Motivated by a love for family and a lifestyle of living within their means, my parents planned a stay-at-home vacation before “staycations” were a thing, and it ranks as one of the most memorable vacations I have ever had. I’ve often wondered how they did it. How were they able to create a successful and affordable staycation and convince three children, ages 9, 12, and 13, that it was the best vacation ever? After looking back, I believe I have figured out their secret sauce for planning an enjoyable and budget-friendly staycation.
Get Your Head in the Game
Before we go any further, ignore that subtle, little voice lingering in the back of your mind. You know the one, it’s a little joy squashing gremlin that tells you that what you are planning is second best, not a real vacation. It’s just not true. A vacation is simply a time of extended recreation, a break from work, a time to rest, relax, and play. If you are doing that, you are taking a vacation! Really believe that a staycation is something you get to do, not something you have to do because you can’t afford to do something else.
Make a Plan
Just because you are staying home doesn’t mean fun and rest and will happen automatically. It actually means it’s more likely not to happen unless you are strategic. Without solid planning, your staycation has the potential to turn into house projects and Netflix binges.
Ignore that subtle, little voice lingering in the back of your mind. The little joy squashing gremlin that tells you that the staycation you are planning is second best, not a real vacation. It’s not true.
Here’s How to Start:
- Place your vacation on your calendar. No other appointments go in this spot. This is set aside time that cannot be negotiated for getting other things done.
- Set a budget. You are saving lots of money on travel and accommodation expenses, but determine what you can spend on other things like food and activities. We’ll get creative with these items later on.
- Establish some guidelines for computers, phones, and other devices. This is something to think about whether you are staying home or going away for your vacation.
- Make a list of the things you do on a traditional vacation that make it special for you. These are the details that make moments meaningful. Do you buy souvenirs? Do mints on your pillow make you happy? Is there a special treat you eat when you’re away? You can do these on your staycation, too!
- Build excitement. Your family will follow your lead, really. Talk it up, stir up their anticipation. I remember my mom telling us that we wouldn’t have to make our beds, and we would eat out for every dinner. We were all excited for the arrival of that vacation date on our calendar.
Flesh It Out
Now, with your budget in mind and your list of special vacation details in hand, it’s time to construct your perfect budget-friendly staycation. Here we will answer two important questions. What will we do, and what will we eat? So much of vacation rests on activities and food, and staycations aren’t any different.
Because you are at home, you have the advantage of using your kitchen. However, this can also serve as a disadvantage. Some people love to cook, and this time at home may provide the chance to cook up all those special dishes that there’s not normally time for. But for those who see cooking as a chore, eating out or bringing food in may be a better option. When setting up your eating routine, remember to do whatever feels restful and relaxing to you.
For the meals you choose to eat at home, take a trip to the grocery store prior to your staycation, and pick up some items you normally don’t buy. Try a new jelly for the morning toast, a gourmet cheese and fancy crackers for an afternoon snack, or maybe fixings for ice cream sundaes one evening. Perhaps you let the kids create the menu for one night, and let them go a little wild. All affordable, but just different enough from the day to day that it feels a bit luxurious and indulgent.
Dine out or take out as your budget allows. Takeout food eaten on a picnic table near the lake can be just as memorable as a restaurant meal. It doesn’t have to be expensive to be enjoyable.
Once you decide how much of your budget will be spent on food, it’s time to map out the activities. Like meal planning, first consider what is fun and restful for you and your family. There is no right way to plan your days. Do you like day trips? If so, how far would you like travel? Do beach days make you smile, or do you prefer time watching a good movie? Hiking, biking, board games, strolling in the mall? Games in the yard or visits to the community pool are also great ways to spend some time.
As you map out your time, approach it like a tourist. You may choose to Google sites and attractions in your area. Ask yourself what visitors to your area like to do and see, then do those things.
Another approach is to plan like a local. There may be things in your area you would love to do, but just never seem to have the time. For me, it’s our local farmer’s market. I often work on Saturday mornings and seem to miss them.
Sometimes planning activities can be challenging because everyone in the family likes to do different things. A family brainstorming meeting prior to your staycation is helpful if this is your family dynamic. Consider rotating the types of activities throughout the week. It may also be helpful to take on a divide-and-conquer approach having mom and dad head up different activities on the same day.
You may find that you have more activities than vacation days, but that’s okay! Having a lot to choose from is so much better than staring at one another and not knowing what to do. Don’t forget that sitting on the back deck with some iced tea watching the kids run around qualifies as an activity, too, and so do napping and reading!
Build excitement for your staycation. Your family will follow your lead, really. Talk it up, stir up their anticipation.
Enjoy Every Beautiful Moment
Remember that list of vacation details that make vacations special for you? Pepper some of those throughout your week. Or use this time to create some new family staycation traditions.
As you get your head in the game, make your plans, flesh them out, and begin your staycation, remember to keep the words restful and fun before you. Let them serve as your compass, your north star.
Before you know it, your family will remember that special time you stayed home for vacation and marvel at your skill for pulling off an amazing, budget-friendly staycation.
While on your relaxing staycation, be sure to catch up on episodes you’ve missed from This Grit and Grace Life podcast. Click here to find the episodes you need to hear.