After two years of pandemic-related closures and caution, people are looking to travel come hell or high water. Unfortunately, increased travel demand coupled with massive inflation has many predicting a “sold-out summer,” meaning many popular destinations are expected to either be sold out or so expensive they might as well be sold out.
Although many are willing to pay the premium to get away, there are ways to navigate this high-demand environment while still controlling costs and minimizing travel difficulties.
Looking for cheap flights, using rewards card points, and other travel hacking methods will help mitigate the high price tags of travel, but another great way to keep costs low is to take a staycation. Staycations became popular during the last major U.S. recession and are a great way to take a break, have fun, and still save money.
If you’re looking to get away with minimal costs, we’ve compiled this list of epic staycation ideas to help you plan a vacation in your backyard.
But first, what is a staycation, the types of staycations you can take, why you should consider a staycation, and some top tips for having a fantastic staycation.
What is a Staycation?
A staycation is when an individual or family stays at home and participates in leisure activities in and around their residence. While day trips are often a staple of staycations, these excursions do not typically require overnight accommodations and thus are budget-friendly.
Common staycation ideas include using a backyard pool, visiting local parks and museums, and attending local events or festivals.
Types of Staycations
While the general idea of a staycation is to stay at home and partake in adventures in and around your residence, there are several variations. Here are the three most common ways to conduct a staycation.
Stay Somewhere in Your Town
A great way to have a vacation without all the vacation costs is to stay at a local hotel or Airbnb in your town.
This version of the staycation helps you feel more like you’re on vacation because you get to stay somewhere other than your home. You can also eat out and explore the town as you would if you’d traveled further away.
While this will be the costliest of the staycation ideas, you will still save significantly on gas, airfare, and other traveling costs.
Stay at Home and Do Excursions
This staycation option will save you even more money. Staying at home cuts out all accommodation costs and leaves you funds to splurge on activities or day trips.
Explore your local area by visiting local attractions, attending events near you, or trying a few new restaurants. Taking daily trips to places of interest is a great way to be a tourist in your town and have a fun vacation on a budget.
Stay at Home for Activities
The last variation on the staycation is the most frugal. If you genuinely want to save money and focus on relaxation, consider staying at home and designing activities that can be done at home. For example, if you have a nice yard, you may take advantage of that space or use this time to partake in hobbies you don’t usually have time to do. Staying at home is also a great way to focus on spending time with your spouse or family.
Why Take a Staycation?
The staycation became popular during the recession, but there are many great reasons to consider a staycation besides money. Here are some great reasons to consider a staycation for your next vacation.
The top of the list for most who choose a staycation is money. Staycations save you significantly by cutting out transportation and accommodation costs. You can also go super cheap and decide to eat and do all your activities at home.
The great thing about a staycation is that it can be tailored to your needs, including your money needs.
Enjoy Your Favorites Around Town
A staycation is also a great way to focus on enjoying your favorite places and activities around the town or city you live in. Permit yourself to visit your favorite restaurant, spend a day in your favorite park, or volunteer at a local charity.
Opportunity to Try New Places
While visiting your old favorites should be on your list of staycation ideas, you should also use a staycation as an opportunity to try new places. Check out a new restaurant or an exhibit, or spend a day exploring an unfamiliar part of town.
Avoid Travel Stress
Whether or not you’re a travel enthusiast, travel can also be highly stressful. Even when everything goes according to plan, you must dedicate time to planning, preparing for the trip, and getting to your destination. Many also suffer from travel anxiety, such as being afraid to fly or getting severe motion sickness. If you have a tight budget, trying to find ways to scrimp and save for a trip can also add stress.
Staycations avoid much of the stress that can come with travel by cutting out many high costs and allowing you to tailor your activities to your needs.
If you’re like millions of Americans, you only get a few weeks of PTO a year, and you want to make the most of it. Travelling, especially long-distance travel, can significantly cut into that precious time off. A staycation can help you maximize your PTO because you don’t have to spend days traveling to your destination.
