So in the last few posts I’ve tried to share ideas about how to save money on vacation – where you stay, what you eat and what you do. But, what if no amount of saving or cheap ideas can help you go on a vacation right now? Well, that’s okay too- we have been there, done that, and had t-shirts in all sizes and colors. I have an idea for you too! Have you ever taken a “staycation?”
Wait, you might be saying – did she just make up a word? Well, I don’t think I did – I have heard that word used in other conversations before now. However, if I did make it up, I’ll take full credit because I think it’s a great word! And I have to admit – while writing this post, I had the song “Vacation, all I ever wanted, vacation, have to get away” running through my head…… and now I bet I made most of you have it too, didn’t I? LOL
For a span of years when we had small children, hubby and I weren’t able to take full blown vacations. There were a slew of reasons – no money (isn’t that one ALWAYS the # 1 reason?), no time, couldn’t travel anywhere, etc., etc., etc – you know how this goes. There seems to always be SOMETHING that keeps you away from a vakay! However, these were the times when we perfected the art of the “staycation.”
It started while we lived in Florida. Our kiddos were small, we were in a small church that paid very little, and we were strapped tightly for money. At that point, we were living near Tampa, Florida, in Brandon. All around there were little places for vacationers to visit while traveling to the Sunshine State. When we asked the folks in our church about them, we got looks of disbelief and questions like “You aren’t actually going to GO there are you?” and “Only a TOURIST would go there!” Hubby and I checked the places out and decided to throw caution (and apparently dignity LOL) to the wind and take the kiddos to these places. This is when the word “staycation” first entered my vocabulary. While, at that time, we couldn’t afford the expense of a hotel, or vacation food, or what-not, we could save up for tickets to the “tourist traps” as one descriptive congregant said.
In a word, we had a blast! These places were usually inexpensive and tons of fun. Yes, some where cheesy, but seriously, when you’re having fun who really cares? We visited Cypress Gardens, Silver Springs and Weeki-Wachee Springs. They were really a lot of fun to go and explore.
When we moved back to North Carolina, we were still at a point where a vacation to Neverland seemed more possible than to any other destination. So we fell back on to our “staycation” and took a week to explore several places within driving distance of our home. Mt. Airy, Asheville, Old Fort – all within an hour’s drive. For one of them, we even saved up enough to stay in a hotel room (okay – so all six of us were in one room, and the youngest slept on the closet floor) and explored museums in our capital city. Our kids still talk about this and
want to know when we can do it again.
Staycations shouldn’t be looked on as punishment, but as adventures. But – you might think – I don’t know how to plan a staycation. A beach trip – yep. Skiing vacation? Sure. Even a trip to the mountains seems plan-able. But staycation? How do you do that?
Allow me to share some ideas on that very subject.
HOW TO PLAN A STAYCATION
I’m not entirely sure who invented Google (and yes, I do know if I Googled it I would find out!) but the person(s) is a genius. Where else can you go and type in “what can you do with dryer lint” and get a legitimate list of ideas? Years ago, I had to get my list for that from The Tightwad Gazette! But – if you go to Google, type in something like “things to do around Raleigh, North Carolina” you will get several hits to come up. You can find all kinds of things to do within a short drive of your area – many of which don’t require an overnight stay!
CALL THE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
I know that sounds odd. But, really, who better to be able to sing the praises of your fair city than the place that is trying to bring in new business ? Where we are even has a Visitor Center, which does have information on what to do (my sometimes bored teens wonder why they need a whole center for half a page of info…. *insert eye roll here*). They can tell you some of the best things to do in and around the wonderful place you live.
ASK YOUR FRIENDS/NEIGHBORS/COWORKERS
Many times, if you ask the question “so what are you doing this weekend?” you will get a myriad of answers. I have had the pleasant surprise in the past of being told something new a friend did – and I had never even heard of it. In fact, just a couple weeks ago, my brother told me about a HUGE flea market about 30 minute away from us. I have no idea how this little gem escaped my knowledge, but it will be rectified soon. And I found out by asking “so what have y’all been doing?” Ask, ask, ASK – you never know what new thing you’ll learn!
CHECK OUT HISTORICAL PLACES
So, I know I mentioned this in a previous post, and it was in regards to places near your vacation destination. However, almost every town, village our countryside has a museum or a battlefield or something historical. It may not be much, but it would be a really cool place to visit – and you can usually make a day of it with a picnic. I would even bet that most of us have passed, at one point in time or another, those metal black and silver signs that signify “Something Special Happened Here.” Sometimes these signs are near places to visit – or you could even make a day of driving around, finding the signs and stopping to read them (ask me how I know this is fun! ).
PICK A NUMBER
50?40?100? How many miles are you willing to drive to find something cool to do? The first year we did a staycation, we didn’t do it all in one week, as neither hubby nor I could take a week off. What we did do was pick out several weekends throughout the summer that we could plan towards, and then we picked a number of miles we were willing to drive from our home. We took a compass out (did you ever think you’d use one of these after high school geometry?!) and drew a circle on a map with the point of departure our city. Then we looked in the circle and found things to do for the 5 weekends we had chosen. We found some of the neatest small towns with great things to do ever.
EXPLORE THE LIBRARY
How much do you really know about the town where you live? When I was in school, they talked some about the history of our county but not much from what I remember. Of course, that seems like it was somewhere around the time of dinosaurs, so my memory may be failing :-). But visiting the library and reading through the local history section may give you new insight into what an interesting place you live. Also, libraries are great places to find new and exciting things to do, not only in your town, but in surrounding areas.
And let me throw this in as well – look for coupons EVERYWHERE. You would be amazed sometimes what you can find coupons for to help with a staycation. Years ago, I found a coupon for a discount night at a hotel in our town. We spent one night in a hotel – 5 miles from our house! – and swam in the pool, ate pizza in the room, and slept in different beds. The kids thought it was great! Banks and credit unions have coupons too. Maybe your job has discount tickets you could use for local attractions. And there are places that do summer deals too. The Biltmore House, which is about an hour away from us, offers free admission all summer to kids under 16. That is a steal considering the cost of their tickets! Look around – you may be surprised at what you find!
So what do you think? Have I lost every chip in my cookie? Or can you see the exciting challenge of a staycation? Our kids have asked for a staycation several times and we are actually going to do a few things this summer. I will keep you posted on those.
In the meantime, let me know below if you have ever taken a staycation and how you liked it. I would be interested to hear if there are others like me out there!
Til next time