Airfares are rising and airport security lines are getting longer, so why not plan a hassle-free “staycation” this year? You’ll save time and money and, if you plan it right, you’ll feel more relaxed when it’s time to go back to work.
The key to the perfect staycation, experts say, is to treat it like an out-of-town vacation: Do your research ahead of time, plan your activities and count down to the big day when you start the festivities.
“A staycation requires as much research as if you were planning to go somewhere else,” says Cherie Lowe, blogger and author of Slaying the Debt Dragon. Lowe and her husband paid off $127,000 in debt in just under four years. During the time, she says, they planned many staycations.
Media professional, Karen Gadawski, agrees that the best staycations should be planned ahead and scheduled as if they were out-of-town vacations. “Have things done beforehand so that during vacation you aren’t thinking about everyday chores like doing laundry,” she says.
For the budget-minded, she says, it’s much easier to find discounts and to save passes for nearby entertainment venues you‘re familiar with than to shell out for high-priced places out of town.
Here Lowe and Gadawski offer seven tips on how to plan the perfect staycation:
1. Do your research
Visit your city’s convention and visitor’s bureau website.. There you will find a blog, calendar of events and coupons for some local attractions you might not have even thought about visiting, Lowe says.
Also, check the websites of your local community center, library and government. Look for festivals, free events and concerts. This will give you some idea of when you want to take your staycation and give you some dates to put on your calendar, Lowe says.
2. Create excitement
Counting down to your vacation is important, Gadawski says. Put the dates in the family calendar and talk about how it’s two weeks and then a week before vacation time. Then start counting down the days.
Get everyone involved in planning the itinerary. If you’re looking for places to go, consider whether there are parks you haven’t visited because they are a 30 minute or an hour’s drive away. Research national parks that are within a two-hour drive from your house.
When you wake up each morning of your staycation, you should know what you plan to do that day. Whether you are travelling or staycationing, you should plan activities with your children’s ages in mind. Check out our family travel guide for tips on organizing the best vacation for every age group.
3. Look for local package deals
Many museums and minor league sports teams offer package deals that include tickets and a one-night hotel stay, Lowe says. If you find one of these packages, take advantage of spending a night in a hotel with a swimming pool and plan to visit the zoo or children’s museum in the morning.
4. Check in for one night
If you want to spend one night in a hotel with a swimming pool, look online for discount rates. If you are local, you’ll have an easier time determining which hotels are being offered on travel sites, Lowe says. You can also call the front desk and ask for their best deal. If you are willing to stay midweek, she says, you can probably get a good deal, especially if you call close to the day you want to book.
5. Escape to the movies
Look for activities that you wouldn’t normally do or be able to take advantage of if you weren’t on vacation. For instance, many movie theaters offer Tuesday or Wednesday morning free or cheap matinee showings. Lowe suggests getting to the theater early because it will fill up fast. Drive-in movies are also a fun alternative. Or allow each family member to pick a movie to rent for each night of vacation.
6. Make it special
Shaking up your normal routine is essential to a staycation. For instance, Gadawski says, play dates aren’t allowed during staycations because it’s all about family time. In the evenings she plans movie nights, game nights and even a giant indoor sleep over in the family room.
Themed food and music can also make things festive, Lowe says. Grill burgers and hotdogs and play some 1950s songs during dinner, or create a make-it-yourself taco bar in your kitchen and play Mexican music.
7. Don’t plan every minute
Everyone needs some downtime during vacation so be careful not to plan every minute of your time off, Lowe says. If you do feel like you need to have a packed agenda, consider doing a shorter staycation of two or three a days.
But if want to have a vacation where everyone can relax and sleep in each morning, Lowe adds, pace yourself. Get out of the house each day, and plan family activities each night.
Planning a staycation can save time and money, but traveling doesn’t have to break the bank. If getting out of town is a must, learn how you can find great deals and travel on a budget.