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How to Plan a Staycation

Ahh, vacation. It’s a time to get away from everything, sleep in, eat great food, and explore a new city. But what happens when a family vacation doesn’t quite fit into the budget? Do you skip it altogether?

It depends. If you’re saving for an emergency fund or working hard to pay off debt, a vacation needs to wait. But when summer hits before you’ve padded your sinking funds, what do you do? Listen—everyone needs some time off, and when a vacation isn’t in the budget, a staycation is where it’s at. Not only do you still get a break from the everyday routine, your wallet does too.

What Is a Staycation?

A staycation is just like a vacation, only with less travel. Yup, when you take a staycation, you’re skipping the expensive flights and fancy all-inclusive resorts in favor of sleeping in your own bed and saving some of your hard-earned money. Think of it this way: You’re “getting away from it all” by going nowhere.

And not only are you saving money, you’re also saving yourself from all that stress of traveling, the chance of overspending, and that post-vacation reality check. Sounds like a win-win to us!

What’s the Difference Between a Vacation and a Staycation?

One of the biggest differences between a staycation and a vacation is the price tag. Although it’s possible to take a cheap vacation, they’re usually known for being ex-pen-sive.

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Did you know the average travel budget is about $223 per person (per day)?1 That’s a lot of dough to drop for some time away. And if you’re a family of five, go ahead and tack on even more money to your total. Yikes!

But here’s the good news: You don’t have to spend that much money. A staycation is an awesome (and much cheaper) alternative.

Why Do You Need a Staycation?

Because we all need a break! But that doesn’t mean you have to bust your budget to do it (that’s the opposite of relaxing).

If you’re smack-dab in the middle of working the Baby Steps and wish you could swing a vacation, a staycation is a great way to have a good time while spending next to nothing. And these days, a lot of people don’t want to be near crowds of people anyway, so bringing that rest and relaxation to your own home sounds a whole lot better.

How Do You Take a Staycation?

Treat it like a normal vacation! When you go on a week-long vacation out of state, you don’t take your work with you (hopefully), and you enjoy time spent relaxing and making memories with family. So, when you take a staycation, you need to do the same thing—or else it’s going to feel like a normal week.

P.S. It’s important to actually use your benefit of paid time off and not work from home (just because you’re at home). Don’t check those emails. Don’t worry about what you’re missing at the office. Don’t think about what you have to get done when you go back.

If you truly want to relax, then you need to leave the realities of life behind. Turn off all your devices and limit the Netflix binges—this is your chance to focus on quality time (with no interruptions and no to-do list). You’re on staycation, after all!

How to Get Your House Staycation Ready

One of the best things about going on a “real” vacation is the change of scenery. When you’re on vacation, relaxing comes pretty easily. So if you want to pull off a successful staycation, you’re going to have to try a little harder to make your home feel like a home away from home. Don’t worry—all your extra effort will pay off by the end of the week.

Turning your humble abode into a staycation haven is going to look different for everyone, but here are a few things to help you get inspired:

  • Get out the nice sheets (or “linens,” if you want to feel fancy).
  • Add a vase of flowers to your kitchen or entryway table.
  • Put the books you’ve been meaning to read on your nightstand or coffee table (so you’ll actually get around to reading them).
  • Live in your robe, yoga pants or flip-flops (anything that says “rest” or “vacation life” to you).
  • Live outside as much as you can.
  • Don’t turn on the news or pull up your go-to news app (heck, after the last few months we just went through, we can all use a break from the news!).
  • Put snacks and drinks out in visible places (like you’d see in a hotel room or Airbnb).
  • Use the fancy dishes.
  • Play relaxing music in the background.

17 Ideas for the Perfect Staycation

You didn’t think we were going to help you set up your house and leave you, did you? Don’t worry, we’re experts in the art of staycations. Here are a few ideas that will help you kick your week off in vacation style:

1. Take a nap.

Start your staycation off right with a little rest and relaxation in the form of a nice, long nap.

2. Have a spa day.

It might not be as glamorous as a real day at the spa, but you can still make your own home feel like a peaceful retreat. Try a face mask with cucumber slices or an Epsom salt bath.

3. Take a day trip.

Looking for a little adventure? Try a road trip! Hit up that little town you’ve always heard about, try a new restaurant, or visit a new park.

4. Read a good book.

A staycation is the perfect opportunity to dive into a good read—or several! Set up a hammock in your backyard or lay out a blanket under a tree and let yourself unwind with a good book.

5. Get outside.

Take a hike in the great outdoors, canoe the local river, or enjoy a peaceful walk in a nearby park. Pack a lunch for the trip and enjoy a picnic with your family, or even grab your running shoes to hit that runner’s high!

6. Explore your city.

Use your staycation to take in the sights and sounds of your city like a tourist! Get out there and visit free museums, bookstores and that coffee shop you’ve always meant to check out.

7. Camp out in the backyard.

Pitch a tent, light the fire, and make some s’mores. When it’s time to call it a night, crawl into the tent and sleep under the stars. (Or you can bring the gang back inside to sleep in your comfortable beds too—we won’t judge.)

8. Bring the water park to you.

Who needs a water park when you can make your own? For $15, you can find a kiddie pool or splash pad for the kids. And don’t forget the water balloons. Creating your own DIY backyard water park can save you about $50 per person!