Easier to Manage Pet and Childcare
Those with pets or families may struggle to get away because of the challenges of arranging pet and childcare. While some of us can find a pet sitter or rely on relatives for a couples getaway, others may have to pay for expensive boarding or be relegated to child-friendly destinations.
A staycation allows those with pets or kids to manage their vacation time more efficiently. Pets can stay at home like normal, and children can either partake in the activities or spend a day with a relative or sitter so parents can have some partner time.
Tips for an Epic Staycation
Now that we have you convinced to plan a staycation for your next getaway, here are some tips to make your staycation truly epic.
Plan for Fun
The first tip for an epic staycation is to plan for fun. You’re on vacation, after all!
While you may not treat all your time off like you’re on vacation, you need to plan at least a few fun activities to help you relax and recharge.
Operate Like You’re on Vacation
For those looking to take their staycation to the next level, consider acting like you’re on vacation even if you’re at home.
Sleep in, don’t follow a schedule or your regular routine, plan excursions, forego chores, and eat out to mimic a vacation out of town.
Technology and social media tend to keep us constantly connected to everything. Whether you’re out of town or enjoying a staycation, it’s essential to disconnect from your work and truly rest and recover. Consider unplugging from technology by turning off the television and your phone, and DO NOT check your work email.
Focus on Family
Family vacations are great, but family staycations can be just as good. Use your staycation as an opportunity to slow down and reconnect as a family or with your partner. Also, if extended family live in the area, consider spending some time with them.
Focus on Wellness and Rejuvenation
PTO is an opportunity to rest and recharge, and a staycation is no different. So while it’s tempting to work on projects you may have put off, make sure you dedicate a least some of your time off to wellness and rejuvenation.
Burnout is endemic after two-plus years of global hardship and all the stressors present in our lives. So make sure you take some time to try and refill your cup, even if it’s just taking a day to sleep and do nothing.
50 Epic Staycation Ideas to Get Away for Less
Here are 50 fun staycation ideas to make the most of your time off. We have ideas for every type of staycation and every budget.
Whether you choose to have your movie night at home or a movie theater, this is a great way to have a fun evening with family or friends. Don’t forget to grab popcorn and a blanket before settling down to watch your favorite films if you’re at home.
Camp in Your Backyard
There’s nothing like roasting marshmallows over an open flame, but with many campgrounds sold out and prices climbing higher, you can still bring the outdoor experience to your home. If you have the space, try pitching a tent in your backyard. You’ll get the best of the camping experience with all the comforts of home.
Board games aren’t just for kids. Nowadays, many great adult-themed games are available, along with your classic favorites. Invite friends or family, or hang out with your spouse or kids and enjoy a game night.
Puzzles are an excellent quiet activity and can fill up an entire afternoon.
Learn a New Hobby or Skill
Have you been yearning to try a new thing? A staycation is a perfect time to learn a new hobby or skill.
Tour Your Town
Whether you’ve lived in the area your whole life or are a relative newcomer, there are often great things to do in your own town. Research things to do and become a tourist in your city.
Painting is a relaxing way to express yourself through art. Check if there’s a painting class in your area you can attend, or simply pull up a YouTube video and follow along. Bob Ross would be proud!
Go on a Picnic
Picnics are a fantastic way to spend quality time with a loved one on a budget. Pack a meal, then find a scenic area to spread a blanket. You can sit and talk, play a game, read a book, or take a nap while you let your meal settle.
Spa days are a worthwhile splurge to indulge in while on your staycation. You could spend the day at a local spa, get a massage, or set up a spa day in the comfort of your own home.
Try a New Recipe
If you love to cook, trying new recipes on your staycation is a great way to have fun and try a new dish. You can splurge on ingredients and take the time you wouldn’t usually have to immerse yourself in the experience. You could even take a cooking class and learn new methods to try at home.
This staycation idea is for those who have limited time off or want to get out of their home for a change of scenery. Try booking a room or Airbnb in your local area for the weekend, and you can pretend like you’re out-of-towners.
