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Save Money and Have Fun with a Staycation

If you are trying to save money, a vacation is rarely the first thing that comes to mind. However, what’s the point of living if you can’t actually live a little?

The good news is that enjoying life doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, you can get away even in your own backyard when you decide to have fun with a staycation.

What is a Staycation?

Instead of heading to an exotic locale, the point of the staycation is for you to stick close to home. You engage in some actions that you would enjoy if you were on vacation, but you stay within a couple hours’ drive of your hometown.

A staycation is generally less expensive, since you don’t spend money on the travel costs associated with a distant location (especially if you have to fly to get there.) Additionally, since you stay close to home, you don’t have to worry about other costs, including buying souvenirs, paying for prepared meals in restaurants, and worrying about currency exchange costs.

With the right staycation, you can create great memories for your family without breaking the bank. Here’s a video I created that helps explain staycations.

A Tourist in Your Own Town

You might be surprised to discover the “tourist attractions” in your own town. It’s common to overlook some of the historical sites, museums, and activities that are in your area because you take them for granted.

A staycation is a great way to get to know your city. Check with your town’s visitor’s bureau to find out what there is to do locally. From visiting a special exhibit at the museum to picnicking at a park you had no idea existed to touring a local landmark, you can get a better feel for your town. It’s a great opportunity to do something a little out of the ordinary, often without spending more than a few bucks.

What’s in the Next Town Over?

Another fun staycation idea is to drive to the next town over. Consider staying in an inexpensive hotel with a pool for a night. Just the fun of driving an hour or two to another town, and then playing in the hotel pool, can be a lot of fun. Bring along sandwich fixings in a cooler, or bring hot-dogs to cook up on the grill found at most hotels.

The next day, pick a fun local activity to participate in after you check out of the hotel, and before you head home. If you plan it carefully, and stay at a cheap hotel, you can usually get away with spending less than $300 total for the entire family outing. It gets you out of the house, encourages a bit of family fun, and gives you the chance to really “get away” from your typical life. That’s not bad at all!

Taking a Vacation in Your Own Home

You can even plan a staycation for your own home. If you really want to save money, don’t bother with leaving the house. You can take a little “time out” from life as a staycation.

In order to make this work, though, you have to be prepared to step outside your life. Some ideas for taking a staycation at home include:

  • Backyard camping: Pitch a tent in the backyard. Cook on the grill, or have sandwiches. Make it a point to lay outside on the grass for part of the time, finding constellations.
  • Movie marathon: Find movies that the whole family enjoys and then have a movie marathon for a day. Set up a blanket on the floor of your family room so that you can eat while you watch the movies.
  • Blanket fort: Build a blanket fort in one of the rooms of your house. Have a simple dinner in the fort, and even spend the night in the fort.
  • Family game day: Spend the whole day playing different games. Each family member can choose a favorite game, and you spend all day playing. Enjoy snacks and meals while you do so. It’s a fun way to make memories, and you don’t even have to leave the house.
  • Spa day: You can even have a spa day, if your family situation allows it. Spend the day pampering yourself at home. Use homemade beauty treatments, and consider giving yourself a manicure and a pedicure. It’s relaxing and inexpensive.

No matter what you decide, it’s possible to save money on your vacation and have a great time. Plan a staycation and revel in the savings… and the good memories.

About the Author:  Tom Drake is a long-time Million Dollar Journey reader and the founder of CanadianFinanceBlog.com. For the latest investing advice and money saving tips, join his free newsletter.

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About the author: This is a guest post. You can read more about the author in the biography above.

{ 15 comments… add one }
  • Stephen Weyman September 5, 2014, 11:07 am

    Staycations can be fun but I typically try to find inexpensive ways to travel so that I don’t have to take staycations and still not break the bank.

    With 2 young kids, we did take a staycation this year out of necessity. Travelling long distances with kids is insanity!

    Instead of looking at it as a way to save money, you can also look at it as a way to spend more money on enjoyable stuff. People spend so much money on travel and lodging on vacations that they are hesitant to spend money at restaurants and attractions. If you stay close to home you can up your spending on those splurge items without feeling guilty because it will still probably cost less than a long distance vacation you would have otherwise taken.

