Spring Break is right around the corner, and you may find yourself getting itchy to take some time off and travel somewhere new to get away from the stress of daily life.
Vacations are good for your health, after all. There’s lots of evidence that taking time off, whether it’s a few hours, a weekend, or a longer, is really important for our overall well-being. Research suggests taking vacations is linked to better health outcomes, like lower rates of heart disease; reduced stress, depression, and anxiety; improved productivity; and overall higher life satisfaction, according to the American Psychological Association.
The one thing that may be stopping you from booking that dreamy vacation you’ve had on your vision board is the cost, especially if you’re already struggling with credit card debt and a dramatic rise in the cost of day-to-day living felt at the gas pump, the grocery store, gas and electric bills, and more.
As it turns out, nearly 75 percent of Americans have gone into debt to pay for a vacation, according to a recent survey by LearnVest. But for those of us who charged a vacation to a credit card and then spent years paying it off, the idea of relaxing somewhere tropical for a week only to fall deeper into stressful credit card debt doesn’t necessarily sound appealing.
For most vacations, the two highest costs you’ll experience on vacation are the cost of transportation to and from your vacation destination and lodging. One way to eliminate or at least minimize these two costs is by having a budget-friendly staycation!
The key to having an enjoyable, relaxing staycation is by applying the rules of any vacation to your staycation. In other words, don’t use this time to clean your home or do your regular chores – instead, focus on having fun and creating memories.
What else can you do to create a memorable Spring Break staycation?
20 Budget-Friendly Spring Break Staycation Ideas
1. Stay at a Hotel For a Night or Two
Staying in a hotel for a night or two –even if it’s in the same city you live in can be incredibly relaxing and make you feel like you’re in a whole new world even though you’re five miles from home. While the cost of renting a room may increase around Spring Break, especially if you live in a popular tourist destination, the benefit of staying at a hotel where you live means you can take advantage of last-minute hotel deals.
We love checking out deals on HotelTonight.com, where you can find premium suites at 5-star hotels at discounted prices. For example, we found a deal in San Diego at Estancia La Jolla Hotel and Spa for a room normally priced at $459 that was available for $270!
Make sure you find a hotel that meets your family’s requirements, such as an indoor pool, hot tub, and room service – especially if you have little ones with an earlier bedtime.
2. Bring Your Vacation to You
Are you longing to go to Hawaii but can’t quite afford to make it to Waikiki Beach? Why not bring your dreamy travel destination to your home through decor, music, drinks, and food? For example, to bring the spirit of Aloha to your staycation, you can decorate your home with tropical banners, tableware, scented candles, and music and order Hawaiian takeout, make Mai Tais, tropical punch, or instead of ordering out, you can make a Hawaiian-inspired spread using recipes found on Pinterest. If Hawaii isn’t on your travel bucket list, you can customize your food and ambiance to a travel destination that is on your must-visit list.
For example, if Italy is the next travel destination you’re longing to go to, why not play Italian music, watch a movie or show based in Italy, eat Italian food, and drink Italian wine?
3. Indoor Water Park
Maybe the idea of staying at a hotel sounds too expensive, but you and your kids would absolutely love some pool time. Why not spend a day at an indoor water park! You’ll spend the day floating on the lazy river, racing down water slides, and splashing around in the pool, and at the end of the day, you can relax in the comfort of your own bed.
4. Amusement or Theme Park
Some well-known theme parks, like Disneyland, Disneyworld, Universal Studios, etc., are not exactly the most budget-friendly, especially around Spring Break, but there are a slew of other, more affordable amusement or theme parks around the country that are both budget-friendly and kid-friendly. For example, Nickelodeon Universe at the Mall of America in Minnesota has more than 30 rides and attractions for kids of all ages. You can sometimes find discounted all-day passes at retailers like Costco, saving you even more than if you were to purchase tickets at the park itself.
5. Lights. Camera. Action. Movie Day
Do you love movies? Why not go to a matinee showing at your local theater! By going to a show earlier in the day, you’ll save money by paying the matinee rate, which is sometimes about half the cost of a regular ticket. Skip the expensive concessions in the theater and head to a moderately priced restaurant afterward.
Of course, not everyone is ready to sit in the theater – especially little ones. But perhaps you have older kids begging to watch the entire Harry Potter series, all four Avengers movies, or the Lord of the Rings movies? Consider having an at-home movie marathon!
Load up on popcorn and candies and save on the costs of renting a movie by checking out which movies are available to stream for free or which movies you can watch via the streaming services you currently subscribe to. If you still can’t find the movie you’re looking for, you can always borrow a DVD from your local library or ask friends or family if they have a DVD you can borrow. Or, because you’re watching the movie from home, consider renting the movie you’ve wanted to see. The rental cost is most likely less than you would have spent watching the film in the movie theater.
6. Visit a Local Museum
Take the whole family on a super fun museum day! Most cities and towns have museums where you can spend the day exploring and still make it home in time for dinner. From art to natural history to kid-friendly science museums, there are likely many museums to explore in your area.
7. Go Downtown
Downtown areas of most cities often have local art galleries, independent bookstores, and green spaces. Consider getting a drink and a snack at a local coffee shop as you stroll around town, enjoying all your city has to offer.
8. Play and Picnic at the Park
Parks are the perfect location for kite-flying and enjoying playground equipment. Many parks also have trails where you can bike or walk around.
Depending on the weather, you could make a day of your park visit with a picnic! All you need is a blanket and a basket of goodies. If you don’t feel like crafting a full charcuterie board with a spread of cheeses, meats, jams, and crackers, you can make some quick PB&Js or even pick up something warm like a rotisserie chicken.
