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Staycation Ideas on the Cheap

Vacation is a great way to escape the monotony and responsibilities of everyday life and to have fun, explore new places, and try new things. Unfortunately, traveling for vacation isn’t always realistic if money’s tight, you have time restrictions, or in unusual circumstances, such as stay-at-home orders during the pandemic. Despite such obstacles, there are plenty of ways to enjoy a refreshing break and memorable staycation!

Camp out or make a fort. Who says you have to head to the mountains to camp out? You can easily recreate the camping experience in your own backyard (or living room, if you prefer). Pitch a tent or make a blanket fort using a clothesline and stakes. Grab lots of pillows and blankets to make it cozy! Build a campfire in a fire pit or fireplace. If that isn’t an option, light a few big candles for ambiance. Also, plan and cook a special camping meal, and don’t forget to roast marshmallows for yummy s’mores. While you’re camping out, tell spooky stories and play games. And don’t forget about stargazing. Download a phone app that tells you which stars or planets you’re looking at. If you’re camping indoors, use a stargazing machine that projects on the ceiling.

Travel into a book.  Is there a particular time or place you’d love to travel to? In books, the universe is the limit. You can visit imaginary places such as Treasure Island and enter its world of pirates or go to Hogwarts with Harry Potter. You could also experience growing up in Kabul in The Kite Runner. Have you ever wanted to live in Denmark? Pick up a copy of We, The Drowned. How about living with chimps? Try Next of Kin by Roger Fouts. Want to visit Africa? Read Dark Star Safari. For a family vacation, decorate and dress up, cook special foods, and plan activities to match the theme of the book. Read part, or all, of it together, or watch the movie based on the book.

Enjoy the magic of Disney or other theme parks. Visit your favorite theme park without ever leaving home. Draw or print pictures from your computer and hang them indoors and outdoors to create the theme park atmosphere. Make some of your favorite themed foods like Disneyland’s churros, beignets, or Dole Whip. Disney offers many of its official recipes online. You can also find recreated recipes with a quick online search. Make up a few fun carnival games, and don’t forget to pick up some prizes. Have everyone dress like they’re going to the park, then watch Youtube videos of your theme park’s favorite rides, shows, and fireworks for a more authentic experience.

Take a trip ‘round the world. If you’d like to travel to a different country or a particular place, have a theme day or week. You could travel the world and tour a different area each night; don’t forget your (homemade) passports. To prepare for this staycation, learn about the place and the culture, and research what unique things there are to do, see, or eat. Print out pictures of the location you choose and the landmarks you’d like to see. Research the type of regional or international eats you’d find there. Then prepare one or a day’s worth of meals, snacks, and beverages to bring the experience to life or order takeout from a local restaurant that serves the fare. Don’t forget to play the music that’s traditional to your area of travel. Also, learn a new game that’s popular there, flip through tour books, and watch travel videos or movies that were filmed there.

Lap in luxury with a spa day. A home-spa day is a perfect way to enjoy the benefits of a vacation while staying at home. If you have kids, involve them or have another adult be in charge so you can have some time to yourself. Put on a soft robe and slippers, then draw a bath with all the works for a mani, pedi, facial, and hair treatment. Add to the ambiance by creating a steam room with the shower. Then light candles, play relaxing music, do massages, or try aromatherapy. Incorporate whatever helps you relax and feel refreshed.

A day at the water park. Recreating a water park experience is a fun and easy way to enjoy a staycation in the heat. If you have a pool, add some water toys and games. If you don’t have a pool, fill up the baby or splash pools. Some come with fun features like a blow-up slide or an attached bounce house, depending on your budget and space. Slip-n-slides and sprinklers are another fun way to spend hours running around getting wet. You can attach a hose to a plastic bottle with holes in it for some quick, cheap fun. Add some extra excitement with a water balloon or water gun fight!

Explore your local area. Often, we’re so busy and caught up in our daily routines at home that we forget to take advantage of the special things to do in our local area. Exploring your hometown can be a fun adventure, too! Treat your hometown like a tourist would. Research it online as if you’re planning to visit. Ask locals or your neighbors for ideas, chamber of commerce, and your City’s parks and recreation departments for suggestions. This is an excellent opportunity to visit any particular landmarks or other places unique to your area.

A vacation isn’t complete without enjoyable eating experiences. Try local restaurants you’ve never tried before, as well as coffee shops, ice cream places, or anyplace else that you love or haven’t tried yet. Order takeout and head to a nearby park and practice social distancing; you’ll enjoy a delicious meal while supporting local businesses.

Outdoor activities are often part of a fun-filled vacation. Look up nearby parks, preserves, rivers, lakes, hiking, or other outdoor sites. Things to do include bicycling, hiking, picnicking, flying kites, swimming, kayaking, paddleboarding, and more.

Another great way to explore your local area is Geocaching. This popular treasure hunting game utilizes a GPS device to find a hidden container with trinkets inside. It’s fun to bring your own small items to leave in the container, too, when you find it.

Regardless of your budget, situation, or time constraints, there are plenty of fun, memorable staycation ideas to enjoy at home.

Kimberly is a freelance lifestyle writer. She’s also Founder and Director of KB Creative Digital Services, an internet marketing agency, kbcreativedigital.com.  

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