
    • Camping equipment: Invest in a tent big enough for the whole family, and pull out your favorite sleeping bags, pillows, and quilts. If it’s going to be an especially warm night, consider running a fan out to your tent (it may be cheating a little, but everyone will be more comfortable). Pack drinks in thermoses and snacks in Ziploc® bags so you can limit the number of trips back inside (remember, you’re “camping!”). You’ll also want flashlights, mosquito repellant, and enough spooky stories to keep even the bravest ones up past their bedtimes.
    • Fire pit: Campfire meals like hamburgers, baked potatoes, chicken and vegetables can all be wrapped in tin foil and cooked on a backyard grill or over a fire pit. If you’re far enough from the city, turn off all the backyard lights and enjoy nature’s light show. Check online to see if there are any upcoming celestial events that would make star gazing even more memorable.
    You’ll need:
    • Tent: $150 from Coleman
    • Sleeping bags: $30 each from Wal-Mart
    • Fire pit: $150 at Hayneedle

    Total staycation cost: $300-$400

  2. HAVE MOVIE NIGHT UNDER THE STARS Create your own mini-film festival by picking a theme—Laugh Till You Cry, Road Trip Warriors, All Matt Damon All the Time, Tear Jerkers, Favorite Pixar Flicks, you name it. Invite family members to submit their favorite movie choices so there’s a little something for every taste. A few simple upgrades will create a great setup.
    • Screen and projector: Any plain flat surface can serve as an outdoor movie screen if you have access to a projector (there are even smartphone projector apps available now to make this easier), or you may want to hang a white sheet from a fence or a tree as a backdrop. If you want to go a little more fancy, invest in an outdoor screen like this one from Amazon.
    • Snacks: Set up a movie-theatre style popcorn popper (complete with fake butter and paper boxes) and have a selection of boxed movie candy like Twizzlers, SweeTARTS®, Whoppers and Milk Duds. The night sky, the smell of fresh hot popcorn, and the novelty of bringing the inside outside makes for a delightful family night.
    You’ll need:
    • Movie Screen: $249,
    • Wireless Projector: $300,
    • Popcorn Machine: $80,

    Total staycation cost: $500-$600

  3. SET AN INVITING MOOD FOR GATHERINGS Hotels and resorts rely on a few tried-and-true elements to lure you into vacation mode: dreamy lighting, laid-back tunes and good food. Mimic this feel with the following upgrades:
    • Lighting: Crisscrossed strands of bulbs overhead are a trendy trick for easily illuminating the patio, and if you get LED bulbs, your electricity bill won’t go through the roof. Small touches like tea lights and tiki torches create a nice ambiance and help keep the bugs at bay. If you’re looking for something more permanent, invest in landscape lighting around trees, flower beds, or paths for a more polished look. Lowe’s offers a nice worksheet for planning your landscape lighting here.
    • Music: Jam out to a playlist of your favorite songs by pairing a portable Bluetooth speaker with your phone or tablet. If you’re a more serious music-lover, consider installing a more heavy-duty outdoor speaker system.
    • Furniture: Durability trumps all when it comes to patio digs. We love both World Market and’s discounted prices, low-maintenance materials, and reliable user reviews. Consider basics like a sectional with cushions to create a comfortable gathering space, plus a table, chairs, and an umbrella for al fresco dining.
    • Grill: Nothing says summer like char marks! Use a new grill as an excuse to host a housewarming or block party barbecue in your relaxing new space.
    Image: Lowe’s You’ll need:
    • String lights: $39 each at Crate & Barrel
    • Landscape lighting: $1,500-$2,000 at Lowes
    • Tea lights: $4 for 100 at IKEA
    • Tiki torches: $3 each at Wal-Mart
    • Bluetooth speaker: $49 at BestBuy
    • Outdoor speakers: $400 for at Bose
    • Patio furniture: $600-$3,000 at
    • Grill: $500 at Ace Hardware

    Total staycation cost: $4,000-$9,000

No matter how you plan to spend your backyard “staycation,” remember the most important part of any family event is the time you spend together making memories. There’s no reason your family’s favorite “Remember when…” stories can’t start in your own backyard.