Looking for cheap travel? Start with a staycation!

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When it comes to travel, I’m not a fan of waiting until the time is right or the money is more plentiful. There is no wrong time to travel. And the money that you spend won’t be missed any more than if you bought anything else. Travel while your kids are young. Travel before you have kids. Travel alone with your elderly spouse or with your kids and grandkids. But travel. Travel NOW.

Yes, I realize that NOW is often a word that scares the bejeezus out of people contemplating travel for the first time. You can’t afford multiple tanks of gas or multiple nights in hotels. That’s where the idea of a staycation comes into play. And I don’t mean a week home from work where you lie on the couch and watch Netflix. I mean a real staycation with new and different activities planned for each day.

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A real staycation is just like a vacation only cheaper. You spend your days traveling to new and different destinations but you stay within driving distance of your home so that at night, instead of dinner in a restaurant and checking into a hotel, you go home to eat and sleep. It saves you bunches of cash. All you need is a good plan.

The first order of business is to decide where you want to go. If you haven’t traveled before you may not know the best attractions to visit in your part of your own state. That’s okay. Pretend you live 1000 miles away. Head to a bookstore and buy a travel handbook just like any other tourist would. Or save the 20 bucks, get online, and start researching your area on travel sites like Where haven’t you been before? Those places should be first on your vacation/staycation list.  Ask questions of the on-line community. Make a plan. A real one. On paper. If you try to keep everything in your head you will falter. You’ll forget that the zoo is closed on Mondays or that you can get a 50% discount at the Natural History Museum if you go after noon on Sunday. Write it down. Write down what you plan to do day by day for as many days as you can manage to wrangle away from your job.

For a staycation to be successful you need to prepare just as well as you would if you were traveling away from home. Staycations are supposed to be FUN.  No one in your family should be doing chores during your staycation so before it begins you need to have the house clean and the laundry done. Have clothes laid out for the kids everyday so that you aren’t in a panic each morning looking for matching socks or lost shoes. Better yet, make a game of it and have each of your kids pack a suitcase (or a cardboard box) with all of the things they will need for “the trip.” Bring groceries into the house. Buy everything you’ll need to pack picnic lunches if that is your plan. For meals at home you should buy easy to prepare foods that you’ll be willing to make at the end of a long, tiring day. Buy “special” foods. Splurge on some things you wouldn’t normally buy. Plan to grill some nice steaks for dinner one night. Do the kids normally get Cheerios for breakfast? Let them have Fruit Loops this week. This is your holiday after all and theirs too. Don’t forget the paper plates and cups to make dish duty a breeze.

Pack your car with all the things you’ll need for the week just as if you were traveling across country. Load an ice filled cooler of drinks. Pack a tote bag with things like hand sanitizer and Tylenol. Having a beach day? You’ll need sunscreen and swim suits. Hiking? Better make sure everyone has a hat and lots of bottled water. It wouldn’t hurt to stash a change of clothing for each person in the trunk for emergencies. And you’ll want to save all of your destination addresses into your GPS before you ever head out on day #1. Preparing for a staycation is just as much work as preparing for a vacation away from home. But if you do it right, and you don’t cut corners with the prep work, your time at home can be just as relaxing and as much fun as if you had stayed in a hotel.

Are you ready? Let’s go!

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