A few months ago I gave you 15 ideas for a staycation, but the more I thought about it (and with my own vacation time coming up) I started to wonder if skipping a real vacation to stay home and save money was a good idea.
When Budget Travel addressed the question, its answer was:
Your mind won’t be refreshed unless you change your routine. So get away from it all!
Even if you can only afford a bus ride. Even if you can only stay at a friend’s or a family member’s place. Get out of Dodge!
I think that’s right, and a survey last year suggests that more Americans agree. While taking a staycation does save money, it might not be the best thing for your well-being. Here’s why, and here’s how you can find big savings for a real vacation trip.
Why staycations aren’t the way to go
There are a few great reasons to take a staycation: You don’t have the hassles of travel, you’ll definitely save money, and you’ll have time to enjoy the comforts of home. But there are a lot of reasons why you shouldn’t spend your precious time off work puttering around town. For example:
- Relax. Vacations are meant to be relaxing. I predict that a few hours into your staycation, you’ll realize the floors need mopped, your closet needs organized. And when was the last time you sorted through your DVDs?
- Recharge. A visit to a new city or region is time spent outside of your routine. When you come back you’ll feel refreshed and ready to tackle work again. If you stay at home, you might not get far enough out of your routine to accomplish that.
- Have new experiences. Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson often says life experiences are one of the few things worth spending money on. When I was old enough to begin taking vacations on my own, I’d already seen everything worthwhile in the town where I lived three times over. So I picked a new city to explore every year.
- Find fulfillment. We’ve all heard of bucket lists. If you have one, I bet spending more time at home isn’t on it. If you want to travel Europe, see New York City, or ride a horse on a ranch in Montana, you won’t get there by taking a staycation. Spending your limited vacation time at home likely won’t be as fulfilling as traveling.
Probably the No. 1 reason to have a staycation is to save money. But if you think being a tourist in your own town will be cheap, think again. Last year I took a staycation and planned plenty of tourist activities around my city of New Orleans. Here is a sample day:
- Tickets to Audubon Zoo — $17.50.
- Snacks and drinks at the zoo — $9.50.
- Dinner and Jazz Cruise — $72.50.
I spent $99.50 on entertainment in one day and honestly would have been happier roaming the streets for free and having a cheap bistro lunch in another city.
How to save for a vacation
Going on a traditional vacation is possible. You just need a little planning. Here are a few tips on saving up for a vacation:
1. Create a budget
Research the typical cost of flights, hotels and food for your ideal destination. I use sites like:
Once you have an idea of costs, set up a budget for how many days you’d like to travel. This is your savings goal.
2. Start saving
Make a few small cutbacks in your daily routine and you’ll build up vacation savings in no time. For example:
- Make coffee at home and skip Starbucks — savings of about $60 a month.
- Drop your cable and switch to Netflix — savings of about $66 a month.
- Brown-bag it — savings of about $160 a month. According to a survey by Accounting Principals, 66 percent of workers spend $2,000 a year on lunch.
- Reduce your cellphone plan by getting fewer minutes or a smaller data plan or dropping the insurance – savings of about $30 a month. I changed mine and saved about $180 in six months.
- Skip the gym – savings of about $35 a month. You can get a good workout at home or running around your neighborhood.
3. Look for savings early
Start looking for deals and coupons before you head out on vacation. You’ll have a better idea of how much you can save and you won’t have to spend half your vacation combing deal apps and websites. A few times a week leading up to your vacation check out local deal sites like:
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