Your Best-Bet Budget Vacation: The Staycation

Family Finances, Living & Spending
on April 8, 2014

Your Best Budget Vacation—The Staycation

It’s the time of year when all anyone is thinking and talking about is vacation. Somewhere warm, entertaining—and inherently expensive. There are plenty of ways to save on a vacation, but the best way to save is by not taking one at all. And where’s the fun in that? Just like a wedding, adding “vacation” to anything causes prices to rise. But a unique way to have a vacation, without the cost of a vacation, is to plan a staycation.

Staycations get a bad rap, but done right, they can be just as entertaining as a typical vacation, especially considering the cost comparison. From flights to entertainment, you can easily drop $4,000 in a week on a regular vacation. There are three major vacation expenses—flight, hotel and food,—but what if you could cut out two of the three completely? That’s a staycation.

By staying at home you have avoided flight and hotel costs. Use these four tips to create an epic staycation that will satisfy your need to get away from the day-to-day grind, without throwing you into debt.

1. Change your attitude.

The number one way to put a damper on your staycation is with a bad attitude. You may want to shift the blame to your kids, claiming they are the ones that will be unsatisfied with staying home, but that’s not a good enough excuse. Admit it, you want a tropical vacation more than your kids. But the reality is, this year you can’t afford to go away. It sucks, but in order to have a fun staycation you’ll have to get over it. If you’re having a good time, it will rub off on everyone around you. It’s important to remember you may be dissatisfied in this moment, but future-you will be grateful you didn’t go into massive credit card debt over a six day vacation.

2. Make a plan.

Arguably, one of the best parts of a vacation is spending time together. There are no errands to run, you can’t get called into work, and housework isn’t staring you in the face. To have a great staycation you’ll have to put the blinders on. Agree to ignore work e-mails, forgo housework for a few days and promise to not get caught up in errand running.

Staycations require a plan. You live in a city full of possibilities, and chances are you haven’t discovered them all. It’s likely you also live close to other cities that are full of fun activities. Do your research, and you’ll be amazed at how much fun you can have within driving distance.

Try this schedule: eat breakfast at home, go to a museum, eat lunch out, visit an outdoor attraction, and eat dinner at home. By planning out your week you are less likely to slip into your normal pattern. Advanced planning will also free you up to relax and enjoy all the activities, without rushing from place to place.

3. Get others involved.

Have you ever thought how fun it would be to vacation with friends? The beauty of a staycation is you can! Involving different friends and family in each of your activities will not only make the experiences more fun, but you’ll also create lasting memories with loved ones. Planning a staycation with friends or family can also ease some of the planning burden. Your family plans one day, while another other family plans the next day. You could even have meals at each other’s houses to add to the vacation vibe.

4. Do vacation-like things.

An essential question to ask yourself is—what does a vacation mean to you? Is it buying a souvenir? Snapping lots of family photos? Free time at a pool? When you know what a vacation means to you, you can recreate that on your staycation. Of course, you’ll have to get creative. Is it too cold to go to the pool? Take the family to an indoor water park. Identifying what satisfies you on a vacation will go a long way toward making your staycation a success.

Don’t go into debt to have six days of fun. A staycation could easily stay under $1,000. Make a plan, set a budget and start saving. You may give up an exotic location, but your financial wellness is worth it. Making good decisions now means you can reasonably afford a full-fledged vacation in the future.

Peter Dunn, aka Pete the Planner, is an award-winning financial mind who has authored five books, hosts the popular Pete the Planner radio show and travels around the country offering financial education. His signature wit will have you laughing as you learn. For more from Peter, visit

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