Read a Book
How often do we get a chance to read what we want to read? A staycation is a perfect time to cuddle up and grab a good book.
Attend a Sports Event
If you love sports but don’t typically have time to attend events, consider using a staycation as your opportunity to attend events in your local area. Attend professional, minor league, or even high school sporting events to get your sports kick. Baseball games, in particular, are a great way to enjoy a summer afternoon or evening.
Attend a Concert
Are any good acts coming to your area? Attend a local concert for a band you like or visit an event or place with live music to discover new favorites.
You’re on vacation, so act like it and sleep in!
Visit a New Restaurant/Bar/Club
If you’re a foodie or enjoy going to bars and clubs, a staycation is a great opportunity to try a new venue.
Try an Escape Room
Escape rooms are popping up all over the country and are a fun way to spend a day with friends or your spouse. Work together to solve clues and puzzles to escape your situation in a safe environment.
Get Out in Nature
Getting outside and being active is essential to our health, so one of the best summer staycation ideas is to get out in nature. Do you live near the beach, mountains, or State and National Parks? Take a day trip and get outside to explore what mother nature has to offer.
Day trips have already been mentioned a few times, but they are worth their own category because they’re one of the best staycation ideas that help you feel less deprived. Most of us live within a day trip of some fantastic nature, towns, or destinations, and an inexpensive way to enjoy those places is to drive there for the day.
Bring the Vacation Home
If you want to go all out with your staycation, consider bringing the vacation to your home. Set up your space with a theme and tailor your days off to that theme. For example, you could set up your home with a Hawaiian theme, complete with tropical plants, island colors and animals, and food. Wear your swimsuit and board shorts around the house to put yourself in the spirit!
If you love volunteer work but find yourself short on time, a staycation is a perfect opportunity to give back to the causes and charities you love most.
Visit a Water Park, Aquarium, or the Zoo
Summer is the perfect time to explore your local attractions. Spend the day at a water park, aquarium, zoo, or any other notable attractions in your local area.
Swap Homes with a Friend
Want to feel like you’re getting away without the expense? Try swapping homes with a friend for a few days. The change of space will make it feel more like a vacation out of town.
How often do we look up and enjoy the wonders of the universe? On a clear, warm summer night, take a moment to look up at the stars and contemplate the vastness of space. Apps like Sky View can help you identify the celestial bodies you see.
Take a Hike
Most cities have areas in and around them for taking hikes. So grab your furry friend or a buddy and hit the trails nearby.
Stay at a Hotel in Your Town (or Airbnb)
If a change of scenery is what you need to recharge, consider staying a few days in a local hotel or Airbnb. Order room service if you really want to indulge!
Visit a Museum
Have you explored the art and culture of your area? Check out local museums to learn more about your town and its history.
Take a Virtual Tour
Virtual tours became all the rage during the pandemic, and many are still available. Check out this list of amazing virtual tours you can take at locations worldwide.
Plan Your Dream Trip
What is your dream trip? While the dream will have to wait a little longer, you can always start planning it.
Take a Mind Vacation
If you’re stuck with a staycation due to time or budget, consider taking a mind vacation to still get out and explore. Visualization is a powerful tool that can help you relax and feel satisfied. First, spend some time daydreaming about a place you’d like to vacation. Then, try to visualize what it would look like, where you’ll stay, and what you’ll do.
Go on a Date
If you have a busy career or family life, it can be tough to take time to spend with just your partner. A staycation is a great time to dedicate to a date night to reconnect with your loved one.
Binge Watch Your Favorite Show or Movies
Another great staycation activity is binge-watching your favorite TV shows or movie series.
Build a Fire and Make S’mores
Making s’mores is a fun activity for kids and adults alike that can easily be done in your backyard. If you don’t have room for a fire pit, a gas fire, or even a gas stove will work just fine.
