Have a fun—and affordable—staycation

An open notebook with a drawing of an umbrella.

Read time: 4 minutes (857 words) 

We all need time to relax, recharge and renew. That’s why we take vacations. However, if your budget is tight this year, you can still get those three Rs without a flight to Bora Bora, thanks to a type of vacation you may not have tried yet: the staycation.

Before you say, “Staying home? That’s not what I’d call a vacation,” we’ve got some tips that can help make your staycation just as much fun as a traveling vacation—not to mention more affordable and hassle-free.  

7 steps to a successful staycation

  1. Have a budget. The average American goes nearly $400 over budget on vacation. But you can still have a fun time with a smaller budget. There are plenty of fun things to do for little to no cost, like visiting local parks or participating in community events. Check sites like Groupon and Living Social to find coupons and deals for local activities and dining.

  2. Make a plan. A few weeks in advance, get the gang together and list everything you’d like to do. Museum visits, sporting events, day trips, the zoo…create a plan, so everyone has something to enjoy.

  3. Make mealtimes easy. Take a vacation from the kitchen. Visit your favorite restaurants or order carryout. If you’d rather not eat out every day, make a few meals ahead of time and freeze them for easy heat and serve, or make simple meals like sandwiches. When the weather is nice, grill outside or pick up goodies from the grocery store for a picnic.

  4. Ditch the chores. Just as you would before any vacation, get your house in good order before your staycation starts…and don’t worry about laundry or vacuuming until your staycation is over.

  5. Take photos. You’ll make just as many memories close to home as you would on a traveling vacation, so take photos and videos of all the fun.

  6. Unplug. This is a time to experience, enjoy and just be together. Let everyone at work know (firmly) that you’ll be incommunicado, and don’t check work emails or handle any work tasks while you’re off. 

  7. Schedule some down time. Don’t exhaust yourselves with a constant, “Go, go, go!” mindset. That can tend to make everyone of any age cranky. Sleep in a couple of mornings or spend an afternoon or an evening relaxing in the backyard.

Some staycation ideas 

Here are a few suggestions for things to do on your staycation. While your hometown might not have every activity available, this list may spark other ideas in your own area.

  • Take advantage of low weekday crowds. Are there places you haven’t been able to visit because they’re too crowded on the weekends? This is your chance! Go mini-golfing, visit a popular museum exhibit or see a matinee movie. (Hint: Weekday prices can be lower, too.)

  • Have foodie fun or a tasting tour. Visit local restaurants you’ve always wanted to try. Visit nearby towns with a fun dining scene or ethnic foods you’d like to experience. If you’re not staycationing with little ones, check out local wineries or breweries—but make sure you have a plan for a designated driver or be ready to request an Uber.

  • Plan a game or movie day at home. Stock up on snacks and get the video or board games ready for a super gaming extravaganza. Or, if your family is more into movies, rent or stream your favorite movies for an all-day marathon.

  • Vacation at a nearby rental. If you’d like to splurge a bit, reserve an Airbnb-type rental, a B&B or a budget hotel room in your area for a couple of nights. Try switching up the location from your usual; exchange the suburbs for the city or the city for the country.

  • Take in a concert or festival. Especially in the summer, you can find low-cost or free local festivals and concerts to enjoy. Check your county and community websites for schedules—and don’t forget to check local universities, museums and other community venues to see what’s available.

  • Camp out in the backyard. Set up a tent, get out the sleeping bags, and spend a night outdoors. Grill dinner, roast marshmallows and tell scary stories by firelight.

  • Take a hike or a bike. Find new hiking trails to explore and spend time in nature. Don’t forget to equip yourself with safety gear (i.e., mosquito and tick repellent), water bottles and transportable snacks.

  • Go canoeing or kayaking. If you can borrow the equipment rather than rent or buy it, so much the better. But if it’s in the budget, a day on a river or lake is a wonderful way to get some exercise and enjoy the peace and quiet of being on the water. 

Whether you take a long weekend or a full week, some advance planning can make your staycation as memorable as a “regular” vacation trip. Not to mention a lot more relaxing, since you don’t have to worry about crowded airport security lines, missed flights or off-schedule itineraries. We hope we’ve inspired you to consider your own staycation this year—and that you have a wonderful time!