Staycation Ideas: Take the Best. Staycation. Ever.

staycation ideas

Where will you “go” on your next staycation?

Is money tight this summer? If a vacation is not in your family’s budget this year, then perhaps you could consider taking a staycation instead.

Staycations have become all the rage lately as more and more American families are trying to find ways to save money. With the economy still slowly picking itself up from the 2008-09 Great Recession and unemployment rates still hovering at higher than historic rates, staycations continue to be the buzz word of the summer with families trying to pinch their pennies while still having a good time this summer.

Don’t let the name fool you. There are a lot of things that you can do on a staycation. It is not about sitting on the couch and eating potato chips all day. That’s no way to spend your vacation.

The First Thing To Do On A Staycation

After you have finally decided to take the plunge and go on a staycation, you need to get away from the office. You are on vacation, after all. You’re probably using your hard earned vacation days from work; you might as well get the most out of them.

Turn off your cell phone. Unplug your home phone if you have one. Let the answering machine pick up the calls. Make plans to step away from your laptop and make a pledge to not check your email while you are on staycation. While it may be impossible for some to leave email and their Facebook profiles alone for an extended period of time, consider only checking them twice a day, once in the morning and then again at night.

Staycation Ideas: 10 Cheap Things To Do While On A Staycation

A staycation can be a fun adventure in your own hometown. There are many things you can do that are often forgotten about when you’re busy with life. You can visit art museums, botanical gardens, children’s museums, zoos, and the like. Almost every part of our vast country has local attractions you can check out. You can often receive free guidebooks from state and local tourism boards with great staycation ideas by requesting the material on most of their websites.

See the sights. I grew up in Charleston, South Carolina, which is rich in history with the first battle of the Civil War taking place in the harbor at Ft. Sumter and many other historic sites throughout the city. But my family and I took it for granted because we had lived there for so long. One summer, my mother finally decided that we were going to “play tourist” in our own hometown. It was one of the best summers I can remember. Are you taking your hometown for granted?

Swim at the beach or pool. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, over 39% of all Americans live in a country that is directly next to an ocean. Over 10% of Americans live in very close proximity to the Great Lakes. Swimming is one of the best and least expensive activities to do while on a staycation. If you do not leave near the ocean, you can always look for a community swimming pool to enjoy for the summer.

Write the great American novel. Have you been putting of writing a novel or a book? Is writing a book something that has been on  your bucket list? It can be a perfect time to really take a stab at writing it during your staycation.

Take a bike ride or a hike. I am always amazed by how many hiking and biking trails there are around. There are a lot more than we realize. You can find some great trails for hiking and biking through your state and local park services.

Read a good book. When was the last time you actually visited a library? I took my six-year-old son to get his first library card the other day, and I remembered how awesome libraries are. There is so much to see and read. They offer great spaces to just sit, relax, and find something new and free to read that you might not otherwise had chosen from the bookstore.

Workout at the gym. Have you always wanted to try CrossFit but never had the time? Have you been putting off going back to the gym to workout? Your staycation might be the perfect time to try a new gym, get back into lifting weights, or simply try a yoga or Pilates class.

Watch a baseball game. There are many minor league baseball teams all across the country. And even if your town doesn’t have one that is affiliated with an MLB franchise, there is often an independent league team in many small towns with guys who are still dreaming of earning a shot at a major league baseball team. A day at the ballpark can be a great and cheap family event.

Spend time with your children. This might seem like a no brainer, but it is worth mentioning again. Your staycation is the perfect time to reconnect with your children whether they are grown and out of the house or school-aged. The summer is the perfect time to make memories together.

Go see a movie or play. Many small communities still have a theater, playhouse, or an opera house that you can see local productions of plays and musicals. Seeing a locally-produced play can be a thrilling experience. While you can always go see a movie in the theater or rent a movie from Netflix, there is nothing quite like a live performance.

Have a cookout. Having a barbecue or a cookout is another fun gathering that you may want to consider while on your staycation. Nothing screams summertime like a cookout.

For more staycation ideas be sure to check out 33 Free Things to Do in the Summer.

