Frugality 101: Stay-cations v. Vacations

Hello Readers!  Now, I know a lot of you have already started making your holiday plans and will be using a lot of your vacation time on traveling to see family during the coming weeks until the end of the year, but there may be some of you that have plans to stick close to home. We tend to stick close to home because our families are so close to our location.  And, even though we have the time, we prefer to do stay-cations rather than vacations, even though we do still do vacations from time to time.

So, before I left my career, I used my vacation time every year.  I rarely went on vacation, however.  I did a lot of stay-cations, which were so much better than leaving my own home.  I often used my stay-cation to deep clean my apartment, and given my typical work weeks of 50+hours it was necessary, but I also got out and did things in my area.  What this meant is that I got to know what my city was like, what it had to offer, and what attractions were worth seeing.  And I saved myself a bundle of money by sleeping in my own bed, driving my own car, and (mostly) eating in my own home.

So, I know a lot of you know the benefits, but let me briefly cover them.  To begin with, there’s no resort fees or charges to contend with.  You can choose to stay in a hotel within your own city, and it is a wonderful option, or you can save your cash and just stay at home.  While there won’t be a maid service, you will still feel refreshed because you aren’t at work.  As for travel accommodations, using your own vehicle that you are familiar with is the best option since the only cost to you will be gas.  If you don’t feel like driving your vehicle, you can always rent one from a rental company like Enterprise or Hertz.  However, if you choose to do this option, always call ahead of time to find out what you will need to rent the vehicle.  Some locations will not take a debit card (any card attached to a bank account is a debit card) and some locations require paperwork to rent a car.  Be sure to call the specific location where you will rent to verify what you need beforehand to avoid a nasty surprise.  I know this because I worked in the rental car industry for years and it’s astonishing how ill prepared many of our guests could be.

Lastly, you will have restaurant and attraction costs to pay, but it won’t be nearly as much if you stay in your own home.  I often find that after a couple of days of eating out for every meal, I long for a home-cooked one or something simple.  All too often, restaurants fill these platter-sized plates with food, and most of us hate to leave anything behind.  We paid for it, after all.  But, I sometimes felt sick trying to eat everything because I’m big on not wasting food when someone else goes without.  So, staying in your own home means that you can easily take a break from eating at restaurants all the time and have a couple of home-cooked meals during your vacation.

Now, what do you do during a stay-cation?  The answer is simple: anything you want.  You want to sleep until noon and wear your pajamas all day every day?  Go for it (barring your kids, who may go crazy).  You want to get out and see everything your city has to offer?  Go for it.  You want to deep clean your house all day long?  Be my guest.  The possibilities are endless, and you will most likely spend about one quarter of what you would have spent on a vacation elsewhere.  But, here are some great ideas for your own stay-cation.

  1. A camp-out.  In your own backyard.  This is easy, especially in the summer and the warmer months of the year.  Pitch the tent in your own back yard, roll out the sleeping bags, and spend the night outside.  Use the barbecue or grill to cook your dinner and breakfast, and spend the day going for walks and hikes in nearby parks.  BONUS: Unlike normal camping, you’ll have showers and toilets nearby so you won’t feel grungy after a week.  And your kids will love the adventure aspect of it!  Too cold to camp out in the backyard?  Why not do indoor camping?  Just pull out the sleeping bags, create a fort in the living room, and have everyone sleep in the fort together.
  2. Local adventure week.  Pick four or five activities or adventures your family would like to do together and do a new one each day.  This can be anything from a theme park visit to a museum trip to a walk in the park.  Stick to local attractions that your city has almost all of the time, and try to pick ones that you normally wouldn’t do.  This makes the vacation special to your kids, and they’ll feel like it’s a treat.  Plus, you’ll get to know your city a little better.  BONUS: some locations and attractions offer a local’s discount, so check to see if they do and take advantage of that!
  3. Nearby attractions/towns.  If you simply MUST get out of town, don’t stray too far.  Check out a nearby city or location that has a cool attraction or a niche to enjoy.  For us, we live close to a couple of hot springs resorts, several smaller towns with B&Bs, the state capital, a couple of large lake (like Lake Tahoe), and at least one historical society, just to name a few.  So, the possibilities for us are endless.  BONUS: you can even do a tour of nearby locations by deciding to spend one night or two in each nearby town and partaking on their attractions in the area.  You’ll still feel like you went on vacation, but you won’t be too far from home if everyone gets overwhelmed.  And, barring a large event in the town, most hotels have rooms available for walk-ins that are sometimes cheaper during the week than what can be reserved ahead of time.
  4. Seasonal cleaning.  Okay, so this doesn’t sound like a lot of fun, but for me it was a great way to spend my stay-cation from time to time.  My apartment would be in desperate need of a deep clean when I would get started, and by the end it was spotless.  And I would return to work feeling refreshed and renewed.  Often, I would use this time to clean out my closet and purchase or replace items that were very much needed.  This is a great way to spend your time when there isn’t much going on in your area.  Plus, you don’t even have to get dressed up to clean your house.

So these are just a few suggestions to get you started on planning your own stay-cation.  And now is a great time to start thinking of something like this for the Winter break that most kids will take around Christmas.  While you and your family may have plans for the holiday itself, these stay-cation ideas might be absolutely perfect for that week between Christmas and New Year’s to keep your kids occupied and maintain your own sanity and money.

Until next time,

-BBM

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