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On a Budget? Take a Vacation at Home

We all know that summer is the time for vacations and adventures. Yet, when you have a family to support, getting tickets and hotel rooms to all those exotic new places tends to add up and drain your wallet. Forbes noted that after the recession began several years ago, superfluous spending was cut from the average household, including family trips. Following this trend, a surge began with “staycations.”


Matt Wixon, author of The Great American Staycation, told Consumerreports.org that a staycation is “a vacation in which the vacationer stays at home, or near home, while creating the environment of a traditional vacation”. Getting out of everyday life, turning off your work phone and email, and not doing house chores (such as cleaning out and reorganizing the Tupperware drawer) is essential to making a staycation feel like a real vacation. The key part of any vacation is making it a vacation. Some ways to maintain that feeling is to plan ahead (let your kids help!), take care of projects or chores beforehand, and know how or when to splurge even when you’re saving. Staycations are a way to help you more easily stay on a budget and are still fun for the entire family.


Here are a few options for this summer’s staycations:


Go to the pool or beach. Make a day of it: pack some sandwiches for lunch, check to see if there’s a new ice cream parlor you wanted to try, or simply grab a Frisbee and toss it around with your kids and friends. If there’s a lawn near the pool, set up a picnic. Grab a picnic blanket or a few big towels and have a tea party on the beach.

Check out your local museums, observatories, planetariums, zoos, aquariums, etc. See what is around you, in a nearby town or city. Lots of small towns have little museums that generally only tourists step foot in. Be a tourist of your own town, and see how other people see what you’ve become so accustomed to. For animal lovers, they will never tire of going to the zoo or aquarium. If your kids love science, take them to an observatory or planetarium, and try out some of the tours. Small things like that will make your kid’s day.

Go to a show. Whether it’s an opera, a dance, or a play, see what your local theater is showing. Sometimes, theaters have discounted days for kids, so look at what your local theater offers. Also along those lines, go see a matinee. Have a nice lunch and see a movie. Add some extra fun for the kids and dress up fancy for the movie theater as if it’s the 1920’s. Break out the fake pearls, sunhats, and clip-on ties, and let them dress up for this occasion. Or have a movie night at home. Buy different kinds of popcorn and tons of toppings and candy for a fun-filled night.

If your family is more the outdoorsy type, bike or hike new trails. You can rent bikes or use your own if you have them. See what your community has to offer.

Want to be on vacation but also get in shape? That spa retreat you’ve always coveted doesn’t allow kids? Look into your local YMCA and take some exercise classes with the whole family. There are usually options such as Zumba and yoga for all ages.

Host a potluck or barbeque. Invite some friends over for a good time in the backyard, and grill up some good eats. String some lanterns up or light some Tiki torches, throw on some good music, and you have yourself a good night.

Go to a ballgame or other sporting event. If there’s nothing going around you, make your own! Put together a community Frisbee tournament, tennis matches, swimming race, best cannonball contest (check with your local pool for their safety rules), or community baseball/softball games.

What family fun centers are around you? Those can include miniature golf, bowling, laser tag, go karts, etc.

If you’re near a body of water, take a cruise. Whether it’s a lake or ocean, rent a boat or kayak to see what you’ve always known from a new perspective.

Water parks are great fun for kids of all ages. Many cities have added them to recreation centers, so don’t forget to look there.  

Take a simple train ride. Sometimes, the simplest things are the most fun for kids. Whether it’s the commuter train into your city, going along the coast, or watching fields go by, kids will find fun in the smallest things.

Camp in the backyard. You can ‘rough it’ in the tent you’ve been keeping in your garage since your college days, or revamp and go glamping, or glamorous camping, and splurge for a nicer camping set. You can go to glampsites to make it a social event, and rent as much gear as you are comfortable with spending

Buy some beanbags and finish up that book list that’s been growing for years now. Go to your local library or bookstore to find books for cheap. If your community has book swaps, they are also a fantastic place to not only find new, exciting books, but also get rid of some you’ve already read. It is also a good way to keep your kids reading and excited about learning in between school years.

Finally, a favorite within my own family: board games. My mother always pulled out Clue, being the sneakiest of us all. My father and I rocked at Monopoly, even though my sister always somehow won. We would sometimes make a game of the games we played: whoever won would get to choose the movie for that night. Make up your own rules as you go for an added, house-rule fun.

Vacationing at home can be just as fun as going to new places. Being on a budget can be a fun thing! View it as a time to look at your local community. Be a tourist. It’s important to know where you come from, and that requires exploration of the familiar. Staying at home for a vacation can allow time for family bonding. Staycations might not be the most exciting vacation you’ll ever take, but it can be the right one for this time in your family’s lives.

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