Travelers love taking trips to faraway places, but how often do they miss out on the beauty and fun that can be had in their own backyards? After all, even the most exotic and exciting destinations are just “home” to locals.
Vacationing close to home — or taking a “staycation” — eliminates a variety of travel costs, such as airfare, car rentals and lodging. You can relax, have an adventure or get to know your local area better at a low cost. That’s why a staycation can be the perfect solution to cool your wanderlust on a budget.
To get the best tips on how to save money while experiencing a memorable vacation at home, GOBankingRates talked to several personal finance and travel experts.
TAKE A TOUR OF LOCAL RESTAURANTS
Elle Martinez of CoupleMoney.com said that she and her husband took a staycation to celebrate an anniversary. “One of our favorite things to do when we travel is try hole-in-wall spots, so for this staycation we took the money we would’ve used to travel and went on a restaurant tour,” Martinez said. “We went on daily dates and knocked off our list of places we had been wanting to try.”
A staycation could also be the perfect excuse to plan a pub crawl of local bars, attend a wine tasting or a tour a local brewery. To keep your eating-out bill from getting too high, visit restaurants during lunch, which is usually when the prices on the menu are cheaper. Also, take advantage of happy hour specials.
STAY IN A DIFFERENT PART OF TOWN
“Pick a hotel at least 30 minutes from your usual neighborhood so you have the opportunity to try new restaurants, shops and activities,” advises Jenny McIver of rtwin30days.com. McIver lives in suburban Atlanta and decided to spend a weekend at a hotel in Atlanta’s midtown/Buckhead area with her fiancé.
A staycation in a different part of the city you rarely visit will get you outside your normal haunts. And, you can experience a new place without racking up travel costs.
GET OUT OF TOWN
If you’re determined to get out of your city, find a destination that’s not so far away that you have to book a flight. Caroline Trefler, senior editor at Fodors.com, said her most memorable staycation started with a weekend out of town.
“I live in New York City, and I went camping upstate with friends (bonus points for being very inexpensive!),” she said. “We were back in the city late Sunday night, and I spent the rest of the week based at home.”
BOOK A HOTEL FOR ONE OR TWO NIGHTS
Rani Robinson, managing producer at TravelChannel.com, said she booked a hotel to help her Fourth of July staycation in Washington feel like a getaway. “We packed our bags and became complete tourists for 24 hours,” she said. “We retired that night to a hotel in walking distance from Georgetown’s waterfront, to truly complete the staycation experience. The kids were completely thrilled to not have to return home.”
SPEND TIME WITH FRIENDS AND FAMILY
One of the biggest perks of a staycation is that, unlike a typical vacation, you’re not leaving friends behind. So, you can use your time off to make quality memories with the people you care about. In fact, perhaps the hotel you’re staying in can make it easier — and maybe even cheaper — for you to host a gathering or party.
“Our last staycation we grabbed a hotel nearby with a big suite and invited out our niece and nephews for a pool and pizza party, which made their week,” said Kyle Stewart, travel editor at UPGRD.com and owner of TripSherpa.us. “It was fun for us too — we got to host without having to clean up.”
UNPLUG THE ELECTRONICS
Jeanette Pavini of Coupons.com said that unplugging was key for her to enjoy her staycation. “We turned off the cell phones and shut off the computers — that’s the trick!” she said. “In two days we felt like we escaped and were completely refreshed.”
BE A TOURIST IN YOUR CITY
Jon Dulin of MoneySmartGuides.com lives in Philadelphia, so when he and his family took a staycation, there were plenty of popular tourist attractions to explore that he found by searching online. “The great thing about the staycation was that we did things that we typically overlook even though they are in our own backyard, like the Liberty Bell,” Dulin said. “I’ve lived here my whole life, and this was the first time I saw it.”
PLAN YOUR STAYCATION AROUND AN EVENT
A staycation can be the perfect time to take advantage of events and entertainment happenings in your own city, such as a convention, festival or concert. “My wife and I are based in Pittsburgh, and occasionally we get a hotel and plan a weekend around an event, whether it is a concert or just a night out,” said Stewart.
Look ahead, and find an event that’s exciting to you, and plan around it. “I read local magazines, websites and local papers that have events and listings to keep on top of what’s going and what’s new,” said Trefler.
BRING THE VACATION TO YOUR HOME
Sheiresa Ngo of The Cheat Sheet has a clever idea if you want to experience exotic destinations at home when you don’t have the cash for a plane ticket and other travel costs. “If you decide to stay at home, try decorating your home to resemble the place you most want to visit,” she said. “You can have a Hawaiian vacation right in your living room with a couple of faux palm trees.”