Vacations are good for your mental and physical health. Getting away from it all can reduce your stress level, clear your head, and leave you feeling refreshed. But all that relaxation doesn’t come cheap: A 2018 NerdWallet study found parents with children under 18-years-old planned to spend $2,256 on average for their summer vacations.
We’re also willing to go into debt for that much needed break. NerdWallet found 71% of vacationers planned to charge an average of $1,019 to their credit cards to cover their vacations.
But you don’t have to go into debt or empty your savings account to have the perfect vacation; you just need to stay home. A staycation allows you to skip the travel stress, save money, and re-discover your own city.
To help you make the most of your time at home, we put together a list of the 19 best staycation ideas out there:
Ready to bust out of the cubicle, decompress, and spend some actual time out of the house? Try these staycation ideas:
1. Take a hike
On top of being great for the whole family, hiking is an incredibly affordable way to enjoy the great outdoors. To find local trails, we recommend a directory like Hiking Project, which lets you search by location, trail rating, and distance. While hiking is typically reserved for the warmer months, most trails are open year-round for those who enjoy the crisp winter air.
2. Take a day tour of your city
We’re often so busy with the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives we forget many of the gems right in our own backyard. Take a local vacation and think like a tourist in your own city. Take an architecture tour, visit a museum, or use TripAdvisor to find new, affordable experiences.
3. Take a class
Whether it’s learning to salsa, channeling your inner artist, or unleashing your speed demon in a Ferrari, taking classes is one of the best ways to have a unique experience. You can find discounted classes on sites like Groupon or Airbnb experiences. Who knows? You might even find a new passion.
4. Treat yourself to a new meal
It’s hard to picture a successful vacation without an amazing meal. Enjoy the staycation version by making a reservation at a restaurant you don’t normally visit. Check sites like Groupon and LivingSocial to find discounted gift cards for local eateries.
A study measuring happiness and social psychology found that those who donated time or money were “42% more likely to be happy” than those who didn’t give. We recommend getting started with a local organization like Great NonProfits or Volunteer Match.
6. Take a day trip
Turn your normal commute time into vacation travel time and take a quick trip to a local nature preserve, ski resort, or wherever brings you energy. If you plan around typical rush hour, you’ll be surprised how much ground you can cover in just a couple of hours.
7. Go to a concert
Whether it’s a small intimate venue, or a sold-out arena show, listening to a live performance is a surefire way to get a rush of endorphins and truly live in the moment. To find shows near you, use apps like Bandsintown which quickly compare your music tastes to artist touring schedules to find a match in your area.
8. Go to a game
While sports fans paid $5,373 on average for tickets to Superbowl LII, you don’t have to blow your entire staycation budget to catch a good game. Local minor league teams and even high school teams sell tickets for a fraction of the cost and offer the same fun and excitement.
With the Kids
Want to create experiences with the whole family? Try these affordable — and fun — options:
9. Snap some memories
You don’t need to travel to an exotic destination to get great vacation photos. Grab the family (and your smartphone) and spend your staycation snapping family portraits at your favorite local spots. Not sure where to get the best photos? Projects like 52Frames can help guide your creative process with designated weekly themes — and connect with others learning to hone their craft.
10. Go to the local amusement park
Few things are more beloved to the under 18 crowd than amusement parks and your local option may offer discounted tickets for off-peak times like during the week or offseason.
11. Picnic in the park
A staycation gives you an opportunity you don’t often have to hit the local park during the week when fewer people are around. Pack a lunch, have a family picnic in the park, and then let the kids spend the afternoon with their pick of the playground.
12. Have a craft day
Bring summer camp to your kids with a craft day. Check dollar stores for cheap supplies like Popsicle sticks, washable paint, and plastic beads. Enjoy letting your kids’ imaginations run wild or join in on the fun and teach them your favorite childhood craft.
13. Send the kids to a sleepover
You deserve a break from taking care of others. Coordinate with other parents and plan a sleepover for your kids with their friends nearby. If you play your cards right, you might not only get some peace at home, but your kids might be willing to throw in a couple extra chores for what’s normally seen as a treat for them.
You don’t need to leave the house to have a great vacation. Here’s some fun ideas for your inner homebody:
14. Tackle a project at home
OK, it doesn’t sound like fun at first, but hear us out: A staycation is actually the perfect time to tackle those home projects you never get to. Have a pile of clutter you’ve meant to organize for months? Science has shown cleaning is actually a great stress reliever. So, put on your favorite podcast and get ready to improve your mood.
15. Have a movie night
You can learn something new with a documentary, get out all your emotions with a romantic comedy, or just relax and enjoy a classic all from the comfort of your couch. Not sure what to watch? SuggestMeAMovie can help you decide—or step up a personalized profile on MovieLens to find flicks specific to your palette.
16. Recreate a spa day at home
Part of what makes vacations, so vacation-y, is getting pampered, but who says you need to shell out for a spa treatment? Treating yourself to a manicure, pedicure, facial, or whatever makes you feel like your best self can all be done at home on the cheap.
17. Try a new recipe
Takeout-style sesame noodles. Fettuccine with asparagus and salmon. Lemon-almond butter cake. These are just a few of the 50 most popular recipes by The New York Times that are easy to cook at home. Combine an amazing meal with the satisfaction of accomplishing something yourself by cooking without being rushed after work.
18. Have friends over for drinks
The best shortcut to any good vacation? Wine (and plenty of it). Catch up with friends you haven’t had a chance to see, play board games, and relax.
19. Do nothing!
This is your vacation. That means doing what you want to — even if it’s nothing! While our list is intended to help you find creative ways to have fun, the most important rule of a staycation is channeling whatever brings you joy. Don’t put pressure on yourself to do too much and remember that living in the present with no plan has tremendous value, too.