Let’s play a game. You guess the percentage of Americans that go into debt for their vacations. Survey says—74%.(1) That’s a lot of people paying off bills for sumptuous spas and seahorse snorkeling months after the actual trip.
Well, we have two truth bombs to drop. One: You don’t have to travel someplace exotic to have a great vacation. Two: You can enjoy your time off without blowing off your finances. Boom and boom.
That’s right. You can go the budget-friendly staycation route—living the good life close to home while creating paid-for memories. The best kind.
We’re here to help with ideas aplenty. Others might give you a list of three or five. But not EveryDollar. We’ve got 12 staycation ideas that won’t bust your budget. Just for you, budgeter. Have at it.
Outdoor Staycation Ideas
1. Take a hike.
Getting outside is one of the cheapest forms of entertainment. So get out. Take a hike. Do a quick online search, and you can find trails in your area. Many websites rank trails based on their difficulty, share photos and comments from others, and inform hikers of the trail lengths. This helps you pack enough granola for the journey.
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2. Visit a park.
They have playground equipment, trails to bike or walk, and plenty of practice space for your ultimate frisbee league. Parks are the perfect location for kite-flying, quilt-lying, or people-spying (also called “people-watching” when you’re not trying for a rhyme).
3. Have a picnic.
Lay down a blanket and unpack the basket of goodies. There’s nothing more whimsical and wonderful than a picnic on a perfect-weather day. If you don’t feel like crafting a full charcuterie board with an array of cheeses, meats, jams and crackers, you can make some quick PB and J or even pick up some fried chicken. Don’t forget to bring a good book.
4. Play sports.
We’re not all athletic. But a rousing game of Wiffleball or cornhole can bring out the competitive trash talk in even the calmest of your crew. Grill out with friends and serve up some sporty fun. Or, for the truly extraverted of you, drum up enough locals on your Facebook community group to make two teams and play kickball in a nearby park. You don’t need a lot of gear, and you can get in good exercise while making new—or hanging with old—friends.
Indoor Staycation Ideas
1. Conduct a tasting tour of your city.
The perfect hometown staycation is within your reach. Can you taste it? Literally—go taste it. Search online or ask around for recommendations on the best places to eat in your city, and then make a list to knock out one meal at a time. Just make sure you set what you’ll spend on the entire culinary experience and think about your budget when you order. And don’t forget to tip. Good budgeters are good tippers.
2. Be a tourist of your own town.
When you live close to attractions, you might forget their draw. It’s time to visit the museums, enjoy the concerts, and take the tours in your hometown that the out-of-towners flock to. If you don’t know where to start, visit your city’s tourism website. Map out an itinerary and figure out each cost. Save on transportation by carpooling or consider rideshare services. Sometimes adding in parking and gas makes driving your crew more expensive that hiring a driver. But don’t forget to tip!
3. Go to a matinee movie.
Lights. Camera. Action. Going to the movies is a classic outing. The silver screen provides you with entertainment and sweeps you up into a fantastic story. Well. You hope it’s fantastic. Because those prices, right? Here’s an idea: Save money by hitting up that matinee rate. Skip the expensive concessions in the theater and plan to visit a moderately priced eatery after. Then you can call, “Cut! Print it!” on a perfect dinner and a movie night out.
4. Do a room refresh.
Get your DIY on and tackle that room you’re embarrassed to admit exists in your home. This isn’t a full-on reno. This is clearing out, freshening up, and maybe repurposing the space. Goodbye, rarely used extra bedroom, and hello, home office with a fresh coat of paint! Rearrange furniture. Buy some décor at antique malls, flea markets or garage sales where haggling is king. Make your own art. Have fun with it! Instead of spending money going out, you can spend it on creating a space you’ll want to stay in.
Family-Friendly Staycation Ideas
1. Plan a game tournament.
Pull out the board games, find a deck of cards, or stretch those thumbs for some video gaming. You can make a bracket and duke it out for ultimate champion. Or you can see how many games your family can get through in one day. Don’t forget to stock up on snacks.
2. Plan a day for zero plans.
See where the wind takes you. The only plan you need to make is how much you’ll spend that day. Don’t go over that amount—but everything else is all about spontaneity. Give everyone a turn to call out what happens next or put ideas in a hat and draw a new activity on the fly. Just remember: Besides your budget, nothing’s set.
3. Indoor movie marathon.
Load up on popcorn and gummy candies for a movie marathon—in your own home. You can watch through the freebies offered on your streaming service or borrow those ancient things called DVDs from friends. Then you’re just out the cost of food and beverages. Even if you rent a couple DVDs, you’re still in a good financial spot and entertained on the cheap. In your pajamas, no less. Yes, please.
4. Throw a letter-themed day.
Wear your penguin-covered pants, eat pizza, play the card game “pig,” and paint. Sleep late, shoot hoops, slurp spaghetti, and have a sing-along. Make macarons and magic wands, have a mad hatter tea party, and watch a movie. You get the idea. Enjoy a letter-themed day. The kids can help plan the activities, or you can make it all a surprise.
How to Budget for Your Staycation
Make a plan for what you’ll do.
Check prices for all the activities.
Add up the total cost.
If it’s more than you can afford, tweak activities, look for coupons and deals, or lower-cost, similar options.
The words budget and fun aren’t enemies! They can live together; we promise. You just have to be a little more creative to get them cooperating and collaborating. But when you do, you can meet your money goals while still going out—or staying in—for one awesome and budget-friendly staycation.