The Successful Staycation

Last year I wanted to take my family on vacation during Christmas break while my youngest son, Keith, was on break from college. My oldest son, Brian, was not able to get time off work as that was a very busy time for the store. So we decided to take a staycation to allow our whole family to participate in the fun. Since we were vacationing at home, Brian was able to join us in the evenings and on his days off. Keith was a little leery though. He wondered if it would really be a vacation if we stayed home.

For some, like Keith, this didn’t sound like a vacation at all. But if you open your mind to the possibilities, you can have a great vacation without paying for airplane tickets or a hotel. But in order for it to be a real vacation, you need to set a few ground rules.

Staying home runs the risk of forgetting you are on vacation. This might lead to doing chores around the house. You might even be tempted to get caught up at the office, since you are home without anything pressing. But for this to be a real vacation, you must break your usual routine.

First, turn off the ringer on both your home phone and your cell phone so you will not be disturbed by anyone, especially those annoying spam calls from your “Windows representative.” If you were in Mexico, these calls would have gone to voicemail, so let voicemail take your calls while on your staycation.

Second, close the door to your home office and don’t go in there for the duration of your staycation. If you were in Paris, you would not be able to go into the office to catch up on work. Remember you are on vacation and the work will wait until you get back. If everyone is asleep and you are awake looking for something to do, then read a book you’ve been wanting to read but haven’t had the time.

Third, no yard work. If you were in London, you couldn’t mow the lawn so let your lawn grow.

Fourth, get rid of your to-do list. You can’t do the things on that list when you are in Tahiti.

Fifth, sleep in every day. Don’t set your alarm. After all, you are on vacation.

Sixth, make sure your office staff thinks you are away on vacation. Tell them you are in Timbuktu. Otherwise, they may be tempted to seek your help with a problem at the office. (Side note: I was in my 40’s before I found out that Timbuktu was an out of the way place in Africa. I always thought it was imaginary.)

Seventh, look at your town the way a tourist would. There are many activities, places to visit, and restaurants you haven’t explored because they are right in your back yard. Think like a visitor to your area and find the fun things to do that surround you. A nearby hotel lobby, or the chamber of commerce has a display stand with brochures of lots of things to do in your area. You can also Google things to do in your area. You might be surprised by what you find.

We began planning our staycation the same way we plan all our vacations. We searched out the things to do in the area and began to make a schedule of what we would do each day. Here is a list of the things we found to do in our area:

Take a day trip to Diamond Lake for snowmobiling and tubing.
Go rock climbing at the rock gym.
Play miniature golf and video games at the family fun center.
Eat at some new restaurants.
Go roller skating.
Play board games in the evenings when Brian was available.
Watch movies, like the entire Harry Potter series, in order, one each night.
Take a hike up Table Rock Mountain.
Go bowling.
Have a Ping Pong tournament.
Visit the Bear Hotel.
Go to a play.
Attend a concert at a nearby casino.
Take a bike ride through the country.
Drive to the lake for lunch.
Hike through the Redwood Forest.
Spend a day at the beach.
Have a special meal together for breakfast.
Tour a winery.
Explore the Oregon Caves.
Visit the Oregon Vortex.

Our list would have been even longer if it were summer and we could play in the rivers and lakes surrounding our town.

As you can see, our list was too long to do everything in the allotted time of our staycation, but we had a good time doing what we did. We were able to spend time together having fun just like we do when we travel to a destination to vacation. The difference was our home base was our house, not a hotel in another city. My batteries were recharged afterwards, maybe better than on our usual vacations.

For those who are trying to get ahead financially, the substantial savings in your vacation budget will help pay off your debts or make retirement plan contributions. Many vacations are done with borrowed money. We whip out our credit card and spend what we want worrying about paying the bill later. For many, this creates unneeded stress after the vacation. Don’t we go on vacation to relieve stress? Why create more by going into debt just to have fun with your family. Debt is not fun! Staycations allow you to have fun without spending a lot of money.

For my family of four a staycation avoids four airplane tickets. A savings of $2,000-$4,000 depending on the destination. The hotel costs of a week at a destination resort might save another $2,000. Since we will be at home and eating many of our meals from our own kitchen, we will save money on food and likely eat a better diet at the same time. This might save another $500. Avoiding the expense of amusement park tickets or expensive tourist attractions for a week could save another $1,000.

A staycation could easily save $5,000 over the cost of your usual family vacation, and it will be every bit as fun and relaxing if you do it right. You will also remove the frustration, stress, jet lag, and vacation time lost traveling to and from your destination. What could you do with the additional $5,000? Make an IRA deposit? Pay off more debt? Buy your son a car? Remodel your bathroom? Help a missionary? Make a donation to charity? Reduce your workload by taking a few extra days off?

We really did have a good time on our staycation. We were also able to include our son in the fun by staying nearby, thus it was a vacation for the whole family.

Have you ever been on a staycation? What fun things did you do? What did you do with the money you saved?

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2 thoughts on “The Successful Staycation”

  1. Great post…. Although, I will admit that when I first read your post I thought, “easy to take a staycation…when you live in the pacific northwest!”.
    So, I looked around my “financial fellowship” Midwest town and realized that thanks to the recently opened indoor rock climbing center (ok, bouldering center…no harnesses) we can do just about everything you list. Our bike rides may not be quite as scenic and your Willamette valley pinot noir is replaced with our concord grape juice wine but a solid staycation may still be possible indeed!

    • SightseeMD,
      Thanks for your comment. I found that most people have great things to do around their home, but they are not looking for them. Look around and you will find plenty. It’s funny to hear of people who leave a vacation destination to go somewhere else to vacation. Why do people in Orlando, Hawaii and San Diego ever need to go anywhere for vacation? Because they never think about home as a place to vacation.


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