12 Tips for Creating a Staycation on a Budget
Although the term, Staycation, was first coined just prior to the financial crisis of the late 2000s, the idea of staying and playing locally rather than traveling to distant, expensive destinations (thus saving significantly on the cost of the getaway) has been around much, much longer. “Staycation” and its sister expressions, “HoliStay,” “Daycation” and “NearCation,” gained popularity in response to the financial challenges many households faced in coming up with sufficient resources to go on annual family vacations, especially prior to the summer of 2008 when gas prices had reached record levels.
Before getting into our list of ideas for fun and affordable Staycations, let’s better understand the reasons we go on vacations. Foreign lands, new experiences, unfamiliar cultures, and novel adventures draw us away from our routines at work, at school, and at home. Traveling to distant beaches or unknown cities may seem to be just what the getaway doctor would order. Why is such the case for so many of us? Most of us would agree that there are plenty of museums, resorts, hotels, campsites, and other attractions we have not visited that are within an hour’s drive of our home. Why do we trade these local treats in favor of traveling across the country? Herein lies the key to both enjoyable vacations and successful staycations.
By getting out of town and heading to distant lands (or seas), we are guaranteed to disconnect from our routine, from the tedious and from the mundane of our overscheduled, overworked, underappreciated busy lives. Consequently, we fear that if we stay too close to home, we may not get enough of a break from everyday life to provide our minds and souls the rest we sometimes so desperately need.
Once we understand the reason for this pull to the unknown and the faraway, we can better design vacations that fulfill our need for a break without breaking the bank. Before sharing a few ideas for great staycations, I recommend that you acquaint yourself with the following list of critical steps to getting away from it all without getting into lots of debt or incurring major travel bills. Disconnecting is the key. What do we need to disconnect from? Start by disconnecting from these 7 everyday demands:
1. Work: Leave it behind. Whatever you do during your staycation, stay away from your office. Don’t bring your laptop. Don’t check your email. This is a staycation, not a stay-conference.
2. Phone: Whether you choose to leave the actual device at home or bring it with you, disconnecting is still critical. Most smartphones have sound settings that allow you to mute all income rings except those from your “Favorites” list. Make sure your favorites list only has your emergency contacts and, if applicable, the babysitter’s phone number.
3. Internet and social media: Don’t. Just don’t. Don’t surf. Don’t post. Don’t blog. Don’t upload. Leave that until AFTER you return to reality. Stop thinking or worrying about what others would think about your experience. Get your own mind focused to enjoy the moment.
4. Housework: It is difficult to have a staycation at home because there always seem to be dishes to do, rooms to vacuum, shelves to dust, laundry to wash, and floors to sweep. If you struggle to put the broom down and step away, then a NearCation (staying away from home but close by) might be necessary for you.
5. Meal planning and preparation: Forget the shopping for groceries, the mixing, the pre-heating, the serving and the dishes. One of the most important parts of successful staycations is getting rid of the ordinary and experiencing the new. Go to a new restaurant. Try a deli you have never visited. Eat at a dessert place you have always wondered about.
6. Homework: This is a hard one, especially if Mom and Dad are worried about their child’s grades. It may take some “Pre-Cation” planning, but get all of the necessary homework done ahead of time. Books for reading and relaxation are fine. But textbooks have this funny tendency of draining the fun out of the day.
7. Disconnect from projects: Are you in the middle of painting a room? Landscaping the yard? Working on the truck? Give yourself permission to take a break for a few days.
With these 7 keys to disconnecting, you can plan some awesome, personalized staycations. If you would like some ideas to kick-start your brainstorming, consider the following ideas for turning expensive vacations into affordable and refreshing staycations:’
1. From Foreign Lands to Foreign Brands: Can’t afford a cruise to Mexico? How about a staycation where everything you do is Mexico-themed? Find some good Mexican restaurants. Watch a movie on Netflix or Amazon that is set in Mexico. Set up a piñata in the park for no special reason. Hang out at a local pool or beach. Drink some horchata or your favorite flavor from Jarritos. Listen to your local Spanish language radio station.
Perhaps you were hoping for a trip to Italy? Your options are unlimited. Consider Italianizing your food, your music, your activities and your entertainment. The same can be done for most foreign (and even many domestic) destinations.
2. From a Night on the Town to a Night in the Town: Although this suggestion involves paying for hotel nights, it can be a huge piece of the puzzle to making your staycation a success. Find a nice, local hotel that is running a special and use the hotel room as your base for a day or two or more while on staycation. This is probably the surest way to get you away from the routines of home.
3. From National Parks to State Parks: For couples and families who enjoy visiting national parks around the country each summer, it can be difficult to think of foregoing the beauty of our national parks. That said, every state has from a dozen or two to a couple hundred state parks and historical sites. Not all will be as awe-inspiring as the Grand Canyon, as unbelievable as Zion’s in Utah, as majestic as El Capitan in Yosemite, or as deliciously scenic as Acadia in Maine. Still, visiting state parks should be on our destination vacation bucket list. Find a park or two within driving distance, do some fun research beforehand to build the anticipation, and spend a few hours getting to know your friendly neighborhood parklands, beaches, and historical sites.
4. From Pop Up Trailers to Pop Up Pools: If you often take long road trips dragging your camper around the country in the summer, you might consider this alternative. Instead of spending all of that money on gas and park fees, consider using a portion of the money to purchase something fun (and durable) for the backyard. It might be a trade-off, but compared to a week of the nomadic life, an inflatable pool, a trampoline, or even a new fire pit in the backyard can be the source of years of family fun.
5. From The Great Outdoors to The Great Indoors: When money is tight, this option can be fun and create some great memories when there are young kids involved. Rather than a weekend away at a camp or resort, set up your tent in the family room. Throw in the sleeping bags, make some popcorn or other fun treats, play some games and even watch a movie through the tent door. Even though you are in the familiar surroundings of home, the novelty of a tent in the family room may just turn out to be the most memorable activity of the year.
As you consider affordable alternatives to traditional and expensive summer vacations, you may just find a new tradition that not only saves money and time but also builds family bonds that endure far beyond even the most remote of destination resort locations.
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