How Much Money Can You Save With A Staycation?

So, how much money can you expect to save while on a staycation? Of course that all depends on how expensive your normal vacations are typically. You could spend thousands of dollars on a Caribbean vacation for a family of four but, of course, you will spend much less than that with a  staycation.

According to USA Today and AAA, a single, round-trip airline ticket from a major west coast airport to Hawaii can typically cost between $500 and $700 per person. That could set a family of four back almost $2,800 just to travel in coach.

Lonely Planet, the popular travel guide, estimates that the average cost of a standard hotel room in the Caribbean can run you hundreds of dollars per night depending on your standards. Additionally,  rental cars can cost anywhere between $40 to $80 per day. A 5-night stay with hotel and rental car could wind up costing you almost $1,000.

These are just a few examples, albiet a little on the extreme side, of how much you can save with a staycation. While a staycation does not necessary mean a free vacation, it is comparatively a lesser expense for enjoying your time off this summer.

Have you ever taken a staycation? Are you thinking about a staycation this year? What are you planning to do with your time?

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About Hank Coleman

Hank Coleman is a fan of everything personal finance. He's the creator of the popular site Money Q&A, as well as other financial sites. Hank is currently studying to become a CFP. His freelance writing work can be seen across a variety of top-notch publications in finance and investing.


  1. As another poster said it can be great just to get out of the house for a couple days. Besides in most cities a lot of people go to vacation there for one reason or another. Enjoy where you are by becoming a tourist for a couple of days, remember the grass is not always greener on the other side..

  2. DebtRoundUp says:

    I have taken many staycations. They are cheap and we usually have a lot of fun. We stay in near our home, but we go camping a lot as a cheap alternative.

    • hankcoleman says:

      DebtRoundUp Camping is a great and cheap alternative. It definitely gets you out of the house and out of the comfort of your own bed.

  3. CommonCentsWealth says:

    These are great ideas.  I’ve tried a few staycations, but they left me feeling like it wasn’t a vacation at all.  I need to take your advice to turn off all normal electronic devices and view my own city just like a tourist would.  I know many people come to my city for a vacation so I should be able to as well.  That being said, there is no direct substitute for a vacation to someplace warm in the cold of winter.

    • hankcoleman says:

      CommonCentsWealth You are absolutely right about vacationing someone warm in the winter. Your comment made me have an idea though….what about renting a hotel room for a night or two in your own hometown? Maybe that would help to make it feel more like a real vacation. Of course, the whole point is to save money…but a night or two would be kind of cool if you stayed in a nice hotel that you otherwise wouldn’t.

      • CommonCentsWealth says:

        That’s a great idea.  Now if only I could justify spending a few hundred on a hotel when we could just sleep at home…  Maybe when I’m older and less frugal.

        • hankcoleman says:

          CommonCentsWealth You’re right. The hotel idea isn’t the most frugal. But, there are tons of savings associated with a staycation. So, splurging on a hotel in your hometown would still be cheaper than a airfare, hotel, meals, rental car, and the like somewhere further away.

  4. rs02011988 says:

    I babysit and house sit for a family. In the summer, they take weekend trips and ask me to dog sit. They only live about 15 minutes from me, but I make a staycation out of it! I take off the Friday before and enjoy their home and their dog. Sometimes it is just so nice to get OUT OF THE HOUSE! I really look forward to these weekends

    • hankcoleman says:

      rs02011988 That’s a great idea! And, that’s a great way to look at what could have turned out to be a pretty boring job. Now if you could just invite people over, barbecue  etc. Do they have a pool?

      • rs02011988 says:

        hankcoleman rs02011988  i can invite people over (as long as its not crazy and im not too crazy, so theres no need to worry :)), im allowed to drink their alcohol, eat their food. they dont have a pool…thats the only issue. lol but i am allowed to do my laundry, too! which is really nice because i live in an apt and my laundry facility sucks. and i have to pay for it at my apt. the best part of this whole deal is that i get to pretend like i have a nice dog and a nice home haha and i get paid for it! baller.