9. Have a movie night.

You don’t have to leave your house to catch a good flick. Rent a movie—or even better, stream one for free. This is the perfect time to tackle a marathon of trilogies or introduce your kids to iconic classics for the first time (Star Wars, anyone?). But don’t forget the snacks! Grab some popcorn and candy from the dollar store and you’ll be set. Skipping the traditional ticket and concessions at the theater like this can easily save you $15–20 a person.

10. Stay somewhere new.

Let’s be clear: It’s okay to stay at your house during your staycation (and it saves major money not having to pay for a hotel or bed-and-breakfast). But if you do want to switch it up, check in to a local hotel or Airbnb for a night or two. It’s amazing how getting away to a new spot in your hometown can feel so refreshing.

11. Take up a DIY project.

Do you have a DIY project that you haven’t been able to get to? Use this free time on your hands to tackle it! Check your local museum or art studio to see if they’re offering pottery, painting or woodworking classes.

12. Plan a game night.

Dust off the board games and invite your family and friends over for some fun. Need to add a new game to the rotation? Check out Act Your Wage!—the first player to become debt-free wins the game. And if that sounds a little too much like real life (like if you’re laser focused on becoming debt-free right now), just play Monopoly instead!

13. Watch a theater production.

We know what you’re thinking—how can I see a show if I don’t leave my house? The magic of the internet, that’s how. BroadwayHD streams a ton of Broadway shows (everything from Oklahoma! to Romeo and Juliet). And with a seven-day free trial, that’s plenty of time to watch a few things while on staycation.

14. Go bowling.

Heading to a bowling alley during the middle of the week or at off-peak times can be surprisingly cheap. A lot of bowling alleys even let kids bowl for free. Check out the deals your local alley has and strike up a little friendly competition.

15. Go out for a special meal or have it delivered.

Some people find cooking relaxing, but for others, it’s like a one-way ticket to stress city. No matter where you fall, it’s important to give yourself a break and take some time for a special meal that you don’t have to cook. Swing by that restaurant downtown that you’ve always wanted to try, or have food delivered from your favorite burger joint.

16. Go canoeing.

If you live within close driving distance of a river or another body of water, get out there on a canoe or a paddleboard—maybe even a surfboard if you’re near the beach (lucky!).

17. Have a date night.

Even if you’re in the middle of a family staycation with two toddlers, you can still carve out time for you and your spouse to sneak in an inexpensive date. The real tricky part is going to be finding a sitter to watch the kids, but it’s doable! Ask family or friends if they wouldn’t mind babysitting for an evening so you and your spouse can have a nice dinner. You can even sweeten the deal by offering to watch their kids sometime too.

How to Budget for Your Staycation

Now that you’re all pumped up for your staycation, it’s time to make a budget. Yup—even a vacation at home needs some healthy boundaries so you have the freedom to spend.

Here are four steps to budgeting for your next trip to nowhere:

1. Make a budget.

If you know you can only spend $200 on a staycation for your family, that’s okay! Just know what you can spend and stick to it. Doing a zero-based budget is the best way to make sure your staycation is a happy one.

Think you’ll go out to eat? Great—put it in the budget. Doing this type of budget will help keep you from overspending (and overstressing) when your staycation is over. You just have to stick to it. Our free budgeting app, EveryDollar, can help keep you and your budget on track for a great time away.

Psst . . . there are plenty of free and super cheap ways to make memories with your family (like that list we just gave you). Remember: You don’t need to have a huge budget to make great memories.

2. Have a plan.

All right, now that you know how much you can spend, make a list of some of the things you want to do. You can even number things by priority and what’s most important to your family. Is that hiking trail and beautiful waterfall nearby calling your name? Make sure to put that at the top of your staycation to-do list.

3. Check the prices.

Spoiler alert: This part can be a real shell shock sometimes—like when you find out how much taking your entire family to Topgolf actually costs you. Yikes. That’s why you should always check out the prices before you set your plan in stone and adjust where you need to based on your budget.

You can keep things balanced by tossing in at least one splurge and rounding out the rest of your list with free or super cheap activities. That way, you feel like you’re doing something you would do on vacation (but it still fits in your budget).  

4. Add up the total cost.

If you find out your laundry list of staycation ideas adds up to being over budget, don’t worry. Look for ways you can bring those costs down with coupons and seasonal deals. Or try swapping out some ideas for similar cheaper activities. So instead of a fancy golf outing, why not try out putt-putt? That’s the beauty of having a plan ahead of time—you can move things around as you need to without wreaking havoc on your budget.

A staycation is supposed to be budget friendly, so you need to make a budget for what you want to spend. Unexpected costs add up quickly, and who wants to be stressing over money on staycation? (Hint: No one.)

If you’re looking for the best way to tell your money who’s in charge, download EveryDollar. It’s our free budgeting app that helps you do your monthly zero-based budget—like a boss. Try it out today, and start planning your next stress-free staycation.

Ramsey Solutions

About the author

Ramsey Solutions

Ramsey Solutions has been committed to helping people regain control of their money, build wealth, grow their leadership skills, and enhance their lives through personal development since 1992. Millions of people have used our financial advice through 22 books (including 12 national bestsellers) published by Ramsey Press, as well as two syndicated radio shows and 10 podcasts, which have over 17 million weekly listeners.

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