Budget Tips, Travel Advice

Stay-cations: Learning To Love The Best Of Where You Live On A Budget

October 23, 2011 • By

There’s no denying it.  Most of us have found ourselves virtually housebound when in actuality we would love to go out there and see the world.  The reality of the situation is that times are tough and it’s becoming difficult to purchase the necessities, much less think about what some would characterize as “indulgences” like travel.  Well, before you throw in the towel, consider alternative ways of traveling without leaving the city limits.  “Stay-cations” is more than a buzz word these days, it’s an answer to a prayer for many families who are trying to navigate through this stagnant economy.

What is a Stay-cation?

Stay-cation is a combination of the words ‘stay’ and ‘vacation’ which essentially means that you stay home and enjoy what’s in your city instead of traveling to another.  I think we tend to take the things closer to home for granted.  We can walk around our hometowns and notice the tourists but never quite ‘see’ what they do.   To some, familiarity breeds boredom, but it doesn’t have to be that way.  You can treat a stay-cation the same way that you treat a vacation.  Save, plan where you want to go and do the research.  The immediate benefits are there: you save money on airfare, hotel and souvenirs because you will be at home.  All it takes is a little ingenuity and creativity and you can create an experience for your family (or for yourself if you are single).

How do I get started ?

First, set a budget of what you can actually afford to spend for this stay-cation.  Naturally, how much you spend depends mostly on how many people you are planning for.  Once that’s done, determine what things you like to do as a family.  It should be noted what things you would not like to do as well.  Here are some ideas of activities you can partake in during your own specialized Stay-cation that you  craft for your family:

  • If you own a gaming system like Wii or PS3, plan a multimedia day that consists of borrowing video games from the library to play with the family.  Be sure to grab a great movie from the library while you are there, that you can watch later on.  If you must have a more  recent release, visit your nearest Redbox (usually posted outside Wal-Mart or your local grocery store) dispensary and rent one for the night for one buck!  Buy a large bag of popcorn that you can cook with an air popper and a couple of theater sized candies from the grocery store.
  • Again, the library can offer a veritable fount of ideas for staycations.  My local library actually lends their patrons annual entry and parking passes to any of our state’s parks and recreation centers for one week.  Check to see if your local library offers similar perks.  Psstt……while you are there I hear they let check you out books too!
  • Check out online coupon sites for various fun activities.  Sites like Half Off Depot,  Groupon and Living Social, among others offer great deals for family outings, you will just need to select the city closest to you.  Some of my local deals were for hot air balloon rides ($25.00), a Spa day that consisted of a mani-pedi and massage ($100.00), a hayride and a corn field maze on a local farm (5.00) and a bowling night (30.00).  As you can see, the activities are varied and reasonably priced so you’re bound to find something to keep everyone happy and busy.
  •  If you are still a member of Bank of America (and why are you?), they offer free entry into your local museums the first full weekend of every month.
  • Go see a live play or concert.  It not only promotes the local arts community, but enriches our lives.  Many cities have outlets that provide discounts of up to 50%!
  • Don’t discount how much fun a weekend trip close to home can be.  I live in Atlanta so I decided to take a quick trip (4 hour drive) to Savannah with two other girls and had one of the best times!  I was able to book a one night stay at Courtyard by Marriot for $90.00 via Priceline.  We managed to take a $15.00 trolley tour of the city (talk about photo ops!), do a little souvenir shopping, sightseeing, having lunch at Paula Deen’s restaurant, Lady & Sons (the $16.00 buffet is to die for), attend a musical, visit Tybee Island and walk along the beach and nosh on seafood.
  • Try to see your city through the eyes of a tourist.  What famous landmark or event or activity is your city known for that you haven’t seen?  My city is known for having the world’s largest aquarium, being the birthplace of MLK, Margaret Mitchell (author, Gone with the Wind), CNN, Coca Cola & Centennial Olympic Park.  I’m sure yours has its own treasures to discover, so take the time to check out what you’ve been missing in your own backyard.
  • If you are a college student make use of your student I.D.  There are lots of discounts available to museums, restaurants, comedy clubs, theaters, etc. via your University that you can use for you and your family.  Ditto for Seniors who can enjoy several discounts from companies seeking their business!
  • Visit your city’s website.  They offer many activities sponsored by their parks and recreation department for families.  Some of the things that our city provides are firework displays during the holidays or movies on a gigantic screen at the beginning of summer for the kids.
  • Local churches or community centers often sponsor free exercise driven activities like Zumba to help promote physical activity among their members.

So while times may be tough going, there are several ways to spend quality time with loved ones without going broke.  The benefit that you will get to see and do things that you’ve been putting off without having to pay a bundle.  What home treasures have you put off going to see?