Basic Financial Fitness: Planning the Perfect Staycation

Summer is here and it's the time of year when we start thinking about vacation. But what if you can't afford to take that dream vacation or drive to some fun touristy spot? Well, that doesn't mean you have to abandon taking a vacation altogether! It just means you need to get creative and take a staycation. A staycation, for those of you who don't know, is when you vacation where you live. While that might not sound that exciting from the outset, it can be a lot of fun if you plan it right. So, let's talk about how to do just that.

1. Set the Date

You can't very well plan a vacation without knowing when that vacation is. So, figure out exactly when, and how long, your vacation will be. Once you've figured it out, set it in stone. 

2. Set the Budget

This step is imperative! Figure out a reasonable amount that you want to spend on your staycation. Make sure it's something you can afford. Your budget will determine your activities, so it's crucial you decide on your amount early on. Like the date, once you've figured it out, set it in stone. Just make sure you either set that money aside, start putting money aside, or have it budgeted out for the date.

3. Start Planning

While every vacation should be well-planned out, it's even more important to plan well for a staycation or you're going to end up doing the same things you usually do when you're at home. Just because you're not leaving town doesn't mean it's not a real vacation. Treat it like a vacation! 

a. Sit down as a family (or just you if you're flying solo) and make a list of things you'd really like to do that you haven't done, ones you've been wanting to do, and/or ones you've really enjoyed in the past. Make sure everyone in your household gets to pick an activity or two. For help, use your city's online tourism guide, your familiarity with the area, staycation idea articles, and Trip Advisor to come up with ideas. If you live somewhere smaller, do some internet sleuthing. Check into places that aren't far from home and easily driveable. There are almost always fun events in small towns around you, nature centers, and quaint places to check out.

b. Figure out how much each idea will approximately cost, if anything, and jot that down next to each idea.

c. Then, sit down a handful of times to decide on which things to do. Cross off things that are a definite no and whittle down the rest until you have the right amount of things to do. You don't want to try and do too much nor too little, so figuring all that out is important.

d. After you have your list of activities decided on, build your schedule. Figure out what days/times you're going to do the activities you have decided on so you know what you're doing. Not having a schedule makes it, again, easy to sit around and do the things you usually do at home, so have a set schedule.

e. For the things that do cost money, search for coupons or online specials starting at the end of the planning phase through the time leading up to your staycation. Between Groupon and online deals, you can often find ways to cut costs or even find ideas for new things. 

Once you've done all this, the hard work is over and you can sit back and wait to have a fun vacation. I'm going to stress this point one more time, as it's very important:

Treat your staycation like a real vacation! Don't fall into the trap of sleeping in every day and sitting around doing your usual sit-around-the-house stuff. If you were away on vacation, what would you do? More than likely, you would get up fairly early, eat some breakfast, and hit the road for daily activities. DO THE SAME THING ON YOUR STAYCATION! If you don't, you're going to end up just having a long weekend that won't feel like a vacation, and you definitely don't want that. 

And don't panic if you only have a week or a few to figure this all out. You're not making flight arrangements, figuring out activities in a strange place, or trying to pack everything you need. Staycations are more flexible and allow for time to spend with friends and family that live nearby, so make sure to incorporate some fun get-togethers as well. 

No matter how you plan your staycation, make it fun and make it a vacation to remember.


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