Having Fun on a Budget: Embracing the Staycation

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In tough financial times, many people don’t have money to spare for a real vacation. Conflicting work and school schedules can also make a traditional vacation impossible. Luckily, you and your family can have just as much fun by treating yourselves to a “staycation,” in which you stay at home and embrace nearby attractions. Not only do you avoid the hassle of long-distance car trips and frustrating lines at the airport, but you also save a ton money and get the comfort of knowing that there’s a safe place to come back to at the end of each day.

Here are some ways to start planning a staycation of your own:

Family Affairs

After living in the same place for many years, many people forget about all of the interesting activities that are right at their fingertips. Take the family to places like the local zoo, museum, aquarium, or maybe even a concert in the park. Most places offer reduced rates or free admission if you visit during the week or their off-seasons.

Make the outing extra special by packing a picnic basket that includes one of each family member’s favorite foods, and take a big blanket to relax on under a big shady tree. To beat the heat during summer months, create your own family film festival by going to see a different movie four or five days in a row in a cool air-conditioned theater. See movies in the afternoon to take advantage of bargain matinee prices. Let each family member pick a movie to see to maintain peace and broaden everyone’s horizons.

Romantic Staycations

Couples can also benefit from staycations and have fun sharing new experiences. You might not be able to take a Caribbean cruise on your budget, but you can take a romantic dinner cruise on a nearby river or bay. Dress in your finest clothes and enjoy the fresh night air as you whirl around the dance floor to live music, or look for a more casual cruise that with either country or rock ‘n’ roll vibes. Check out a few different weekend cruises on riverboats, or rent a houseboat with your partner and kick back while meandering on the local lake. Instead of traveling to exotic lands with white sandy beaches, check out nearby beaches and create your own carefree paradise with a cooler full of tropical drinks, fresh fruit salad, and hearty deli sandwiches.

Off the Beaten Path

Spa vacations are relaxing but pricey, even if you stick close to home. However, if you choose to go during a spa’s slow season, you can get up to half off their regular prices. If that still seems like too much for you, you could go even simpler by transforming the bed and bath areas in your own home into a home spa. Exchange oil-enhanced massages with your partner and create a relaxing atmosphere by placing scented aromatherapy candles all around the bedroom. Fill the tub with bath salts and bubbles and relax with a good book and some soft background music. Physical fitness buffs can enjoy staycations that include hiking in local parks or climbing through regional mountain ranges. If you live near a large metropolitan area, take the train or bus into the heart of the city. Pretend you’re a tourist and explore the local shops, restaurants, and attractions you’ve never visited.

Make the World Go Away

Time often dictates too much of our lives. Between work and school hours and time spent driving to and from sports practices and other extracurricular activities, you may feel like you hardly have a second to breathe. For that reason, you should start your staycation by taking all the clocks in your house and hiding them in a closet or drawer — and don’t forget your wristwatches. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by how much freedom the lack of visible timepieces gives you.

Gather up the family phones and turn off all the ringers. If you have a landline, set the answering feature to mute so you don’t hear incoming calls. Limit yourself to message checking once a day, or if you want to really take charge of your life and enjoy your staycation to the fullest, don’t check them at all until your time off is over.

Compose a simple message on your email explaining that you’re unavailable and will respond to all messages when you return from your vacation. Even if your family and friends know you’re just lounging around or on a streaming binge, they’ll get the message that you don’t want to be disturbed and respect your privacy. Cover your desktop with a throw blanket, and place your laptops and tablets in the hallway closet. Establish a penalty for cheating and make your staycation partners promise to uphold the pact. Experiencing the freedom of not always being “on call” for the world can be a huge relief and improve your overall mental health.

No Electronics

Don’t watch any news broadcasts or news-based TV shows for the duration of your staycation. Don’t open any mail. When your holiday is over, you’ll find that the bills are still there, but those precious days without any stress are absolutely priceless. The world will keep spinning without your input.

Once you realize how relaxing and cost-effective staycations can be, you may never leave your hometown again. Keep a journal of annual festivals and celebrations that match your tastes, and plan your staycations well in advance to get the most out of your community and maximize your fun.

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