When you mention taking a vacation, some people imagine long, luxurious trips to faraway, foreign places, eating local cuisine and embracing a new place. Others picture road trips to familiar places just a couple of hours away—be it a beach, a lakeside cabin, or a mountain house. No matter what you picture, we can all agree on one thing: vacations are a time to relax, unplug, and unwind from all the daily stressors going on in our lives.
As lovely and relaxing as vacations can be, they add up quickly. The average vacation costs almost $1,500 a person—or $4,500 for a family of four, and in the U.S., over $1.1 trillion was spent on travel in one year alone. Keeping those numbers in mind, it’s clear that not everyone can afford the bucket-list vacation of their dreams.
However, that doesn’t mean you can’t afford to take a vacation, you might just need to take it a little closer to home. “Staycations” are just that—a budget stay-at-home vacation, visiting local attractions and turning your usual surroundings into something to explore.
Staycations are a great option for homebodies, those who don’t like flying, or just those who are curious about learning more about their hometowns. These following tips will help you plan a memorable staycation that’s just as relaxing as going to an all-inclusive resort and are much more wallet-friendly to boot.
Set Your Budget
Just because you aren’t going on a cruise doesn’t mean you can throw your budget out the window on a staycation. Sit down with the family or your significant other and decide what your budget is going to be for your non-trip, and what your limitations are. Decide on a few big-ticket items worth splurging in, like a couple’s trip to a local spa, a day trip to an amusement park, or a fancy dinner out.
From there, structure your budget around how much you want to spend on the rest of the trip. Don’t limit yourself too much (this is a vacation, after all!) but create a budget that you can reasonably stick to. Use this printable budget planner to have an easy place to track your expenses for the staycation, as well as see what your spending looks like.
Plan Your Stay
Once the budget is agreed upon, now comes the fun part—planning the itinerary! No matter if you like having every second of every day planned, or are more of a “go-with-the-flow” type of person, you can agree that having some sort of structure for a vacation is a good idea. Make sure everyone participating in the staycation is able to plan at least one thing they want to do, so they’re getting to take the staycation that they want.
Look into local free or cheap things to do for inspiration, and check online for local deals or coupons for group activities. This could be:
- Going to a fair a few towns over
- Exploring a new farmer’s market
- Hitting up a vineyard tour
- Taking a cooking class
- Hiking a new trail for a day
- Doing a museum tour
Staycations don’t have to just be in your house, so use this opportunity to explore! Don’t be afraid to plan some downtime, too. Half the fun of vacations is simply relaxing with your loved ones, so make sure you’re planning some time to just hang out with those you love.
Stay Somewhere New
The beauty of a staycation is experiencing where you live in a whole new light, almost as if you were a tourist in your own town. If your budget allows, really lean into being a tourist and stay somewhere new for part (or all!) of your staycation. This could be renting a hotel room in the heart of a nearby city for a night, using a home share app to find a cozy home for a few days, or staying with a friend for a night or two.
This way, you’re getting out of your home and treating your staycation like a real vacation. Make sure you’re making the most of your staycation by exploring all of the options your hometown has to offer, and you may find a new favorite spot or neighborhood.
Prep Your Meals
Just because you aren’t going on an exotic vacation with tons of local cuisine doesn’t mean you should stick to the same things you eat on a regular day. Splurge at the grocery store and switch up your staycation meals by planning different themed meal days: a Greek buffet one day with pita and falafel, or a South of the Border day with tacos and salsa. Use these culinary trips to “vacation” there for a day and learn what you can about their cultures—maybe that could be your next real vacation!
A vacation should be special, after all, and one of the most-loved parts of a trip is room service. If you want the little ones in your family to feel like they’re on a real trip, offer up “room service” and let them fill out a custom menu of their desired choices for the next morning. Considering that Americans spend an average of $33 on food a day during a vacation, you’re saving money while still offering up a treat saved for vacations and other special occasions.
Ditch Your Routine
Staying in the same place during a vacation that you live can tempt some people to stick to the same routine as they do daily. Switch up your daily routine by turning off your alarms, and embrace a week full of only doing things because you want to do them, not because you have to. Make sure you’re taking full advantage of your time off by mixing up what you do on a day-to-day basis—including cleaning.
Take care of any necessary chores before the start of your staycation so you don’t disrupt your relaxation by cleaning the tub when you’re supposed to be relaxing. A few days before, do your laundry, clean up, stock up on groceries, and ensure that you’re all set to forget about some of your responsibilities. If you want a true hotel feeling, consider hiring a housekeeper a day or two before your staycation. This way, you’re still getting a fresh and clean space without having to lift a finger, and for a fraction of the cost.
Put it on Hold
One of the best parts about taking some time off is just that—having time off. Even though you aren’t putting an ocean between you and your work, you should still take a break from all the stressors in your daily life. This means muting your email and other work communication (and deleting the apps!), putting your phone on Do Not Disturb, and letting yourself actually relax. You are on vacation, after all! Use the following template to craft your own automated vacation reminder for all email communication, so you can enjoy every second of your time off:
Thank you for your email! I will be out of the office from DATE to DATE and will not have access to email. If this is urgent, please contact NAME at EMAIL and PHONE NUMBER. I will do my best to respond promptly when I return on DATE.
Once your work has been silenced, relish in the ability to do what you please, uninterrupted, for the next couple days. If little ones or roommates tend to interrupt you, treat your home like a real hotel with a printable Do Not Disturb door hanger. Not only does this give everyone involved in the staycation a chance to relax alone, but it also transforms your bedroom into your very own hotel suite—the only thing missing is room service!
Decorate to Relax
If staycation HQ is your house, try switching up your surroundings to match your vacation state of mind. Getting away on a trip means getting to experience a new place with new things, and you shouldn’t give up that sense of newness just because you’re staying at home. Put all your at-home stressors, like the calendar or answering machine, away and focus on taking a well-deserved break from the real world. Here are some easy ways to upgrade your home to be the ultimate staycation relaxation zone:
- Hang a hammock
- Turn your bathroom into a spa
- Assemble an indoor oasis
- Invest in soothing candles
- Break out fuzzy blankets
- Create a garden getaway
With a little elbow grease, your home will be the perfect paradise to host the staycation of your dreams. Maybe these small changes will find a way to be integrated into your day-to-day life, so you can always have a little piece of paradise in your home—and a reminder of your blissful days off during your staycation.
Vacations and staycations alike involve making memories with the people you love most. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter where you go—it matters what you do, and who you do it with. Long after the staycation is over, you’ll be reminiscing on your adventures and all that you did to explore your local surroundings.
What better way to reminisce than with a scrapbook or photo album to look through with your staycation pals? Though everything is digital now, there’s nothing better than flipping through an album as a family or group of friends and revisiting all of your adventures—and this is much cheaper than a snowglobe from a museum. Be sure to take lots of photos to put in your album, and use these printable labels to note where you went and what you did. For years to come, this will serve as a tangible reminder of how much fun you can have by staying close to home.
No matter how you choose to spend your staycation, remember to enjoy it! When you look back on it, you want to remember the wonderful time you had exploring your surroundings with your loved ones. Vacations don’t have to be extravagant to be memorable and fun, and nothing proves that more than a budget-friendly staycation.