It’s that time of year when you have that burning/aching feeling of wanting a vacation, but your budget is screaming at you to not wreak any more havoc or it is going to burst! It is that struggle that puts you between a rock and a hard place – to vacation and stress and pay later or not!
We have been down this road too many times with our budget, or rather lack of budget and the bank account screaming at us not to do anymore damage! In fact, travel and vacationing was one of the top factors in contributing to the deep in the red debt load that we carried for a few years. Those relaxing, stress relieving vacations became one of the most stressful annoyances later as we had the bill to pay that was accumulating interest at alarming rates. It was a big weakness of ours as we love to travel!
So a few years ago, we were in the heart of paying off the enourmous mountain of consumer debt and we were itching for a vacation. We sat down and tried to figure out what we could “squeeze” in and still be on track with paying off the debts! With a measly $200 to work with, what could we do for a week?
How about a Staycation!! What is a Staycation? It is a vacation in your town of residence or the nearby big city! Not only will you save loads of money, make wonderful memories, but you may actually get to see the tourist attractions where you live! This can be a rare commodity for many residents!
How did we do it? Well… quite simply actually!
Alex took a whole week of work and we treated it as a vacation week in every sense of the word. We told everyone we were on vacation, we “unplugged” and had a real vacation, although home was just right here! Our home transformed into a “serve yourself” bed and breakfast.
Here are some tips from our experience:
- Since we only had $200 to work with at that time, we decided to make the hotel our home – we would leave early and come home right before bedtime!
- For the meals, we ate most breakfasts at home nearly every morning, packed most lunches and enjoyed the dinners out. When we ate out, the benefit of being in our own area was that we had very easy access to buy one get one free coupons from places like the Entertainment Book and other local restaurant coupon resources! Every meal out was discounted!
- We took advantage of many of the FREE museums, park events, summer concerts and free outdoor activities.
- We also visited our Capital building, and public city buildings. We love to explore history and government as a family and the kids loved seeing the Capital and the big city library in our area is beautiful! These are FREE buildings to visit!
- We also rode public transportation in the “free” zones to explore everything downtown.
- We also visited a handful of attractions that required an entrance fee, but we were able to use coupons and discounts for every attraction.
- Our “splurge” on the last night was Chuck E Cheese. Alex really despises this place, but the kids really wanted to go so he said they could! We used coupons of course and other discounts! Read our previous post on How To Save at Chuck E Cheese.
The moral of the story…. we had a wonderful, relaxing, enjoyable Staycation, stayed on budget, made awesome memories, and learned much more about our state than we had for the previous several years we lived here! In the end, we didn’t have credit card bills to remember our vacation by and no “after” stress to deal with! Oh – and our young kids slept well and were in good moods each day because of it unlike they would have in a strange place, so that was a perk too!
That is what we did and how we did! But there are MANY ways to have a staycation, here are a few more tips depending on what your budget will allow:
- For Accommodations: Stay 1 night in a hotel of your staycation for the swim/hotel experience, camp out as a family in the family room in your house or in a tent outside!
- For meals: Pack picnics, use coupons for your favorite restaurants, pack plenty of snacks and water even if you choose to eat out every meal as those snacks and water add up FAST!
- For activities: Be sure to check any memberships you have to local attractions for any additional venues. We have memberships to a local children’s museum that we visit regularly, but our membership card gives us free or discounted admission to many other attractions in the area that we do not visit normally and perfect for discounts on the staycation! Check the websites of the attractions and get on the email lists for potential discounts. And of course utilize your Entertainment Book or other local coupon resources.
- Visit the free attractions like the public buildings we mentioned above or parks you haven’t been to before. Visit your state’s sites and visitor centers for attractions as well as a list of FREE Attractions across the country to help you plan your staycation! One day, we went to the visitor’s center in our area and received a free walking-tour map that we were able to do and enjoy!
To plan the perfect staycation:
- Set a Budget and STICK TO IT!!
- Have a family meeting to find out from each member what one thing they would love to do and see if you can fit it in with the time and budget allotted!
- Remind yourself that you are on vacation and treat it as such!
- Have fun, take pictures, make memories and relax!!
Have you ever had a staycation? What was your favorite part and share any tips you have in the comments!
UPDATE: We also made our 2012 vacation a Staycation! Check out our pictures and fun in the following links:
- Day #1 – A Special Trip To the Zoo
- Day #2 – Farm Animals, Wild Animals and Swedish Food and Play
- Day #3 - New Friends, Trains, Cars and All You Can Eat
- Day #4 - A Day at The Amusement Park and Smiles on Their Faces