Whether you’re saving for a major life event, catching up on debts, or you have a limited number of vacation days each year, it’s easy to spend a lot of time longing for a vacation. But the great thing about vacations is that they can be just about whatever you want them to be! With a little bit of creativity and pre-planning, you can enjoy some time off outside of the restrictions that larger vacations impose. When you need one, staycations are a great way to rest, recharge, and give yourself the break you deserve. And the best part: they’re often much more affordable, too. So, you can put that money you saved aside for something better.
As important as it is to pay bills and save for the future, it’s important to budget for your wants, too. This will help you prevent financial burnout and ensure that you have something to look forward to. Allocating some of your “wants money” to a staycation is an excellent way to make use of the money, and budgeting for that staycation will help you keep from overspending into other categories. First, determine the number of days you’ll be taking off. Then, take inventory of your discretionary income so that you can begin to break it down into separate categories once you’ve decided what you want to do and how much you want to spend.
In the United States, the average summer vacation costs nearly $2,000. By searching for free or cheap activities that are close to home, you can eliminate the two largest budget-busters of most vacations: airfare and housing. This way, your staycation will come in at a mere fraction of the cost of a traditional vacation. Just one quick search will reveal a variety of activities you can take advantage of in your city and surrounding cities, too. Parks, historical areas, museums, and libraries are often very cost-friendly, if not entirely free. Walking tours (regular or haunted!) are a great way to learn about your city’s history and see new sights, too.
A key component of many vacations is spending time in the great outdoors. Beach visits and hiking trips are nearly always free (outside of parking in some places). And renting a canoe or kayak to take out on a lake is easy and won’t break the bank. Pack a picnic using what you have at home and you’ve got a fun and affordable way to spend a full day on your vacation. Time spent in nature in the sweet, fresh air will help recharge your batteries. You can also pack a picnic to take into your yard or a nearby park, as well.
Across the country, there are incredible, scenic, and affordable state and national parks to visit. Many of these parks are free to visit, others might charge a per-vehicle fee depending on the park policies and whether or not you’re a resident of the state. You can find this information on their individual websites. If you’re traveling across the state or into another, consider camping there instead of returning home at the end of the day. Campsites generally cost less than half the amount of a night in a hotel. Camping will also give you some time away from home where you’ll be tempted to check in on your emails or complete other tasks that might make this feel more like a chore weekend than an alternative vacation.
Sometimes, it can be fun to be spontaneous. But when your goal is to save money during an incredible staycation, creating your itinerary ahead of time will help you stay on track. Your itinerary will give you specific activities, sights, or events to look forward to so that last-minute expenses or additions are less appealing. Of course, that’s not to say that you shouldn’t give yourself a bit of leeway if a free or affordable alternative pops up along the way. Do what works best for you but keep your budget in mind as you go.