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Staycation: The Cheapest Vacation

Updated on January 17, 2016
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Dr. Penny Pincher founded the popular personal finance blog Penny Pincher Journal in 2013 and has published two books about saving money.

Staycation- Avoid the Hassles of a Vacation

The main hassles and expenses of taking a vacation involve travel, lodging, and food. What if you could simply skip these things on your next vacation? You can- take a staycation instead of a vacation.

Airfare is very expensive and air travel is stressful. Even though airplanes fly at high speeds, you may need to leave for the airport hours before your flight departs. At the airport you face lines everywhere, not to mention security screenings. If you have connecting flights, there is stress involved with making your connecting flight.

Travel can be stressful- take a staycation instead!
Travel can be stressful- take a staycation instead! | Source

Traveling by car is time-consuming and fuel costs add up quickly. If you're the driver and your trip involves city driving at rush hour, this can be even more stressful than flying.

Staying in a hotel typically costs over $100 per night at popular destinations. If your vacation involves a long driving trip, you may need to stay one or more nights in a hotel each way on your trip.

Enjoying some nice meals while on vacation is great, but eating out all the time can get old and certainly gets expensive.

How can you avoid these expenses and still enjoy time off from the daily grind? Take a staycation! A staycation is a way to relax and spend time with family without spending a lot of money.

Take a Staycation, not a Vacation...

When you take a staycation, you use your bedroom instead of a hotel room and spend your time off near home rather than traveling far from home. Taking a staycation greatly reduces travel expenses since you don't travel far. Not only does this save money, but this saves time- often a large portion of time on vacation is spent in transit. Since you will be able prepare and eat some of your meals at home, you'll save money on food as well.

Save Money Taking a Staycation Instead of a Traditional Vacation
Save Money Taking a Staycation Instead of a Traditional Vacation | Source

What to Do on Staycation

The cost savings of a staycation vs. a vacation is readily apparent. You can take a staycation from almost no money compared with a vacation that can easily cost many thousands of dollars. But what can you do on a staycation?

Do a Staycation Home Improvement Project

I like to plan some projects around home as activities on staycation. Get the whole family involved- that way you can spend time together as well as complete projects. Choose a rewarding, enduring project such as landscaping or painting a room- projects like this will last for years and will bring back memories of working together on the project with your family.

One spring break, we build a playcenter in the backyard- I think the adventure of building the playcenter was as much fun as playing in it in the years that followed.

Discover Local Attractions

Another staycation activity is visiting local attractions. There are probably museums, historical sites, local sports teams, and other attractions in your area that you have not taken time to fully explore. Part of the fun of planning a staycation can be doing some research to discover fun and interesting local activities.

Visit a Nearby City on Staycation

Even if you are on staycation, you can still drive a bit and be able to stay in your own bed at night. Depending on what activities you would like to do at your destination, you may be able to drive to reach a day trip destination up to 200 miles away. For example, here is a staycation itinerary to visit a nearby city:

  • Leave first thing in the morning (6 am)
  • Drive 4 hours to cover 200 miles (6 am to 10 am)
  • Spend 8 hours at your destination (10 am to 6 pm)
  • Drive 4 hours to return home (10 pm)

How to Make Staycation Memories

If you spend your entire staycation at home watching movies, this will not create many memories. Your staycation memories will blend in with ordinary weekend memories, and you may be disappointed with your staycation.

Instead, treat your staycation like a real vacation to the extent possible. Here are some tips to maximize the impact of your staycation:

  • Make a list of activities you want to do ahead of time- just as you would when you go on a vacation
  • Remember to take pictures and video of your staycation.
  • Even if you stay local, you can see your hometown through the eyes of a tourist instead of a resident- try new things!
  • Don't advertise to co-workers that you will be around town- this may result in interruptions
  • Save chores until after staycation to the extent possible. This is easier said than done- you may feel like you need to keep up with cleaning and other chores at home, but try to save this stuff for after your staycation.

Homewood Suites: Lots of Hotel Value for the Money
Homewood Suites: Lots of Hotel Value for the Money | Source

Staycation at a Hotel

Here is a staycation idea that I tried this summer that challenges the definition of a staycation a bit: I stayed at a hotel 15 miles from my house. Why would I want to do that?

The hotel, a Homewood Suites, has a nice indoor swimming pool, free dinner every night, and a free breakfast buffet every morning. There are shopping areas, museums, and other attractions within walking distance. The hotel room also had a coffee maker with free coffee- but use a hotel coffee maker at your own risk...

A hotel staycation was a nice break for only $75. We arrived at the hotel early- in time for dinner of course. We went swimming, then checked out some attractions withing walking distance, then went swimming again. The next morning, it was time for more swimming and free breakfast buffet. I am looking forward to doing this again soon. In fact, I even considered whether it would be possible to retire by living at a hotel such as Homewood Suites...

Do you think a staycation would be more relaxing than a vacation?

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Plan a Great Staycation

There are a lot of things you can do on a staycation. Just eliminate the long expensive travel and most or all of the hotel stays and you've got the makings for a staycation.

Start with an outline for your staycation: How much time do you have for your staycation? How much money do you have budgeted for your staycation? This will give you an idea of how many activities you can undertake and how much you will have available to spend on food and activities.

Next move on to activity ideas for a staycation. This can be challenging and may take some research to find interesting attractions and activities in your area. These may not be things you have dreamed of seeing since you were a child, but should be things you will be glad you did and spend time doing with your family.

Don't forget to include the meal plans for each meal every day of your staycation- sketch out which meals will be at home, which you will pack at home and take with you, and which will be meals out. You may choose to dine out quite a bit or even every meal if your budget allows. This can make staying at home seem like a lot of fun if you get to eat out all the time!

The key to having a great staycation is to make it your own- do what you want to do! Relax and enjoy it even more knowing how much you are saving by taking a staycation rather than a vacation.

© 2013 Dr Penny Pincher


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