Cheap Summer Staycation Ideas

With summer right around the corner, you’re probably planning your next vacation. But what do you do if you don’t have extra cash to spend on one?

Thanks to inflation, taking a vacation has gotten much more expensive. Travel costs are up by as much as 15% compared to pre-pandemic levels, reports CBS News. That, combined, with other rising costs like groceries and gas, can make planning a vacation on a budget rather difficult.

If a full vacation isn’t in the cards, a staycation is a great alternative. It’s a fun way to take a break from the hustle and bustle without breaking the bank. 

Erika Taught Me

  • A staycation is a type of budget-friendly vacation you can do right from home.
  • The best low-cost staycations take advantage of free amenities around you, like museums, public parks, and free events.
  • For a staycation to provide true rest, treat it like an actual vacation even if you don’t travel for it.

. . .

What’s a Staycation?

A staycation is a type of vacation where you stay local rather than traveling somewhere else.

Instead of splurging on an expensive hotel or meals out every night, a staycation is a way to play tourist right from the comfort of your own home.

A vacation is one way to take a break from work — and while you can travel for them, that isn’t a requirement. If you have young children or are on a budget, you can benefit from a little rest and relaxation without all the stress that comes from traveling.

READ MORE: Surprisingly Simple Travel Hacks with Big Impact

Fun Ideas to Staycation for Cheap This Summer

A staycation is a fun way to take a break from the daily routine of life. Here are some of the best ways to take a staycation for cheap — or even for free! — this summer.

Go camping

Camping allows you to unplug and recharge in nature. 

The Bureau of Land Management and the National Forest Service are two agencies that manage public land in the United States. Through them, you can camp for up to 14 days in a 28-day period free of charge.

While some sites do come with a small fee, in most cases, you can just pull up to a spot and camp for the night.

If there isn’t public land near you that’s okay. You can camp in your backyard, too. Put up a tent and start a fire. Instead of watching TV after dinner, roast some marshmallows and open up a book. 

And if you don’t have camping gear, don’t sweat it. Check to see if your nearest REI rents camping gear or visit your local tool library (if you have one). 

Be a tourist for the day

Is there something in your town that you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t been able to find the time to do it? 

A staycation is a great way to get it on your calendar and knock it off your bucket list.

This can be a trip to a local museum or a late-night ghost tour. You could also check out a cooking class or order takeout from a fancy restaurant and picnic in a park. 

Let your imagination roam free and do something you wouldn’t otherwise plan on doing!

Build a real-life Pinterest board

Pinterest boards are often used to visualize a future goal, like planning a wedding or building your dream home. But what if you made your vision board an actual, physical one?

Instead of surfing online, go plan it in real life. Spend the day going to different florists to learn how bouquets are made. Check out local real estate in your town and go to a few open houses.

Get a disposable camera and snap some pictures. Print them out and create a collage to bring your board to life.

Host a progressive dinner with friends

Who says staycations have to be done alone? Wrangle some friends together and plan a progressive dinner that roams around the neighborhood (or within your apartment building). 

Assign each home a course: appetizer, entree, and dessert. Move from one home to another as the meal progresses.

If that doesn’t work, an old-fashioned potluck will do the trick, too. Host it or plan it at a public space like a park. Ask everyone to bring a dish to share — and containers to bring treats home with them. 

To make it even more fun, choose a theme and ask everyone to bring a dish according to that theme.

Check out a movie

If you work a 9-to-5, you probably rarely get to watch movies in the middle of the day. But a staycation is a way to do just that. 

Check out your local theater and see what’s playing. Snag a ticket for a midday show.

You can also check for free outdoor films playing in your area, too. Local business development groups turn public spaces into outdoor theaters when the weather is nice. Pack some snacks and enjoy a movie, free of charge.

Listen to a local band

Similar to checking out a movie in the park, look for free summer concerts. These can range from local bands playing old-time tunes to cover bands playing your favorite jams.

Use an app like Bandsintown to find out where local shows are happening. Connect it with Spotify to get personalized recommendations based on what you like. Or scroll through the feed to discover an up-and-coming artist you’ve never heard of before.

Take a day trip to a new place

Is there a nearby town you’ve wanted to visit but haven’t? Plan a staycation around visiting it. You can make it a true day trip or book a night at an affordable motel if you want.

