Financial Literacy for Everyone

Smart Ideas for a Summer Staycation

No doubt, you’re familiar with the “staycation” phenomenon. In case you’ve been out of the loop (or perhaps on a long vacation), a staycation is the budget-savvy, stay-local version of the old-fashioned vacation, and it’s become so popular that it was added to the dictionary last year.

According to Rasmussen Reports, 58% of 2009 vacation goers said economic conditions were forcing them to cut back on their vacation spending. Many travelers are embracing the concept of vacationing near home and taking advantage of free or inexpensive activities in their area, meanwhile enjoying quality family time without the stress of travel.

And it’s no wonder. A one-week trip to Hawaii can cost into the thousands for a family of four. If you want to save those vacation funds for a different use, read on for ways to get the most out of your time off near home, or find inspiration for smaller trips that will more closely resemble real getaways without costing you big.

Tips for a Great Staycation:

  • Pick start and end dates – and plan activities. Scheduling is critical to a successful vacation near home – it’s the best way to ensure you spend your time off on fun, and not on routine activities and chores. Set solid start and end dates and brainstorm and schedule activities you’d like to try before your staycation begins. This is the perfect opportunity to head to your local museum, aquarium or water park – or to check out that new restaurant downtown.
  • Daytrip it. Make a list of places you’d like to visit within 80 miles of home and plan one-day trips for your top picks. Whether you check out antique shops in a tiny town, take a hike at a nearby nature preserve, picnic on the banks of the local lake or check out the hot spots in the next big city, you’ll be enjoying the change of scenery without paying $150 or more per night for a hotel.
  • Ditch the technology. Put your cell phone away and limit email interactions to once a day so you can focus on your family and revel in your time off. This can allow you to de-and help you avoid paying for prime-time minutes on calls. Cell phones and the Internet are great for emergencies and information, but they’re also your link to responsibilities. And isn’t the point of vacation to take a break from the daily grind?
  • Hole up in a local hotel. Prices for passenger air transportation rose 36.3% in 2009 according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, and travel experts predict that 2010 will bring a further increase in the cost of airfares. Meanwhile, the availability of hotel deals is increasing. If you’re craving a break from the routines of home, research local lodging specials – it can help you achieve that “out in the world” feeling without spending a fortune. Search for deals at sites like this one: www.kayak.com.

Smart ideas for small vacations:

  • Road trips and camping are great travel options that are also budget-friendly. And for those of you who aren’t fans of sleeping on the ground, lots of campsites have evolved to include some creature comforts. Find the site for you at reserveamerica.com.
  • Rent places with a fridge or kitchen. Food is often the hidden expense with vacations, so being able to cook your own meals can save you big. You’ll discover a wealth of sites online for economic lodging. One of the most popular is vrbo.com.
  • Stick to low-cost activities. If you do choose to get away for a night or two, head to the beach instead of shopping. Play in the snow instead of hitting the slopes. Choose a rental home with a game room and DVD player so entertainment is built-in. See local attractions like bridges and buildings instead of opting for expensive tours. Sometimes taking the less expensive route can offer more adventure for less.
  • Shack up with friends. What better way to see how the locals live? Staying with friends over a long weekend instead of booking a hotel can save you $600 or more. Get your hosts a thank you gift or take them out to a meal to show your gratitude; you’ll likely still save hundreds.

The economy may be tight, but consumers need vacations to relax and recharge more than ever. Whatever your budget, there are endless resources for enjoying yourself and seeing new sights. Use our Travel Budgeting Calculator to help determine what you can afford. You’ll find even more trips for traveling on a budget at Practical Money Skills’ Summer Travel Budgeting Center.

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