Things to Do

12 Staycation Ideas for When Your Heart Says Travel, but Your Budget Says No

written by HAILEY BOUCHE
staycation"
staycation
Source: @trulyjamie
Source: @trulyjamie

It seems like just about everyone is jet-setting to Europe or frolicking around 30A right now, but if you’re anything like me, you’re way too booked and busy for that this summer. Between weddings, birthdays, concerts, and other townie events, the thought of fitting a real vacation into my schedule and budget is… laughable. But hear me when I say this: I’ll be damned if the entire summer passes me by without enjoying, at the very least, a staycation.

Luckily, it’s still possible to have a fun, memorable summer, even if you’re not heading to Europe or the beach anytime soon. You can treat yourself (and your friends too!) to a staycation that feels both luxurious and special without blowing what’s left of your summer budget. Here, we’re sharing some of the best staycation ideas that will check your summer vacation box without breaking the bank.

staycation
Source: Dupe Photos | Cora Pursley

1. Plan a museum day

Museums are a staple of every travel itinerary, and you might not need a plane ticket to visit one. Plan a visit to the museums in your own backyard to bring the experience of learning about a new culture, history, or art to your hometown. If you live in a big city, consider getting tickets to multiple museums and making a whole day of it. If you’re in a smaller town without large museums, check out local galleries for a similar experience.

2. Go on a day trip to a nearby town

Not ready to spend a fortune on a dream vacation? Day trips are a budget-friendly alternative that offers all the vacation vibes without the cost of accommodations or plane tickets. Look for nearby towns that are just a few hours’ drive away and get ready to explore. Save even more money by eating breakfast at home, packing snacks, and returning before dinner to avoid dining out.

3. Try something you haven’t had time for

We all have those activities we’ve been meaning to try when we find the time. Whether it’s a new workout class, a restaurant you’ve been eager to visit, or finally reading that book that’s collecting dust on your nightstand, now’s the time. One of the best parts of going on vacation is intentionally carving out time to see and do everything you want in a new city. But you don’t need to travel to tap into that “vacation you” mindset. Make time for yourself right at home.

staycation
Source: Dupe Photos | Sash Gabriel

4. Treat yourself to a night or two at a hotel

While this option involves spending money, it’s still much less than a full vacation. Even one night in a charming hotel can feel luxurious. Enjoy room service, relax in a bathtub, and soak up the sun if the hotel has a pool. This is the perfect choice if you have some funds set aside for fun but not enough for a big trip. Plus, you can often find last-minute deals at local hotels to make it more affordable.

5. See a performance

A night out at a performance can make your evening at home feel so much more special. Consider attending a concert, seeing a comedy show, buying tickets for a touring Broadway production, enjoying a night at the ballet, or visiting a movie theater with those fancy lean-back chairs and a full menu. It’s a great excuse to dress up and try something different from your usual routine.

6. Host a Themed Dinner Party

The best part about any vacation is the food, obviously. But you don’t have to be on the Amalfi Coast to enjoy fresh pasta, seafood, and an endless amount of white wine. Invite some of your friends and family over for a dinner party that’s themed around a destination. Dreaming of the beaches of Riviera Maya? Have margaritas, fresh guacamole, and a taco bar on deck. Wishing you were in Mykonos? Ensure there’s no shortage of fresh vegetables, feta cheese, and pita. With the help of menu items, a curated playlist, and some decor (if you feel so inclined), you and your guests will be transported directly to vacation for the night.

staycation
Source: Dupe Photos | Bec Sunday Noon

7. Attend a Cooking Class

Embark on a culinary adventure with friends, your significant other, or even by yourself by attending a cooking class. Most places have seasonal and/or themed nights that you can choose from like “Down on Bayou,” which will transport you to Louisana, or “Summer in Paris,” which will make you feel like you’re dining under the Eiffel Tower. By trying new restaurants and dining experiences on vacation, you immerse yourself in the culture of wherever you are, and it can motivate you to try new cuisines. Cooking classes create the same environment! The only difference is that classes teach you how to recreate the cuisine and techniques again and again at home. Sign me up!

8. Have an Outdoor Movie Night

Take advantage of cool summer nights and have an outdoor movie night. You can go all out with snacks, drinks, blankets or chairs, string lights, and even an inflatable movie screen or projector. Otherwise, keep it simple by moving your TV outside, popping some popcorn, and lounging on your patio furniture. Besides a bit of setup, the only thing you really have to do is figure out which movie you’re going to watch. An outdoor movie night is a fun, inexpensive staycation idea you can plan with friends, family, your significant other, or by yourself—there are no rules.

9. Plan a Boujee Picnic

Whether you’re picnicking at the beach, in a park, or in your own backyard, we recommend you lean into the details and elevate the experience. Instead of simply setting a blanket on the ground, grab a rug and some pillows to sit on. Similarly, skip paper and plastic and bring actual flatware, dinnerware, and glasses. When it comes to food and drinks, you can never go wrong with a charcuterie board, a few appetizers, and wine. Tip: Plan this with a few girlfriends. Not only will you have more fun doing it together, but it helps divide up the responsibilities and costs.

staycation
Source: Dupe Photos | Medhanshi Mandawewala

10. Book a Spa Day

Nothing says rest and relaxation like going to the spa on vacation. But this summer, heading to a local spa (or having an at-home spa day) sounds a lot more realistic—and, not to mention, way more affordable. Carve out time in your schedule and book a staycation that includes a massage, facial, manicure, and/or whatever else sounds luxurious to you. This is the perfect way to unwind, treat yourself, and escape responsibilities. Whether you choose to book services locally or treat yourself at home, make sure your notifications are turned off and your OOO is set.

11. Play Tourist in Your Hometown

Who says excursions are reserved for vacations? You’d be surprised how much there is to explore in your very own city! I’m willing to bet you haven’t seen or done it all, no matter how long you’ve lived there. This summer, go full-on tourist and explore your hometown for the weekend. Rent bikes, dine in new-to-you restaurants, visit a different brewery, stop into festivals and farmers markets, and more. Plan your staycation weekend as if you’re visiting a brand-new place and want to see as much of the city as you can before you head home. Who knows, you might even find your new favorite place in your own backyard.

12. Go Camping (or Glamping)

No matter your style (I’m the glamping type myself), an outdoor getaway is an inexpensive alternative to a vacation that is just as fun and relaxing. Get some friends together, prepare your camping equipment and essentials (read: s’mores), and drive to a campsite nearby. You could even set up a tent in your backyard—it’s totally up to you. Spend a night (or more) laughing around a campfire, enjoying the stars, unplugging from technology, and taking in all the great outdoors has to offer.