Do you have an extremely tight budget that just won’t let you afford to go on vacation? Instead of stressing about it or financing a vacation you can’t afford, plan a cheap staycation instead!
When my husband and I got married two years ago, we thought we had the coolest anniversary ever – July 4th. We are very patriotic and it meant a lot of us to have our special day on such an important holiday.
The one thing we didn’t exactly plan for was how expensive it would be every year to celebrate our big day – especially if we had any desire to travel.
Since we got married and had kids, we’ve become extremely frugal minded and feel guilty anytime we spend a lot of money on ourselves. With our two year anniversary coming up, we have a lot to celebrate!
A new baby boy and a beautiful toddler who never ceases to amaze us. Going away to celebrate however, just isn’t in the budget.
My husband seemed so depressed when we were looking up hotel costs the other night.
My solution to our problem was to plan a frugal staycation instead! I have a blast with my husband Scotty no matter where we are or what we’re doing, so a frugal little vacation at home with our family sounds great to me!
What is a Staycation?
A staycation is exactly what it sounds like – a vacation where you stay at home.
You take the same amount of time off of work, you plan awesome excursions, you eat different meals – you just have an awesome time but without all of the travel.
You might not have to pack and plan what you’re going to take with you, but there is still some preparation involved in having a low-stress staycation.
First of all, do all of the chores around the house in the weeks before your staycation. You don’t want to be troubled with mundane chores on your vacation at home. Where is the vacation in that?!
- Do all dishes and put them away
- Do all of the laundry and put it away
- Quickly clean the bathrooms and put out fresh towels
- Wipe down the kitchen counters and take out the trash
- Pay all bills
- Make any important phone calls
- Run errands
I’m purposely leaving grocery shopping off of this list because I personally think that’s part of the fun!
Rules for Your Staycation
You need to set some rules for yourself to make sure your staycation doesn’t turn into days of catching up on housework. Getting all of the annoying tasks around the house done in the days before your vacation definitely helps – but set some hard and fast rules for your family to follow.
- No doing dishes unless absolutely necessary. We buy disposable plates, bowls, and silverware for events like this
- No doing laundry. Just keep the dirty laundry separated into piles that can be thrown into the washer when the staycation is over
- Put away all cell phones and laptops. It’s important to try to unplug from daily stresses on vacation so your staycation should be no different!
- Be open-minded! Try new things and act like you would if you were in a completely different city
Staycation Ideas for Families
Staycations are especially helpful when you have a family.
The more people you have traveling with you, the more expensive the trip will be.
If you have young kids, there’s a great chance that going out to eat and planning excursions is stressful anyway.
My best advice to those of you with families is to remember that kids remember experiences in the most magical light.
Every single thing you do during this staycation will be the best thing ever in their minds. Don’t feel the least bit guilty for turning your vacation into a staycation.
I’m going to teach you every possible thing you can do to make this your best staycation yet!
Staycation Ideas for Kids
Think of everything you would do with your kids if you were going away.
Would you buy them souvenirs?
Take them swimming?
Make a list of everything you usually do on vacation with your kids. Never gone on vacation? Make a list of what your perfect vacation would include for your kids.
Then find awesome ways to make as many of those things happen as possible – on a budget!
Possibly my favorite staycation idea, especially if you’re planning a staycation with kids, is to plan a backyard staycation.
You’ll try to stay out of your house as much as possible, and set up your vacation in the backyard.
If you want to really get into it, set up a camping staycation and sleep outside all night.
We have put up a tent at our house many times when we wanted to go camping but didn’t want to deal with going away with little kids.
We have this tent and absolutely love it for our growing family.
If you plan to sleep in a tent, do yourself a favor and invest in a cheap air mattress. Your back will thank you!
Play with a water table – we own and love this one.
Even set up a small pool in the backyard for your kids and let them make a huge mess.
We always make a big batch of these and I swear by them. Seriously, what did we do when we had to fill these up one at a time?
Enough about the dark ages.
Cook outside, play outside, have an absolute blast – just don’t do any yard work. That would break the rules of the staycation!
How to Plan a Staycation
Do simple things to make your home feel different.
Really easy changes can make a huge difference.
Rearrange your living room.
Buy really cheap decorations that set the tone for the kind of staycation you’re planning.
Do you want to plan a beach themed staycation? Either check at your local dollar store for appropriate decorations or look on Amazon at this list of really cheap beach themed decor.
You’re saving a ton of money on travel – splurge $20 or $30 on decorations for your home that will make it feel exciting – especially if you have kids.
