Summer is usually a time when many families are looking for some time off. When school is out, the traditional "summer vacation" brings back memories of kids crammed in the back of a minivan on their way to an exotic (or less than exotic) destination. With the COVID-19 pandemic behind us, more and more families are looking for ideas to get out of the house without having to travel too much.
For most vacations, the two biggest costs are accommodation and travel expenses to get to your destination. Planning a stay minimizes or eliminates both of these costs and helps you have a great time while saving your budget. Here are a few budget-friendly summer vacation ideas.
What is a staycation?
A stay is a combination of the words “stay at home” and “vacation” and, as the name suggests, is a way to go on vacation without traveling too much. Staycations come in many different flavors. Some properties take you on a variety of day trips but return to your own home every night. In other locations, you may be traveling to more local or regional destinations instead of going too far.
Be a Tourist in Your Own City
One of the most popular stay ideas is to be a tourist in your own city. To book a stay like this, be sure to check out some of the top things to do in your city. Think of your city not as a resident but as a tourist – what would a tourist do if they only had a few days to visit your hometown?
Chances are, even if you've lived there for many years, you haven't seen all of these attractions. Take a few days to visit some of these attractions and see your city from a whole new perspective. A few years ago, my family and I spent a few days touring our hometown of Cincinnati like tourists. We went to the top of the tallest building in town, visited the US Air Force Museum, saw a Cincinnati Reds game, and had a great time. Every evening we came back home and stayed in our own beds.
Another idea for a stay is to explore nature. While camping can bring back traumatic memories of childhood summer camps gone wrong, there are many different ways to camp these days. In addition to a traditional tent on a campsite, many state and national parks offer cabins and other "glamping" experiences that you may enjoy more. That can give you the right mix of outdoor and indoor comfort.
Another budget-friendly place to stay this summer is a movie night (or two). To make a movie night more of a hangout, think about how you can spice things up a little. You don't want to just turn on Netflix for a couple of hours and call it a movie night! Some ideas include renting a projection screen, moving your movie night outside, or combining a movie night with a special dinner.
Visit the beach
A day at the beach is something that many people enjoy and can be a great thing to include in any stay. How you visit a beach depends a lot on where you actually live. Even if you don't live near the Atlantic or Pacific Oceans, you can still include a day at the beach on your vacation. Consider spending the day at a nearby lake or river, or just visiting a local swimming pool.
Food tour in your own city
Another great idea to stay in is a food tour in your own city. Many cities have sponsored food tours or tours that you can pay for. Depending on your budget, interests, or the number of people in your family, this can be an option. However, if you're looking to keep your budget, consider taking your own city food tour. Depending on where you live and how long you've lived there, you probably already know the restaurants and foods your city is famous for. Take a day to visit some of them for your own food tour for a fraction of the cost.
The bottom line
It is important for your mental health to take time out from everyday life and get away for a bit. But a vacation doesn't have to break the bank. The two biggest costs for most vacations are your accommodation costs and the travel costs to get to your destination. Planning a stay minimizes or eliminates both of these costs and helps you stay within your budget while having a great time.
Which of these ideas for a stay do you like best? What would you add to the list?
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Dan Miller (60 posts)
Dan Miller is a freelance writer and founder of PointsWithACrew.com, a website that helps families travel for free / cheap. His home base is in Cincinnati, but he tries to travel the world as much as possible with his wife and 6 children.