I hate the term Staycation, a lot. I understand that the economy is bad and I understand that there is more stress and pressure on the average person than at any other time in recent years. But rather than shy away from even brief getaways, this is the perfect time to embrace them. Travel has a lot of benefits, but improving our mental health and general happiness is at the top of the list. Here are some simple ways to say goodbye to the Staycation and hello to some fun and relaxation.
1. Prioritize – In order to take a brief holiday from the daily grind, you have to make it a priority. We all have bills and obligations, but there are still ways to save for travel. Personally, we don’t eat out very often and really don’t buy many things for ourselves. Instead we save our extra cash for future travel opportunities. It’s important to us, and we make sure we’re in the position to enjoy some time away. It’s not just about eating out though, for a couple of weeks write down everything you spend on food. I think you’ll be surprised. Even cutting out small things will make a big financial impact. Eliminating the daily stop at Starbucks could save up $1,000 a year, for example. It also pays to be creative. Institute a family tax. Once your family has decided on a travel destination, let them all know how much it costs and that they need to contribute. If every member of a family of four each puts $2 into a travel piggy bank every week, that’s $416 a year. Up the ante to $5 per person and you will have more than a $1,000. That’s a great result for not much effort.
2. Local getaways – I am always amazed at some of the great getaways that are a five hour or less drive from home. No matter where you live, there is something fun and interesting fun to do nearby, but sometimes we overlook these local experiences. A great way to find local getaways and activities is by using the discount services Groupon or Living Social. The theory is simple, every day these companies send out an email to their subscribers with special deals for their city. It can be half off a spa visit, restaurant savings or even hotel rooms. Sign up for the emails, and then keep up with the daily offers. If a weekend hotel stay or even more exotic getaways pop up, consider buying it for the best discount available. Not all discounts are the same though and it pays to research the activity or property before buying it. These deals are a true example of caveat emptor, buyer beware. Both companies have travel deals for the taking, you just have to figure out for yourself which ones are good deals and which ones are a bust.
3. Off season haunts – In my e-Book, I wrote about the importance of visiting places in their off-season in order to save money. Flights, hotels and even restaurants are much cheaper during the off- or shoulder seasons and better yet, there aren’t nearly as many tourists visiting. I love Paris, but I’m not eager to visit when it’s hot and I’m joined by a few million of my fellow tourists. I’d much rather visit in the very early spring or fall, when the conquering hoards have left and I can experience the real city. Visiting places when it’s not the popular time of year to go has a wide variety of benefits. Not only is it cheaper, but the experience tends to be richer and more “real” – you get to peek behind the curtain and see the destination for what it really is and not costumed for the hoards of tourists.
4. Be realistic, but positive – It may not be possible for the average person or family to take an extended vacation every year due to expense. But don’t get discouraged just because you can’t take that dream vacation to Paris. Rather than abandon all travel hopes, instead focus on what is possible. Before you do anything, take a long hard look at your budget and set your financial goals. Then look at possible trips based on this realistic budget. Most people can afford to do SOMETHING, which is the important thing. Time away from home and the daily routine is too important to just dismiss. Rather than a luxury, you should think of it as a necessity for you and your family. As I wrote in the beginning of this piece, the health benefits of travel are many, and in this stressful and hectic world, EVERYONE needs an escape. Whether it be an hour away, or halfway around the world, be sure to set your sights firmly on your travel goals and then work towards achieving them. Just promise to send me a postcard while you’re enjoying your much deserved time away.