|Lifestyle||Shopping||DIY||Eat & Drink||Arts & Entertainment||Home & Garden||Money||Travel||Kids & Pets||Support Us|
We're barraged daily with a new lexicon of words to describe recession resourcefulness, but whether you call it a staycation, a daycation or a naycation (if you're Debbie Downer), the fact is that we all need a break from our routines, even if it's a week spent at home instead of cafe-side in Paris.
Saving money doesn't have to mean foregoing the feeling of a fulfilling vacation by doing nothing at all, though — quite the contrary. According to Douglas MacKenzie, director of communications for the Greater Phoenix Convention & Visitors Bureau, a well-thought out staycation provides "a good way for people to rest and rejuvenate and also take advantage of local amenities, from museums to baseball games to hikes, that are more value-oriented."
Without some planning, however, a staycation can go south in a hurry. To get the most out of your valuable vacation time — without letting your home or your office get the best of you — read on for our Shoestring Survival Guide to the Staycation:
MAKE A BUDGET
Look back at your last three or four vacations and calculate approximately how much you spend on travel on average. Set a budget for yourself, perhaps half your usual expenditures, and make a commitment to spend your money creatively. You can have as much fun close to home for half the price, but once you've set the budget, honor it. Don't just avoid overspending: avoid under-spending, too. You've already made a choice to save money with a staycation, but to feel as though you've had an actual vacation you need to build in some luxuries and fun, making the week memorable.
Check out our guide to free online budgeting tools to painlessly implement this first step.
FORGET THE CHORES
Ultimately, vacations are carefree and relaxed, not regimented. With a staycation, avoid the temptation to literally stay at home, either cleaning up the house or catching up with your DVR. Getting out and about is key. You don't change the sheets at the Marriott and you don't wash the dishes at a B&B, so don't even think about doing them on your staycation. If you have to feel productive, set aside the last day of your staycation before going back to work just for rainy day projects. (Or, even better, think about treating yourself to a housekeeper through Care.com or another service marketplace.)
Otherwise, get out of the house and away from your phone (cell phones included; be clear with the office that you won’t be checking in just because you're in town). Brainstorm a list of places you'd like to go and things you'd like to do. Plan at least one activity for every day of your staycation. Check out Shoestring's guide to planning a full, 7-day Argentinian staycation for inspiration.
EAT WELL AND BE WELL
Staycation or naycation, you have to eat and you might as well enjoy it – you're on vacation, after all. "Many cities feature a restaurant week or in some cases, weeks," says Anne Banas, executive editor of SmarterTravel.com. High-end restaurants will often participate, offering an affordable prix fixe menu and other promotions. "If you're a food lover, it's very cool," Banas says. "You get a luxurious meal without having to spend a ton of money."
Do your research prior to your staycation, just as you would prior to a vacation. Read restaurant reviews on Yelp and Zagat, and look for special offers and coupons, such as those through Restaurant.com. Since these are restaurants in your city or neighborhood, however, try out a few fancy places you've "always been meaning to check out." If you sign up for their email newsletters ahead of time or pay close attention to local media, you may even be able to time your staycation around special offers or events for additional savings.
DON'T SLEEP IN YOUR OWN BED
As part of their push for staycations, MacKenzie's visitors bureau recommends several area hotels, many of which offer a food credit. "We have so many good four and five star resorts, we like to remind locals that they don't have to leave town to enjoy world-class luxury and amenities," he says.
In addition, according to the website Travel Insider, "At 6 p.m. on any evening, the hotel is looking at all its remaining empty rooms and is — in theory — desperately keen to sell them at any price at all over and above its marginal cost of servicing an overnight stay (which is somewhere between $25 and $50, depending on what is included in the cost)." Unlike most travelers, you can return to your own bed if you can't find a luxury deal at a bargain price, but be persistent in securing at least a couple nights out.
HIT THE BEACH…
…or go cycling, or sign up for horseback riding, or take a nature walk. Think about all the outdoor adventures and activities you would normally enjoy during a traditional vacation and then find options within driving distance. Take a step back and look at town and city resources, and visit local parks you haven't seen (or even thought about) in years. Summertime is the perfect window for trying out new walking, hiking, and biking trails — some of which you can even enjoy with family dog. Check out The Dog Lovers' Companion series from Avalon for inspirational trips and trails for the whole family.
NIGHT (OR DAY) AT THE MUSEUM
You've been recommending these attractions to your out-of-town guests for years. Now it's your turn to give them a try as a tourist in your own town. Many museums have off-hours when they're free to the general public or free to locals — plus, in many cities and with some forethought, you can sign up to check out free passes for museums and area attractions from your local library. Since you probably haven't set foot in them since grammar school, they'll be exciting even if they're not new.
The Freedom Trail is one of Boston's most heavily visited attractions, but according to The Freedom Trail Foundation creative director Sam Jones, "One of the things we hear all the time is, 'I've lived here all my life and I've never walked the Freedom Trail.'" Buy a guidebook to your own city prior to your staycation and study it — find the unique places that speak to you and then make a plan for when and how you’ll visit them. Shoestring's editors are partial to the Eyewitness Guides from DK — portable and highly visual, with lots of included maps for walking and transportation, as well as historical tidbits and factoids. Remember: even though you're not leaving home, this is still a vacation!
VISIT THE SPA
"Spa days are ideal for staycations," Banas says. In addition to typical spas, some hotels will allow you to use their amenities, from the pool and gym to the sauna, all day for a nominal fee. Banas says, "You can relax and lounge without spending tons of money."
Check out SpaFinder.com or SpaWeek.com for spa listings and special offers in your area, and look up local beauty schools for spa packages at a serious discount. If spas aren't your thing, carve out a few hours at home for pampering: take an extra-long, hot shower or bath that would be out of the question during the regular week, and use a liberal amount of "the good stuff" — bubble baths or soaps and towels you usually reserve only for overnight guests. Light a candle, pour a glass of wine, and read a book while you soak up the savings, totally transported while still staying thrifty.
TAKE IN A SHOW
Tourists line up in Times Square to take advantage of same-day tickets for Broadway shows at half price, and other cities have similar last-minute, in-person specials. Theatre Bay Area runs a ticket booth in San Francisco's Union Square that sells advance tickets as well as selected same-day, half-price seats. "Local folks use it all the time," says membership associate Susan Shay.
In general, the best days to find theater values are Wednesday and Thursday nights — even if the theatres don't already offer steep discounts, you probably have a better chance at premium seating. If theatre isn't really your thing, check out StubHub.com or Fandango.com for great deals on live concerts or blockbuster movies.
SNAP PHOTOS LIKE A TOURIST
Before you begin your staycation, buy a small photo album and, by the end of your staycation, make sure you have enough images to fill it. You’d be amazed by how much cool stuff is in your city that you wouldn't have noticed if you didn't have a camera in hand to photograph it. Share your photo album with friends and family via KodakGallery.com or another photo-sharing service, just as you would after returning home from a traditional vacation.
SHOP FOR SOUVENIRS
You don't need to buy a tacky shot glass to remember your staycation, but don't deny yourself the pleasure of shopping if that's something you would normally do in a foreign city. Find your city's unique shopping destinations, from upscale avenues to ethnic enclaves, "which makes it a little more special," Banas says. "And just like travel, you can bring home souvenirs." Get a new pair of shoes, go antiquing, or select some thoughtful trinkets and "just because" gifts for friends.