7 Amazing Staycation Ideas for Any Budget

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Family camping in yard for staycation
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Staycations are a great way to entertain yourself and your family without spending much — or any — money. Making your fun at home or close by can be just as enjoyable and rejuvenating as going on an expensive trip, and sometimes even less stressful.

Team Clark knows a thing or two about sticking to a budget without sacrificing quality. In this article, we’ll talk about what makes for a successful staycation and give you our top staycation ideas for an unforgettable time off without the travel and expense.

How to Make a Staycation Feel Like a Real Vacation

We all need to get away sometimes, but it’s not always practical. Maybe you just don’t have enough time off of work. Maybe you have other responsibilities close to home. Or, maybe a vacation just isn’t in the budget this year.

If that’s the case, you’re not alone. A 2019 Bankrate survey showed that 26% of people said they didn’t plan a summer trip last year, while another 22% were on the fence about it. The big reason so many people stayed home? Money. Lack of it was cited by 60% of the respondents as their reason for not traveling.

But having a great time with your family doesn’t always mean you have to travel to some far-flung destination: Enter the staycation!

Different people can have different ideas about what a staycation involves. Some might insist it means not even leaving your home or yard. Others will say it could involve a night or two away from home, but in your own town or the closest decent-size city.

We think either of those works — anything goes as long as traveling a considerable distance isn’t involved.

With that in mind, here are Team Clark’s favorite staycation ideas — including some recommendations from you on Facebook!

7 of Our Favorite Staycation Ideas

In order to have a successful staycation, you need to feel like you’re getting away from your normal routine but also staying within your budget. Ideally, you’re planning something out of the ordinary for yourself and whoever is joining you that costs nothing or very little to pull off. You know what’s absolutely free? Creativity!

Just make sure you’re able to put the rest of the world (emails, calls, chores) on hold for a bit so you can actually feel like you’re taking a break from the hustle and bustle of life. Here are some fun staycation ideas to consider:

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1. Backyard Camping

Even if you live in a neighborhood with dozens of other families, if you have a yard it’s a breeze to pretend you’re “roughing it” in a national park somewhere. Pitch a tent and use a portable grill or pit to build a fire and cook hot dogs and s’mores — don’t forget the singalongs and ghost stories!

If you don’t already own camping equipment, hit up friends or family. Someone is sure to let you borrow exactly what you need.

2. Bring an Exotic Place to You

Just because you’re not getting on an airplane doesn’t mean you can’t party like you’re in another place entirely. Pick a far-away locale you’ve always wanted to visit and transform your home into a reasonable approximation of it.

Longing to lounge on a beach in Mexico but lacking the funds? Make a playlist full of mariachi and marimba music and gather the ingredients for fish tacos. Whip up some margaritas for the grown-ups and serve Jarritos to the kids to wash the tacos down.

For even more fun, have everyone learn some basic Spanish words and phrases and try them out on each other throughout the day!

3. Stage Your Own Olympic Games

Plan a day or even an entire weekend of friendly competition. You might already have everything you need in your game cabinet, or you can expand the playing field to your local bowling alley, miniature golf course and laser tag arena.

Buy some cheap medals to award at the end of individual competitions, then give out bigger prizes in the end for the best overall performance — and don’t forget best sportsmanship!

4. Have a Foodie Challenge Fest

Love cooking competition shows like Iron Chef and Chopped? Bring the challenge home but make it collaborative! Head to the farmers market, vegetable stand or anywhere else you can get fresh, local ingredients. Then, work together to plan a meal or a whole day’s worth of them using what you’ve collected and anything else that’s already in your fridge or pantry.

If you’re feeling bold, create your dishes from scratch. Or, you can assign meals to people and see who can find the best recipes on the internet that only use what you have on hand.

5. Get Crafty

Similar to the food challenge but with less eating, take a trip to your local craft store and send everyone out on their own with a budget for materials. When you get home, make some space to lay out your haul and then collectively figure out some creative things you can make with it all.

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6. Visit Your Town Like a Tourist

You might think of your hometown as something to get away from, but have you ever tried to see it through the eyes of a tourist? You just might be surprised at what you’ve been missing.

Book a night or two in a local hotel (bonus points if you can score one on Priceline or Hotwire!) and pretend that you’re on vacation from somewhere far away. You could:

  • Stop by the local visitor’s center or Chamber of Commerce to get inspiration from maps and brochures
  • Download self-guided walking tours
  • Check out the local history center or historical society and take a journey into the past
  • Check the local paper or city website for fun, free events like cultural festivals or concerts
  • Have a day of progressive eating at local restaurants you’ve been meaning to try
  • Cheer on a local sports team — bonus points if it’s one that might not otherwise have many fans in attendance

If your town has literally nothing going on, consider heading somewhere nearby with a little more action.

7. Volunteer

Finally, if you want to spend your downtime making a difference in the world, why not plan your staycation around helping others?

Check for local volunteer opportunities and participate in one together. This could be anything from tidying up a local park to preparing and serving meals at a shelter to working on a house with Habitat for Humanity.

What may seem like work at first could actually turn out to be the most gratifying thing you can do on your staycation.

Final Thought

A tight budget is no reason you shouldn’t enjoy some time off and away from your day-to-day. Whether you choose to spend your staycation using one of the ideas above or doing something completely different, don’t forget the goal: to unplug, unwind and enjoy the company of your loved ones in the moment.

Have staycation ideas we didn’t even think of? Let us know in the comments below!

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