Summer Staycation Ideas
To have the cheapest staycation possible, google things to do in your area that are either free or very very cheap.
Visit a local pool.
Make fruity drinks at home or research awesome happy hours near you.
Make special drinks at home for the kids.
Go for a hike in a local park you’ve never visited before.
Treat your town like you would if you were a tourist.
Are there any museums near you? Check out Groupon for great deals on local attractions you normally take for granted.
Make food at home to save on costs (and stress if you’d be dining with littles) but make food you haven’t ever tried before.
Not into cooking? Look for local lunch specials and share a meal with your partner.
Eat appetizers at a restaurant and drink water – save the big meal and fancy drinks for home where they’re sure to be a fraction of the cost!
Winter Staycation Ideas
Planning your staycation for the winter time or just want a winter themed staycation?
Weird (I’m happiest in the 90 degree heat, so you and I will just have to agree to disagree) but let’s talk about some ways to make it happen!
I’m always going to vote for cheap decor to help set the tone. Check out this awesome (and frugal!) winter-themed decor on Amazon.
Have kids? Turn it into a Frozen-themed staycation and make treats and drinks to match!
Dress the part! Wear long-sleeves (maybe turn down the AC just a little if you’re doing this in the summertime) and keep them thin if necessary.
See if there are indoor ice rinks near you.
Settle down with a cup of hot chocolate every night.
Really dig in and make your home match the tone of your staycation.
Cheap Staycation Ideas
Just because you’re not traveling anywhere doesn’t mean you have to stay home the entire time.
Look for things to do that will get you out and about in your city.
Come home for meals or take things with you – but make it a goal to stay away from home as many hours of the day as possible.
Unless you’re trying to plan a relaxing staycation, try to fill your days with so much frugal or free fun that you have to pour yourself into bed at the end of a long day.
Use this time to fall in love with your local area and all that it has to offer.
Go wine tasting.
Try out new restaurants – check for Groupon deals or research lunch specials. Never go to a restaurant without checking their website and Facebook page for coupons and deals.
If you have kids, explore new parks and playgrounds near you.
Make every meal a picnic.
Eat outside whenever possible if weather allows.
If not, set up a picnic in the middle of the floor!
What to do on a Staycation – More ideas!:
- Look up festivals going on in your area. These are usually free and you just have to pay for food and drinks while you’re there. Check to see if you’re allowed to bring your own food and you can save even more!
- Eat new foods! Don’t go to your favorite restaurants and eat the same dishes you always order. Branch out and try new things! Even if you’re cooking at home – look up recipes you’ve never tried and foods you’re unfamiliar with. Take out is another great option. Just make sure it’s from a new restaurant you’ve never been to before. The point is to make your staycation exciting while still saving money!
- Go grocery shopping for snacks, drinks, and whatever meals you’re going to make at home. Try to go to a grocery store you don’t usually shop at. Remember to step out of your comfort zone and don’t forget to treat yourself a little. Buy some gelato even though it’s more than you’d usually spend
- Explore local parks you’ve never been to
- Give each other massages
- Look for free concerts in your town
- Explore local farmer’s markets
- Find the water in your area and go have fun! Whether you live close to the ocean (lucky you!) or a river (like our hometown), there’s always lots of fun to be had when you add water to the mix
- Camp in your backyard and make s’mores
- Dig out your favorite board games
The possibilities are truly endless. Use this opportunity to explore the local places in your area that you never seem to have time for. Look at your town through the eyes of someone who only has a few days to spend there. What would you want to see and do? Make the most of it and, as always, make it frugal!
Even if you have kids, you can make nighttime a romantic staycation for you and your spouse.
Turn the lights down low and light a fire in the fireplace.
No fireplace? Turn on the fireplace option on Netflix and light some candles for some ambiance.
Drink wine or your favorite drink out of the fancy glasses. Dollar Tree sells some great wine and margarita glasses 😉
Put away your phones and make time to really talk to each other. Don’t let yourself talk about chores or financial stress.
Instead, put your time into remembering your favorite memories together and planning new ones in the future.
Talk about what the rest of your staycation holds. Plan your next vacation away from home – even if it’s just a pipe dream for now.
Spend this time really connecting and enjoying each other.
Too often we take our partners for granted. Let your staycation be the time you change all of that.
Have you ever opted for a staycation when going away on vacation was not in the budget? How did you make the most of your time at home? What secrets do you have for an incredible “staycation”? Let me know in the comments!