Check out a museum, take a walking tour, or visit a local park. Use a site like Groupon to find deals on things you can do while you’re there.

How To Plan for a Staycation

Treat a staycation just like a normal vacation. This means scheduling time off work and turning on your out-of-office — even if you aren’t actually going anywhere. 

Go into vacation mode to let yourself truly unwind.

If you plan to stay at home, look for small ways to upgrade your experience. This could be something as simple as changing your bed sheets or eating from fine china instead of your normal dishes.

While the idea of a staycation is to make it as cheap as possible, you might find yourself wanting to splurge here and there. This might mean a nice dinner out or taking an Uber somewhere instead of driving.

Create a budget for yourself and stick to it. If it helps, set up a staycation sinking fund. Planning for a staycation makes it more real. 

Don’t forget that any credit card rewards you’ve racked up don’t have to be used for a luxury trip to Bali. You can also use them right where you live. If you have points and want to book yourself a night in a fancy hotel room, treat yourself to it.

Lastly, a staycation doesn’t have to be a one-off when you’re broke. You can take a couple of staycations throughout the year to add more relaxation to your schedule. 

READ MORE: 12 Money-Saving Tips to Transform Your Finances in One Year

FAQs

What is the difference between a vacation and a staycation?

A staycation is a type of vacation that requires less travel. The idea behind a staycation is to stay where you are. This could mean staying hyper-local, or traveling a few hours to a nearby town. 

Staycations are intended to be less expensive because they don’t require airfare, expensive hotels, or dining out all the time.

Why should you take a staycation?

Vacations provide a break in your regular routine by helping you unwind. A staycation can offer that same type of break without breaking your budget.

How to make a staycation feel like a real vacation?

To make a staycation feel like a real vacation treat it like one! Schedule it in your calendar and request the time off of work. Don’t use it as a time to catch up on housework or run errands. 

Be intentional about using the time to relax even if it’s relaxing from the comfort of your own home.

TL;DR

A staycation is a way to enjoy a break from work and your daily routine, but without having to spend money on airfare and hotels. Instead of going somewhere far away, you can enjoy a staycation in your area, hometown, or even your own home.

Look around for free events happening nearby or just explore a town or neighborhood you’ve never visited before. 

Most importantly, make it a true vacation by setting your out-of-office and not using the time to run errands or clean your kitchen. A staycation is your time to rest and recharge!

For more advice on beating burnout without blowing your budget, check out these episodes of the Erika Taught Me podcast: 

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I'm an award-winning lawyer and personal finance expert featured in Inc. Magazine, CNBC, the Today Show, Business Insider and more. My mission is to make personal finance accessible for everyone. As the largest financial influencer in the world, I'm connected to a community of over 20 million followers across TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. I'm also the host of the podcast Erika Taught Me. You might recognize me from my viral tagline, "I read the fine print so you don't have to!"

I'm a graduate of Georgetown Law, where I founded the Georgetown Law Entrepreneurship Club, and the University of Notre Dame. I discovered my passion for personal finance after realizing I was drowning in over $200,000 of student debt and needed to take action-ultimately paying off my student loans in under 2 years. I then spent years as a corporate lawyer representing Fortune 500 companies, but I quit because I realized I wanted to have an impact; I wanted to help real people and teach them that you can create a financial future for yourself.

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Our aim is to help you make financial decisions with confidence through our objective article content and reviews. Erika.com is part of an affiliate sales network and receives compensation for sending traffic to partner sites, such as MileValue.com. This compensation may impact how and where links appear on this site. This site does not include all financial companies or all available financial offers. This in no way affects our recommendations or article content.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our aim is to help you make financial decisions with confidence through our objective article content and reviews. Erika.com is part of an affiliate sales network and receives compensation for sending traffic to partner sites, such as MileValue.com. This compensation may impact how and where links appear on this site. This site does not include all financial companies or all available financial offers. This in no way affects our recommendations or article content.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our aim is to help you make financial decisions with confidence through our objective article content and reviews. Erika.com is part of an affiliate sales network and receives compensation for sending traffic to partner sites, such as MileValue.com. This compensation may impact how and where links appear on this site. This site does not include all financial companies or all available financial offers. This in no way affects our recommendations or article content.