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Stick Around for an Amazing Staycation
By Joan Whetzel
Staycations are the latest craze these days. Between the economy, people being out of jobs, and the price of gasoline, the cost of taking a regular vacation can break the bank for many of us. Vacations and trips can be taken any time of year, even on holidays, without spending tons of money simply by staying home. These staycations are especially nice for seniors who may be on a fixed income.
What Is a Staycation?
Staycation is a recently invented term meaning a vacation you take at home or close to home. The idea is to spend time relaxing at home, either alone or with family, or perhaps venturing out for a day trip or a weekend getaway. These brief interludes away from home should ideally be within a two hour drive each way. Anything longer than that starts eating into your gasoline budget, not to mention your fun time. Staycation activities can range anywhere from spending time in a backyard or community swimming pool to visiting local parks, museums and festivals.
The key is to steer clear of your household routines, to call a moratorium on chores as much as possible - obviously groceries will need to be purchased and laundry doesn't do itself. Make it feel like a real vacation without sticking to any rigid plans. Simply make a list of all the fun things you can do (make sure at least half are free), find out how much each item on the list will cost you, and then figure out what your budget will allow. Go through the list and pick out the "must haves" that fit into your budget (there may only be 2 or 3 "must haves" that come with a price tag), then arrange all the items in order, from the ones you most want to do to the least popular.
The only real rules are that:
- you should do at least one item on each family member's wish list.
- you should try your darndest to stay within your budget.
- and you should have fun, no matter what you are doing.
It has been my experience that, when my kids were growing up, that the best inexpensive staycation "trips" and activities were the ones that were free or extremely low cost because there were no rules that had to be observed, there were no time or budget restrictions, and we all got to spend time together having fun. We didn't have to keep saying "no, we can't afford it" or "no we won't have time."
It may be starting to become obvious, but the benefits of a staycation are:
1. They cost way less than a regular vacation - no plane fare, no hotels (except maybe one over-nighter), few if any restaurant bills, no car rentals, less gasoline use than an average 2- week road trip.
2. They are less stressful because you don't have to pack suitcases, you don't have to keep everyone on time to and from the airports, there are no long drives, no long waits at airports, little or no chance of anyone wandering off and getting lost, no one is squeezed into a tight airplane compartment for hours on end, no screaming babies (hopefully), no sticking to an itinerary.
3. You get spend more time relaxing than travelling to and from a vacation destination.
4. The economic benefit alone is a major plus. You get to have more fun for less money, and there's less stress over how much is being spent.
5. Your vacation dollars stay within the local economy, benefitting local businesses.
6. By using less gas (either in the car, in taxis, or in airplanes), your benefitting the environment by reducing fossil fuel emissions.
7. If you don't let your friends and extended family know you're taking a staycation, then they won't invite themselves along - unless, you want them to join you. You get to decide which way is more fun.
Put out the "Gone Fishing" Sign
Put the world on hold for a while with one of these staycation ideas:
- Take a Time Out: Remove all reminders of time (watches, clocks, TVs, newspapers.
- Put Out the "Gone Fishing" Sign: Put on the answering machine and don't return calls (unless it's an emergency), put a message on your e-mail letting that responds to all incoming messages that you will be out for the next 2 weeks and to address their problems to someone else (provide the names of people they can contact in your absence), turn off your cell phone, let friends and family know that you will be out of pocket and that you will only check your phone once a day in case there's an emergency.
- Skip the News: the news is depressing, so unless you need to check the weather before an all day outing, leave it off. In fact, try to leave the TV off altogether, why get caught up in a bunch of reruns and movies that have been out for a while. You can do that any old time. You're on vacation, so take a vacation from the same old same old TV show. Of course, if it's a rainy day, then rent some movies, or pull out those DVDs you haven't watched in a long time, pop some pop corn, and have an all-day- in-PJs-eating-indoor-picnics-movie-day camp- out in the living room.
Fun and Games Staycation
Stock up on all the games you used to love playing as a kid or that your kids love playing. These make for great rainy day staycation activities. Try:
- classic board games.
- computer games.
- game machine games that play through the TV.
- Karaoke machine and music.
- card games.
