Inexpensive Family Staycations Are More Fun Than You Think

Spring is just around the corner and that means that you’re probably starting to think about your summer vacation. I know I’ve certainly been hearing vacation rumblings around my office water cooler these days. Everyone seems to have a few ideas as to where they’d like to go and are trying to weigh the pros and cons of each before picking a final destination. But what if you don’t have the money to drop on a family vacation this summer? You’re probably not the only one in that boat. Believe it or not, most of the people around you planning their vacations probably don’t have the money to drop either, but they’re going to do it anyway. What if you don’t want to go into debt to go to the beach or go see a giant-eared mouse? You’ll be happy to know there is an inexpensive alternative. Why not try a family staycation this year?

Last year we dropped way more than I’d like to think about traveling to Disney World in Orlando to give our daughter the vacation of a lifetime. We don’t plan on going back anytime soon and even though we paid cash, we also don’t plan on spending an equivalent amount on our family vacation this year.

The Decision

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In our backyard

If a staycation is being considered because of financial constraints, the decision to pull the plug on the traditional vaca will no doubt ease tension and enable the family to have a lot more fun. If you can’t comfortably spend money on a traditional vacation, the vacation will suffer and your memories won’t be as cherished. You will be watching every penny and that will increase stress and worry around an event that is supposed to be FUN. Let’s face it, when you’re on vacation and you cringe when the kids want to order dessert, there’s a problem.

THE BIG 3 DECIDING FACTORS:

-MONEY: Are there sufficient funds for a traditional vacation?

-TIME: Is there sufficient time for a traditional vacation?

-ENERGY: Is there sufficient energy for a traditional vacation?

Opting for a staycation over a traditional vacation certainly has its financial advantages, but that’s not all. Staycations are great if you’re pressed for time or you just don’t want to embark on an arduous journey across the country or globe.

Last fall we had such a decision to make. We had already been on the BIG vacation over the summer and we were supposed to go on a mini weekend jaunt to Salem, Mass in late October. The closer and closer we inched toward our mini weekend getaway the more and more stress we started to feel. It was supposed to be a 2-night stay at a B&B and 2 days traipsing around the town to see the seasonal sights. Although Mr. MMM and I would’ve enjoyed this immensely, we couldn’t say the same for our 7-year old daughter. We also didn’t like how much it was going to end up costing us after we started adding everything up.

Then I had a wonderful idea. We would still have an awesome 2 days, but we were could cancel our B&B in Salem and turn our weekend vacation into a weekend staycation. Perfect. No need to pay for a hotel or B&B, no need to spend money on traveling to get to and fro (even though we were driving, it still would’ve cost us a nice chunk o’ change for gas and tolls), and no being stressed or frazzled because of traveling 8 hours from home for only 2 days. Ahh. The pressure was off and we were going to see and do stuff that was right in our backyard for a teeny tiny fraction of the cost.

Related: Our (Not So) Frugal Disney World Vacation

The Planning

STAYCATION CONSIDERATIONS:

-MONEY: Here we go again, but yes, money is still a factor.

-DISTANCE: How far are you willing to venture from home?

-FOCUS: What is your focus? Are you camping or exploring local museums?

Staycations are a wonderful low-cost alternative to a traditional family vacation. We are big on building memories through traditional and non-traditional vacations. We’re also big on NOT going into debt to do it. If we have to choose between a traditional vacation with a credit card balance waiting for us at the end, we’re choosing the staycation EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

When you opt for a staycation you still need to mind your money. If you’re not careful, you could end up spending close to what you would’ve spent on a traditional vacation. It’s important to think about everything you want out of it. I’m going to assume you want quality family time and some pretty awesome memories to go along with it. The key to a staycation is that it allows you to SAVE money by eliminating the cost of hotel and travel while still giving you some much needed down time. I highly recommend you not travel so far away from home that you are required to have an overnight stay. That would completely defeat the point of said staycation. Not to worry, there are so many things you can add to your itinerary, you might not even realize you’re still in your zip code!

Related: That One Day I Blew Money In Philly

The Possibilities Are Endless

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Hiking is always awesome AND FREE

Just like heading out of town for vacation, the possibilities when you choose to stay closer to home are also endless. You might not have a white, sandy beach at your tippy-toes, but I’m sure there are many unique and interesting areas within driving distance of your front door that you have yet explore.

The trick is to not allow yourself to get sucked into any household chore or any semblance of your daily grind while you’re on your staycation! Feel free to indulge a bit, spend a little money if you want to, and enjoy your family!

STAYCATION POSSIBILITIES:

-Camping (campground, backyard, or family room!)

-Hiking

-Museums

-Movie at the theater

-Go-karts

-Amusement parks

-Attend a sporting event

-Go play some sports

-Try a new restaurant

When we decided on our staycation, everything we did was close by and something we never did before. We went horseback riding, we did a glow-in-the-dark indoor trampoline park, we made homemade ice cream, we got lost in a corn-maze, and we had a slumber party in our family room. We made memories we’ll never forget and our daughter talks about our staycation just as much as she talks about Disney. Go figure.

Related: How To Go On Awesome Free Dates

The Execution

And, Go! The family staycation seed has now been firmly planted in your mind as a possibility and a great alternative to your traditional vacation. If you’re feeling a little light on funds or like you might want to use that tax refund or work bonus to pay down debt instead of creating more, why not try a family staycation and see how awesome they can truly be!

