Fun Summer Staycation Ideas (That Don’t Involve Netflix)


I love and appreciate when my friends find themselves in my area, so I always look forward to hosting any visitors at my apartment. I love it so much that I’ve gone so far as to create a super cheesy visiting friend “routine.” I have them over for dinner and drinks, we catch-up or walk around town, and then after a restful sleep on the good ol’ pull out couch, I make breakfast and we plan out a hike or other fun activity.

It’s simple, but it works because it feels special. And it feels special because there’s an effort to make it special, despite the fact that I could do those things any night of the week. Appreciating what’s right in front of me and showing it to other visitors helped me to see the incredible value in appreciating the opportunities in the areas surrounding you. It’s also where this self-proclaimed budget traveler learned her love of staycations.

Staycations have become an increasingly popular option for vacationers on a budget – and for good reason! Not only are they a saver’s dream (major lodging and travel expenses saved), they present an incredible opportunity to explore the grooves and details of your own backyard. Just because you’re sticking close to home doesn’t mean it can’t be your ultimate vacation. Like any other trip, it requires planning and research but the payoff is entirely worth the effort put forth!

And as I’ve learned from hosting visitors, you can host yourself (and your family) to a pretty unique vacation at home. Here’s how to make your homefront vacation like a staycation on espresso:

Tap into your vacation spidey-senses

Separate out what you love so much about a vacation. List them out, and then make sure that you apply them to your staycation. For example, vacations are so enjoyable because:

  • You’re taking a break from work
  • Vacations feel “special”
  • You’re doing absolutely nothing aka relaxing OR you’re doing something new and active aka exploring
  • You’re taking in new things (food, scenery, activities, etc) and have a heightened sense of interest/wonder

Brainstorm ways to incorporate some of these qualities and map them onto your staycation. That can also include thinking about what kind of vacation you want to have. Relaxed? Active? A mix of both? Consider this the “theme” of your staycation. Once you’ve identified a broad sense of how you want to interact with your time off, time to get into the details. One way to plan is to detangle past vacations and draw out any patterns.

Think about what you enjoy doing on a perfect vacation in another city and use the same template for your staycation. What do you usually do for vacation? Are you a foodie at heart who maps out a city by restaurant? Do you visit the local museums? Explore natural surroundings? Whatever it is that you’re passionate about, that’s where you want to turn your attention as you plan your staycation. Once you have a template, you can apply it to your local area as plan out your time spent off at home.

But before we get into some of the details of your planning strategy, first things first: the finances.

Staycations may not have the element of long-distance flight or lodging costs involved, but at the same time things like food and activities can quickly add up. Give yourself an accurate picture of what the expected expenses will be by creating a budget prior to your staycation. Just as importantly, once you have your budget set – stick to it. Once you have your budget set, you can rest easy knowing exactly how much cash you’re spending. Remember, a budget never has to be met. Give yourself the limit but if you find yourself spending less than you planned, keep it for another rainy day!

Ok, now onto the fun stuff!

Where to stay

At Home
The classic option for the staycation takes top slot, of course. Keep lodging costs at minimum (or eliminate them altogether) by opting to make your home the hub for your staycation. It’s not only cost effective, but it’s an incredibly easy option. If you have animals or a garden you also won’t worry about having to finding/paying a house sitter!

Air BnB
Not the traditional staycation option (most people would say that spending zero on lodging is the mainstay of a staycation) so staying at an AirBnB might be a kind of “nearcation” but it’s also a cheaper option than the traditional hotel or B&B. In addition, many AirBnB has rooms that have kitchen access which will help save you money on food expenses.

Nearby Camping
Camping has always been a budget friendly option for travelers and wanderers. If you have some camping options near your home, you might consider packing up your tent and enjoying nature for a day or two. You might be surprised at the camping opportunities around you!

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What to Do

This one is a biggie, so listen up. Put the phone down. Power off the computer. Lock away the Wii. Essentially, distance yourself from technology. To some, this sounds terrifying if not impossible. But in all honesty this is perhaps the most important element of a successful staycation. We’re so used to being highly connected and available at the drop of the hat. But think about if you were to jet away to another time zone, or hike up to Machu Picchu. You would be unavailable in the way that would require you to unplug… and it would be OK. You’re only available as you allow yourself to be during a staycation, so resolve to value your time off by putting a hold on your electronics.

Forget your usual rules
Wake up without an alarm clock (unless you have something sweet planned). Leave the dishes in the sink, or the laundry unfolded. Take out some of the monotonous chore stuff from your routine and give yourself a break or a pass. This doesn’t mean you have to go sloppy-crazy, but maybe don’t vacuum on Sunday like you usually would. Save it for the next week.

Try something you’ve always wanted to do
We all have those places that we have on our somehow never quite checked off local bucket list. The Anchor Brewery tour is on mine. But despite being a long-time Bay Area resident and talking about how much I want to do it, I’ve yet to go ahead and make the reservations. It’s free! It’s fun! Whyyyy not? Because life and schedules can get in the way. But when you want to plan a rockin’ staycation, you’ve already cleared your schedule (riiiight?) so you can prioritize your interests.

Venture into the great outdoors
Because hiking is great and makes everything better. Did I come on a little strong there? What I meant to say is – find a hike and go hike it because nature is amazing!!!! There’s a reason I’m giving a hard push for outdoor activities. There’ve been several studies that show the importance of tuning into nature and getting out into a natural space. Especially if you’re used to working in the same indoor space, making it a priority to go and spend time outside can be a large cue to reset and reconnect. Get out into nature and tune into the birds and the trees or the body of water. Everytrail is a great source for hikes and short backpacking trips.

Take a cue from (your) kids
Think about it… why is it that an ice cream cone after a day of exploring a new city tastes so damn good? I mean, ice cream is always amazing but there’s something extra special about getting ice cream on vacation. Put simply, it tastes extra good because it feels like a special experience. The romantic element of travel and trips is an important piece of the whole puzzle. Luckily, whimsy can largely stem from everyday, simple pleasures that are highly appreciated. It’s easy to take pleasure in small, simple wonders because you’re actively appreciating the process.

Eat ice cream.
Play tag (laser or otherwise).

Do something that requires a little bit of whimsy or wonder.

Take photos
Pull out a camera and document all the fun things you have lined up. This is another essential element in most vacations so don’t discount the importance even if you’re taking photos of your family in front of your favorite local coffee shop. In fact, it’s a pretty cool opportunity to get some shots of things that you might not otherwise have thought to document. You’ll be happy to have your memories captured and kept for future reminiscing.

A few extra tips to make to take your staycation to the next level:

  • Choose and play fun, vacation-y music. It makes a difference and sets a certain tone! Before you begin your staycation, make a playlist and blast it at every opportunity. The Girl From Ipanema is my personal fave and a solid classic.
  • Save money by making some of your meals, but choose out of the ordinary recipes. If you never get to eat waffles, make waffles. It’s time to make everyday occurrences feel special. If you love steak but rarely eat it, pick one up.
  • Do something that you love to do. In my instance, that means taking some sort of dance class. Yours might be baking up a storm in the kitchen. Or playing kickball. Or going to a play. Pick out a few things that you say you should do more of – and actually do them.

Remember, a staycation is only as successful as your dedication to making it special. You may be staying on your home turf but that doesn’t mean you should lower your expectations or just fall back to what’s comfortable or easy over what’s going to stimulate or excite your sense of adventure!

Image Credit: Steven Depolo

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