Watch the Sunset
Whether from a rooftop deck in the city or a viewpoint out of town, a great staycation activity is grabbing some snacks and enjoying the sunset with your best friend or loved one.
Rent an RV
If you’ve always wanted to get out and explore, this summer might be a good time to get out and glamp. You can rent RVs from companies or locals for a few days and see if the RV life is for you.
Have a BBQ
One of the best things about summer is BBQing. Invite friends and family over for a BBQ and spend some quality time playing games and enjoying the warm weather.
Build a Fort
Have you ever built a fort out of blankets? This is a great activity to do with the kids inside or out.
Rent a Bike or Scooter
Bike and scooter rentals are becoming a popular way to explore cities on a budget. Go on a scooter or bike ride with your family and explore your local area while getting some exercise.
Rent a Boat
If you live near a lake or river, an extraordinary staycation idea is to rent a boat for the day. Enjoy fishing, watersports, and working on your tan while floating along.
One of the best ways to beat the summer heat is to take a dip in rivers, lakes, the ocean, and local pools. If you have your own backyard pool, even better!
It’s been well-document that yoga helps with mental and physical health. So consider doing yoga inside or out in the sun during your staycation to help focus on your wellbeing.
Make Your Own Cocktails
Alcoholic drinks are usually the most expensive aspect of eating out, but you can save money by making your own. Watch videos online or attend a cocktail-making class to have your fill of adult beverages for a fraction of the cost.
Learn How to Make Sushi
Sushi is another special treat for many people that isn’t as easily replicated at home. Luckily, there are sushi-making classes you can take that will help you understand the tools you’ll need and how to prepare this special treat in the comfort of your own home.
Go Kayaking or Paddleboarding
A much less expensive way to get out on the water is to go kayaking or paddleboarding. You can rent this equipment for less than $100 for a few hours or purchase your own for between $200 and $1,000. Even with the added purchase expense, kayaks or paddleboards are much less expensive than a boat and much easier to store!
Another great activity for getting outside is to go fishing. Purchase a license and some gear at your local sports store, grab a book or music playing device, and enjoy a day in the sun.
Consider decluttering your home for those who need a little productivity mixed into their staycation. If you can’t remember the last time you used something, consider donating it, selling it on Craigslist or a Craigslist alternative, or trashing it. You should consider decluttering your schedule as well as your physical space.
Could your space need some sprucing up? Consider redecorating or rearranging your living space for a fresh look.
Have a Backward Dinner
One of my favorite things to do as a kid was to have a backward dinner. That meant eating breakfast items for dinner in my family, but you could also eat dessert before your main meal to shake things up.
Geocaching is becoming increasingly popular and is a great way to get outside and enjoy a treasure hunt. Geocachers use a GPS system on their phone to hide and seek containers, known as geocaches or caches. These locations are marked by coordinates all over the world, and you must use navigation techniques to find them. What a fun twist on the idea of a scavenger hunt!
Go Bowling/Golfing, etc.
We may not get to partake in many recreational activities often due to our busy lives. So a staycation is a perfect time to play a round of golf, go bowling, or participate in any other recreational activities you don’t get to do often but wish you did.
Epic Staycation Ideas: Final Thoughts
As the price of travel soars, more will be looking for ways to cut costs this summer. Planning an epic staycation may be the perfect way to get away for a fraction of the cost.
First, decide what type of staycation you want to take (overnight in town, excursions, or all activities at home), how many days you’ll be on staycation, your budget, and the activities from the list above you want to partake in.
Then, get out and enjoy your destination staycation!
Tawnya is an elementary special education teacher by day and co-blogger at Money Saved is Money Earned by night.
She holds an Honors BS in Psychology from Oregon State University and an MS in Special Education from Portland State University. She has had a pretty successful writing career, first as a writing tutor at the Oregon State University Writing Center, and in recent years, as a freelance writer.
Tawnya and co-blogger Sebastian have a wealth of knowledge and information about personal finance, retirement, student loans, credit cards, and many other financial topics. They teach people how to save money, make money, and understand money.