Related: Frugal Hacks To Live An Awesome Life

What do you think? Are you convinced that a staycation is a viable alternative to a traditional family vacation? We’d love to hear your thoughts and what kind of family vacation you’re planning this year.

ember

Mad Money Cat prefers the Caribbean

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20 comments… add one
  • J-dawg Jun 22, 2017, 2:34 pm

    I just came back from a staycation. I plan to do it again next summer! We had friends from out of town for a visit to stay with us which made it feel even more vacation-y.

    • Mad Money Monster Jun 23, 2017, 12:13 pm

      Nice! I love staycations. We actually had one last week, too! We did a beach day, a zoo day, and a weekend sleepover with friends. It really felt like a true vacation. #winning

  • HeatherLiz Mar 2, 2017, 10:28 pm

    I love staycations! The trick is actually treating them differently than just being at home, I think. How do you make that transition? As in don’t think about the laundry/dishes/whatever is calling you that needs doing?

    • Mad Money Monster Mar 2, 2017, 10:42 pm

      It really is just a mind shift. It also helps to plan, plan, plan. Make sure you have activities scheduled for the entire day, just like you would if you traveled for a vacation. This works really well for me 🙂

  • Get Rich Quick'ish Mar 2, 2017, 4:08 pm

    We do a lot of day trips or weekend getaways. Luckily we’ve got a few cool destination spots that are withing driving distance of Seattle (like Portland and Vancouver, BC). These are great for us because of the time constraints.

    • Mad Money Monster Mar 2, 2017, 8:16 pm

      Oh wow! Those destinations are awesome! Day trips are good too. We’re fortunate to be within driving distance of NYC, Baltimore, and D.C. 🙂

  • Miss Piggy Mar 2, 2017, 12:52 pm

    Great idea! Mr. Piggybanks and I are having our first vacation away in April. Although going away is already organised, any holidays going forward will be staycations so your ideas have been most welcome! Good way to relax and save money!

    • Mad Money Monster Mar 2, 2017, 1:27 pm

      I love traveling but there is definitely something to be said for staycations and all their benefits. Enjoy your upcoming April getaway!

      • Miss Piggy Mar 2, 2017, 1:28 pm

        Thanks MMM! I look forward to reading about your next staycations!

  • Max Your Freedom Mar 1, 2017, 9:55 pm

    I totally agree that a staycation is great alternative to a traditional family vacation. How many times have you visited someone in their home town, only to find out that they’ve never experienced the touristy things in their own backyard. Most people don’t, so a staycation is a perfect chance to experience your area as a tourist.

    • Mad Money Monster Mar 2, 2017, 1:26 pm

      It really is a great opportunity to check out local stuff! It’s not always necessary to travel to enjoy cool and interesting things. 🙂

  • Mrs Groovy Mar 1, 2017, 8:40 pm

    Nice post MMM. I can just imagine the stress involved when plans include a child. I run out of energy just keeping it together for 2 adults.

    As for hiking, I think people forget to check out the state park systems since the national parks get so much attention. They may be surprised about what they find locally they never knew was there.

    Any recommendations on how to keep yourself from doing chores?

    • Mad Money Monster Mar 2, 2017, 1:24 pm

      YES! Keep yourself from doing chores by having your time scheduled for fun stuff! Otherwise, I’ll find a paintbrush and start going to town!

  • Dan Palmer Mar 1, 2017, 10:53 am

    I’m definitely torn. I do like the staycations for their usual laid back relaxing nature. But I find that if I’m at home, I’m always finding projects that need done, so sometimes I end up doing more work on the staycation than I do when I’m at work. Sometimes just getting away is all you need.

    • Mad Money Monster Mar 1, 2017, 4:27 pm

      I agree – I absolutely love getting out of town. But, if cash or time is an issue, staycations offer a great alternative. I, too, have to be careful I don’t fall into the work-at-home trap. I took a week off last year and spent it re-painting the entire house. Not even kidding. I went back to work with a cramp in my right wrist that lasted for weeks. 🙂

  • Erik @ The Mastermind Within Mar 1, 2017, 8:42 am

    I love staycations – you save on travel time, travel costs, lodging, and can explore your local area. While it would be eye opening to go see the world, I haven’t seen my whole city yet! There is still so much to do, even if you go to the state level!

    Thanks for sharing – love your pictures!

    • Mad Money Monster Mar 1, 2017, 10:24 am

      I agree! That whole ice cream making and tour we did is literally only a few minutes from us and we never ventured inside until our staycation. It was so much fun that I actually felt like we were away! Two thumbs up for staycations!

  • Ryan - JustAnotherDollar Mar 1, 2017, 8:33 am

    Have you ever returned from vacation feeling like you need a vacation? That’s generally how we feel, so we love the staycation! After a $2,000 trip to a family wedding in Mexico in January (awesome, btw), we aren’t planning another big trip until next year when we can do it debt free. Due to some issues with our returning flights, we did score $600 in airline vouchers so we might plan a long weekend somewhere inexpensive or to visit family this summer. The rest of our time will be spent enjoying Colorado’s amazing outdoors; camping, hiking, biking, etc.

    • Mad Money Monster Mar 1, 2017, 10:22 am

      Traditional vacations are soooo tiring! Don’t get me wrong, obviously I love traveling about and seeing new things, but when the funds aren’t there you have to make alternate plans.

      Awesome on scoring the airline vouchers! That alleviates some of the financial strain on the next trip!

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