The Romantic Staycation
Fill your home with all the romantic things you always wanted to try but never had the time or energy to do. Romantic picnic foods and meals, chocolate or a little whipped cream, a fire in the fireplace (you may have to lower the temperature on the A/C), dim the lights, wear sexy garments, romantic movies….
Take photos of everything you do to document your staycation. Include the places you go and the food you ate. Don't forget to take photos of the guy delivering your pizza or Chinese food, they were, after all, part of the staycation too. And if part of your staycation was an evening spent at the local mall's parking lot carnival, then document that in photos too. Some day you'll back at those photos and remember how you didn't have much to spend that year but you sure had a blast the day you rode the "zipper" after stuffing down an entire pizza.
The Hometown Tourist Staycation
This staycation includes all the trips you might take to the local tourist attractions:
- the zoo
- the beach (if you live near one)
- local parks
- State Parks
- the backyard or community pool
- walking tours of downtown
- haunted houses
- the library
- hiking and biking trails
- arts and crafts shows
- local carnivals
- local amusement parks
- local festivals
Backyard Camping Staycations
Can't afford the camping trip to the local State Park or National Park? Or perhaps all the camping spaces filled up before you could sign up for one. No problem. Camp out in your own back yard. Put up the tent and sleeping bags. Set up the backyard volleyball net. Pack the ice chest and fill up on foods that can be grilled. Carry along a portable radio so you can listen to music or the home team's baseball games. But there is to be absolutely NO television. And you can only go indoors to use the restroom, to refill the ice chest, and to take showers.
Catch Up on Your Reading Staycation
This is another "turn off the TV and computer" staycation. You've got that stack of books you've been wanting to read for ages. So settle in on the couch with your snuggliest pajamas and blanket, turn on the stereo for some soft reading music, stack up those books on the coffee table, and spend some time doing nothing but enjoying some good books.
The Home Spa Staycation
This is the kind of staycation you take when you've gotten so stressed by work and life situations, that you have to hide out from the world for a while and take care of yourself. Things to do on a home spa staycation include:
- turning off the alarm clock and staying in bed until you feel like getting up.
- going to bed whenever you feel sleepy.
- taking naps.
- taking long bubble baths.
- giving yourself manicures, pedicures, facials.
- stocking up on and eating healthy foods.
- taking a vacation from coffee and caffeine, sodas, and alcohol.
- lounging around in comfy clothes - ladies, no panty hose allowed!
- running around barefoot.
- not wearing makeup.
- getting a massage.
- getting exercise (hike and bike outdoors if you like).
- spending time outdoors catching a few rays, it'll do wonders for your spirits.
- spending time reading your favorite fiction genres or inspirational books and articles.
- writing in your journal.
- daydreaming, meditating, or contemplating.
Staycations for Seniors
Seniors can take advantage of Senior citizens discounts to make their staycations even more affordable. What's more, if you plan your staycation for those periods when kids are in school, you'll have a much quieter and calmer staycation because you won't be competing with families.
- Join AARP for their many discounts,
- Eat at restaurants that offer senior citizen's discounts
- Look for entertainment venues (museums, State Parks, movies) that offer senior discounts.
- If travelling to another city, many holtels offer senior discounts.
Staycation Ideas in the Houston Area
For those of you staycationing in the Houston area, here are a few places to consider putting on your list of things to do:
- Houston Zoo
- Museums in Houston or Galveston
- Downtown Aquarium
- Galveston Duck Tours
- Galveston seawall and beaches.
- The Strand in Galveston
- Moody Gardens
- Schlitterbahn Water Park
- Galveston Island Pleasure Pier
- Kima Boardwalk
- The Woodlands Children's Museum
- Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
- Miller Outdoor Theater
- Brazos Bend State Park
- Johnson Space Center tours
- Any of the city parks in Houston or Galveston
- Blue Bell Ice Cream
Of corse, this is by no means an exhaustive list. There are so many more ways to staycation without spending yourself into a hole. If you know what you need to get out of it ahead of time, it does make it easier to plan or spontaneously enjoy your next staycation.
Houston Staycation Guide. Welcome to Houston Staycation Guide.
Breslow Sardone, Susan. About.com. Top 10 Staycation Strategies.
Petersen, Josh. Planet Green. 5 Staycations You Can Take at Home.
Real Simple. How to Kick Back, Relax, and Vacation at Home.