With two kids in college, and one on the way (to college), we don’t have a lot of extra cash just laying around and even if we did, we are not big travellers, so we have become the King and Queen of the staycation.
Now the first thing you have to understand about choosing to take a staycation is you can not let it become a second class citizen to a “real” vacation. A staycation is a real vacation, just done in your own home. If you get in the mind set that you are somehow being cheated by staying at home, you will not enjoy yourself and you will not feel as if you have had a vacation.
Unlike vacations, though there are rules to staycations. It’s too easy to think, we are at home, we can do the same things we normally do at home and still be on vacation. Nope, that doesn’t work. Just like when you go on vacation, you need to spend a few days preparing for the time off: Clean the house, wash up all the clothes (if it helps, pack a suitcase), cut the grass, get all chores done up, so the entire time of the staycation is spent on vacationing. We find it’s also important to let our friends and bosses know we are on vacation. We do answer email and cell phones, but only once a day just like if we were away.
We prefer to staycate for three-four day weekends. One they allow Hubby to take less time off work, two, because we aren’t driving, we have just as much down time as a five day vacation about 6 hours or more from home, and third, let’s face it vacations can be exhausting for long periods of time.
So you’ve decided to staycate in your own home. How are you going to entertain yourself? We are fortunate, we have a swimming pool, so we are able to relax around it, but you may not have that luxury. What would you do if you went on vacation to a strange town? Would you shop, eat out, sight see, swim, nap, read a book by the pool? You need an agenda for your staycation, just like you need one for you vacation. And you need a realistic budget. Granted you are probably staying at home because it’s cheaper. You are saving money on the bed you are going to sleep in. Can you splurge a little on food? Instead of grilling out at home, just like you’d probably do if you weren’t on staycation, could you afford to eat out at least one meal in a nice restaurant? One way we save money, is we eat out at least one night, and let the kids have pizza at home. Our local pizza place has pizza for $5-6 each, so we can feed the 3 young adults for around $12 and dad and I can go out to eat one night somewhere nice. The kids don’t mind staying at home and having a movie marathon.
Entertainment is the next place we spend money on vacation. Once you have determined your staycation budget, look around close to home to see if there aren’t things you’d like to do. Look for free things or things that offer coupons. Groupon works in your hometown just like it does in strange towns. We look in a 1-2 hour radius of our house. Since we are on staycation, we don’t mind driving a little bit to a tourist place for the day, because we are saving so much on hotels and food. We usually will do something like that one day of the staycation and then spend the rest of the time resting at home. Remember, no chores! You are on staycation.
Make every meal special. It’s easy at home to get into a rut. When we are on vacation, we grill steaks on the back steps of the condo and think we are eating in luxury. But when we are at home, we treat it like drudge work. Go buy a new table cloth (I got one for the forth of July for $3) and some candles and decorate the table. Eat by candlelight. It’s incredibly romantic, doesn’t cost much and makes the table way more inviting. Who knows, you may just keep that for after the staycation. Don’t forget to invite friends or family over one night. A party is a great way to celebrate being at home. If everyone brings part of the meal, it can be an incredibly cheap way for everyone to have a great meal. Have those that play instruments bring them, sit up card tables, make it fun. Just because you are at home, doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy yourself.
Send the kids on an overnight with a friend or grandma at least one night. REPEAT. Send the kids on an overnight with a friend or grandma at least one night. They will adore you because they get to do what they really want to do on vacation, hang with their friends and eat pizza and stay up late, and you get to have a romantic evening with your spouse without the pitter patter of little feet (or in our case, huge feet). Get some candles, some scented bath oils, whatever your budget can afford and rent a good romantic movie. I’ll leave the rest to your imagination.
If your budget allows, rent a hotel room for that night. Most allow you to check in early and stay late. Use the pool and relax around it. We found some rooms locally were as cheap as $60 a night in the off season. Not a bad way to relax and save a lot of money.
Make of list now of all the things you’d love to do if you had a few days off. Scratch chores off that list, unless it’s something you really do find relaxing to do. If you say, I’d love to just sit and read a book for three hours, then save it for your staycation. Now you can sit in your own living room, feet propped up, jammies on, and read for three solid hours, without one ounce of guilt. Part of the reason we think staycations are boring is we fail to prepare for how we are going to spend our time. Write the tourism bureau in your state and see what is nearby to do. Plan just like if you were going to some far off location. Dollywood is only exotic because you tell yourself its exotic. Otherwise it’s just an expensive tourist trap, with rooms on the sides of hills that could fall if someone sneezed too hard. It’s all about your perception. (P. S. I love Dollywood too, but it is expensive to go there, unless you can staycate and drive up for one day.)
If what you’ve always wanted to do was work a puzzle, then dump one on the card table and have at it. The important part is reminding yourself that you are having fun. Just because you are shopping at the same shopping center you shop at every week, doesn’t mean you aren’t having fun. It just means you are buying clothes that aren’t going to be too hot or too cold for the climate you live in when you get home. Just because you are eating at the same diner you eat in every other week, doesn’t mean you aren’t having fun, it just means you know the cook doesn’t have a communicable disease and they weren’t shut down last week for several health violations.
Just because you sleep in your own bed, doesn’t mean you can’t relax and enjoy it. In fact, you’ll probably sleep better at home. If you really need to drive six hours to feel like you are on vacation, then drive three hours, turn around and drive three hours back. Though that does negate a great deal of the staycation savings you’ll get from staying at home.
Take lots of pictures of your staycation and post them on social media. No, I am serious. Most of our perception of are we having fun is if someone else thinks we are having fun. Post a picture of your mini family reunion. Post a picture of the kids roasting hot dogs over the charcoal grill. Post a picture of your toes on a blanket with a picnic basket beside them. Once you start looking for the ways you are having fun, you will see that you really are having fun. And saving money. And relaxing.
Our last staycation was wonderful. We took a day trip to Vicksburg and toured the Civil War battlefield there. The rest of the time, we relaxed by the pool, challenged each other to games on the Wii, and went for slow walks around the neighborhood each night. We did rent a room outside of Vicksburg one night, but the rest of the four days, we stayed at home. Savings on hotel rooms $450-$800. We ate at home, saving the one nice meal for the day we were in Vicksburg. Savings around $50-60. We did spend money driving to Vicksburg, so no real savings on gas, though the rest of the week, the cars never left the driveway. Still that’s $500-$860 in the bank to put towards college! And we still had a vacation.
Now finally, part of the allure of staying in a hotel room is they are clutter free environments where you don’t’ have to deal with the stresses of everyday life. The closet only has a few outfits hanging in it, instead of being crammed full of stuff that is too big, small, or stained for you to wear. The dresser top has a lamp, a tv remote and a pad of paper. The bathroom is clean and clutter free. It has a towel rack, a blow drier and a cup for you to drink coffee out of. Home is very different. It is chaotic, cluttered, stress filled. The most important thing you can do to make a staycation feel like a vacation is to declutter your bedroom and bathroom, so that they feel like an oasis. Spend the time you have between now and your staycation to get those rooms decluttered and stressless. Spend a small part of the money you are going to be saving to paint or redecorate something small in each room. That way your staycation will go on all year long. And the money you save on hotel rooms and gas traveling to strange cities can go to something important like the water bill, or the mortgage.
Happy Staycation! Think of what you are doing for the environment by staying at home this summer.