  • Barry @ Moneywehave September 5, 2014, 1:14 pm

    Love this post and love Tom Drake’s blog.

    Staycations are a perfect idea especially now that summer is over and time is limited for the kids.

    Here’s my list of staycation ideas.

    http://www.moneywehave.com/summer-staycation-ideas/

  • Sean Cooper, Financial Journalist September 5, 2014, 7:02 pm

    Great advice, Tom! The sad reality is with interest rates so low, a lot of people would rather pay for a vacation on their line of credit than be frugal and go on a staycation. Here’s an article I wrote recently on ways to stop overspending during summertime:
    http://www.ratesupermarket.ca/blog/stop-your-summer-overspending-4-tips/

  • My Own Advisor September 6, 2014, 12:53 pm

    I agree with Tom, here was my post on staycations as well:
    http://www.myownadvisor.ca/staycations-worth/

    I also enjoy Tom’s blog, a great reference.

  • Jay @ ThinkingWealthy.com September 6, 2014, 6:33 pm

    I plan to do this by taking a 15 min train ride to the town over for the day. Super cheap ride and a large city that I’ve never been to. It’s a great idea for people that live in big cities to be a tourist in their own city as well.

  • Dan @ Our Big Fat Wallet September 7, 2014, 8:45 pm

    I think staycations are a great idea and I’m in the process of planning one for the winter. Rather than spend money on hotel/air Im planning on heading over to the mountains (about 2 hours away) and skiing for the day and then heading out for a nice dinner at a new restaurant in the area. While out of the house I’m also planning on splurging on a house cleaner for the day so we can come home to a clean house. The entire day will still be significantly cheaper than an international trip and probably just as fun

  • Emilio September 8, 2014, 3:16 pm

    So what you are saying is that I should put on my swimming shorts and chill with a bottle of cerveza, when is -30 with 3 feet of snow on the deck? Gotcha!

    The idea of a stay-cation as pushed by the financial services industry down to the simpletons, in order to divert your hard-earned dollars from much-needed get-aways to ETFs, and Mut Funds to get the bankers even richer, has been around forever…

    I am all against consumerism myself, but in Canada with our 8-month long winters and the rampant vitamin D-deficiency, going to sun destinations is almost a necessity, once or twice a year at least…

    The summers are nice to stay in your area, but this article kind of hits a sore spot when it is actually snowing in Cow-town…

  • debs@debtdebs September 8, 2014, 5:05 pm

    I’ve enjoyed many staycations over the years. Just a change from routine is what is nice. We’ve also played tourist in our own city many times and it is fun and makes you look at your city in a different light.

  • Tom Drake September 9, 2014, 1:02 am

    Good point Stephen, staycations don’t have to only be a result of necessity, sometimes it’s just a matter of what you’d rather spend your money on!

  • Tom Drake September 9, 2014, 1:04 am

    Thanks for the extra reading Barry, Sean and Mark!

  • Tom Drake September 9, 2014, 1:10 am

    Emilio, I agree that we need to get away as well, but not every bit of time off has to be on a beach. As Dan (another Calgarian buried in snow) pointed out before you, he plans to head to the mountains and actually enjoy the snow.

  • Tom Drake September 9, 2014, 1:14 am

    Jay and Debs, it sounds like you’re both all for the staycation! I have to admit, there are still a lot of places here in Edmonton that I should check out but haven’t yet… and I could revisit others as my kids get a bit older.

  • Will @ First Quarter Finance September 14, 2014, 11:19 am

    One thing I especially love about staycations is – no travel time!!! That adds nearly 2 days to the relaxation!

  • A Frugal Family's Journey September 19, 2014, 2:38 am

    We’ve scaled back our vacations for the last few years and have resorted to only going on road trips. Have to admit, they have saved us a decent amount of money but we probably would save more through a staycation, not to mention probably get more stuff done around the house.

    But then again, although it would effectively save us money, working on a ToDo list would affectively remove the “cation” from staycation. :)

  • Gerard September 27, 2014, 10:08 am

    “Be prepared to step outside your life” really nails it. Thanks for the column!

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