Other ways to “fancy up” your picnic meal without a lot of expense:
- Pick up some antipasti at a local store’s salad bar or prepared foods section
- Create a simple artisanal cheese or charcuterie platter
- Stop at a local bakery for some fresh crusty bread
- Bring a bottle of sparkling cider
- Pick up a special dessert (that can withstand warm temperatures)
9. Attend a Local Spring Festival
Does your region have a love affair with garlic? Is your county known for its flowers? Is your city passionate about promoting local artists and musicians? Local festivals can be a blast and are often a great place to find some affordable local food, art, entertainment, gifts, and more. For example, if you’re in the Washington, D.C. area, the National Cherry Blossom Festival is a popular local event, there are tons of art festivals and craft shows in the Los Angeles area in the Spring, and if you’re in New York, check out the Spring flower shows.
10. Family hike or bike ride
Getting outside is one of the best cheap staycation activities. If you’re interested in taking a hike, you can do a quick online search and easily find trails in your area. Many websites rank trails based on their difficulty, share photos and comments from others, and even let hikers know how long the trails are—so you know exactly how much granola and water to pack for the journey.
If you’d rather bike than hike, you can similarly find bike trails online that will take you on an adventure in your area. Just remember to pack enough water and snacks depending on how far you plan to bike.
11. Lawn Game Tournament
The weather is starting to change, and although the temperature is rising and the sun is out more than it was during the winter, it still may be a little too cold to sit outside in your bikini and sun tan. So why not set up a family-friendly lawn-game tournament with games like cornhole, lawn darts, ring toss, lawn bowling, and croquet. You can even make homemade medals and have a concession-stand-themed meal complete with pretzels, hot dogs, burgers, and nachos.
12. International Cooking Marathon
Perhaps you are dreaming of a vacation in Morocco, your partner is longing to travel to France, and your kids are divided over trips to Japan, Greece, Mexico, and Florida. Why not have an international cooking marathon during your staycation by enjoying dishes from around the world? You can start with a French breakfast, Japanese lunch, a Moroccan dinner, and finish with an Italian dessert. In addition to eating a worldly feast, you can use that meal time to learn more about these different cultures. And perhaps you’ll have so much fun, you’ll continue this international tradition every staycation!
13. Baking Competition
If you have a sweet tooth, why not spend a day (or two) engaging in a friendly baking competition? You can try out different versions of the same recipe, say for chocolate chip cookies, and see which one tastes best. Or you can choose from an assortment of goodies to bake, such as cookies, brownies, fudge, lemon bars, rice krispies treats, or whatever your heart desires. If you’re worried about eating too many of these goodies, consider gifting some of your baked goods to family, friends, or local nursing homes.
14. Scavenger Hunt
Another way to get outside and have family fun is with a neighborhood scavenger hunt! This one takes a little bit of planning and prep work, but there are tons of free ideas on Pinterest to help get you started and personalize your scavenger hunt based on the ages of your kids. If your kids are too young to understand the riddle clues, you can always turn your scavenger hunt into a list of items to find, such as a Stop sign, a person wearing glasses, or a blue car.
15. Game Tournament
Break out your favorite board games like Monopoly, Cranium, or Taboo, find a deck of cards, or stretch those thumbs for competitive video gaming. You can make a bracket and duke it out for the title of ultimate champion, or for a more friendly competition, see how many games your family can get through in one day.
16. Build a Fort
Gather as many blankets, pillows, and chairs as you can find, and work together as a team to create a relaxing retreat in the middle of your home. Depending on the size and comfortability of your fort, you can even choose to have a family sleepover in your new fort for a memorable staycation – especially if it’s still too snowy or frigid to camp outside in your backyard.
17. Backyard Camping
If the weather in your neighborhood is nice enough and the ground is no longer blanketed with snow, consider spending a night or two camping or glamping in your own backyard. You can make hot cocoa or smores at night, and consider putting a blow-up mattress in your tent to make it a little more comfortable for the adults.
18. At-Home Spa Day
Spa days are incredibly relaxing and therapeutic, and they’re easy to do at home. Order some budget-friendly bubble bars, face masks, and essential oils if you don’t already have some. Take a peaceful, steamy bath. Put on some relaxing music. Light some candles. Give yourself and your little ones a manicure and a facial. Pamper your feet with a foot massager or at-home foot bath. Put on some relaxing meditative music and take some deep breaths.
19. Holiday Feast
When you’re on vacation, you’re often treating yourself to gourmet foods and experiences that you wouldn’t otherwise experience if you weren’t on holiday. So on staycation, why not bring out all of those special items and foods you only use for the holidays and have fine dining at home?
For example, decorate your table with tablecloths, cloth napkins, fine china, crystal stemware, and candles. And as far as mealtime goes, why not make those dishes you traditionally reserve for the holidays? I’m talking about things like your favorite hashbrown and egg bake dishes you typically make for Easter, your famous sage stuffing that you only have on Thanksgiving, and a steak and lobster feast you traditionally reserve for New Year’s Eve.
20. Learn a New Hobby
For those who love arts and crafts or those who love learning something new, consider taking time during your staycation to learn a new skill or hobby like calligraphy, making homemade dog treats, homemade bath bombs for your spa day, origami to decorate your home, painting, dancing, or even learning a new language.
Are you planning a staycation in 2023? What kinds of fun local or at-home activities do you plan to try out during your staycation? Share with us in the comments below.