Whether your funds are tight, your vacation days are limited, or you just want to do a better job of exploring the place you call home, planning a staycation is an easy way to satisfy your wanderlust. By staying local on your next adventure, you’ll come to better appreciate your own city, and you’ll even save costs along the way.

But it can be difficult to plan a getaway that doesn’t actually take you that far away — at least when you’re getting started. In that light, here are a few helpful tips to guide your efforts.

Postcards and a small plant. During your staycation, you can collect postcards from your own area.
Photo by Dan Gold

Choose your travel buddies

In faraway cities and countries, solo travel can be extremely liberating. But if you’re not planning to venture that far from home, it’s usually smarter to embark on your staycation with a friend or two. After all, you might have a hard time convincing someone to buy a plane ticket to Bali, Iceland, or Thailand, but you shouldn’t have any problem getting them to join you for a fun weekend at home.

What’s more, you probably already know your home base fairly well. Your staycation surroundings will be familiar — but if you bring a friend and add a fresh perspective, you’ll get to explore your city in a new light. Your friends’ ideas, opinions, and stories will make your experience all the more refreshing, and you’ll have a better time because of it.

A bright yellow door next to a green door. Stay close to home on your next staycation.
Photo by Christian Stahl

Ask yourself a few questions

Quickly, without thinking, answer this — for you, what’s the best part about taking a vacation? Feel free to jot down your initial thoughts. If nothing else, take a minute to collect your ideas before you continue reading.

For some people, the most important part of any vacation is using their time off to relax and recharge. For others, it’s experiencing new things. Still other individuals appreciate the fact that travel helps them live more fully, escape into nature, or learn more about themselves.

After you identify what you enjoy most about traveling, it’s a good idea to compare notes with your friends and find ways to integrate those elements into your staycation. If you really need time to relax, you could take a day or two off of work. If you’d prefer to try new things, you might want to do something you’ve wanted to experience in your own city but have never gotten around to. Or, if you want to spend time away from the hustle and bustle of urban life, you could find exciting ways to get outside during your staycation.

What really matters is knowing yourself and your fellow travelers. If you do, you can easily plan a staycation that everyone will enjoy — and if you don’t, you can keep thinking and brainstorming until you come up with a few ideas!

A bed, nightstand, and lamp. During your staycation, you can choose to save costs on hotels.
Photo by Christopher Jolly

Set a staycation budget

In most cases, vacation planning hinges upon one important number: the amount that you can spend while you’re gone. And even if you’re not planning to travel very far from your front door, it’s still a good idea to take the same budget-conscious approach. Not only will this keep your expenses from getting too high, but by putting this familiar process in place, you’ll feel more like you’re treating yourself to a traditional vacation.

Even with a budget, you can still splurge on cool accommodations, exhilarating experiences, or gourmet meals. But unless you’re willing to spend several hundred dollars, you’ll have to prioritize and decide what you most want to do. And by having one or two highlights that you’re really looking forward to, you’ll hopefully give your staycation the same glow that travelers often feel while preparing for their international journeys.

Plants along a windowsill, a sign that you haven't strayed far from home on your staycation.
Photo by Luther Bottrill

Get creative

After you decide where you’d most like to spend your money, you’ll probably still have gaps in your staycation plans. This is where you get to think outside the box.

Not convinced that you want to stay in a hotel or an Airbnb? That’s fine, although your staycation will feel much more like a full-blown trip if you somehow shake up your routine. If you don’t want to pay for a room, you could consider sleeping in a hammock, spending the night at a friend’s place, or even building a blanket fort in your own living room.

And if you’re not sold on special activities like zip-lining excursions, helicopter tours, or massages, you should still go out of your way to try something new. Whether you traverse a trail you’ve never hiked, explore a local museum for the first time, or scour Groupon for interesting experiences, you’re bound to find something worthwhile to do. (And if you’re running low on inspiration, you can always ask your friends, co-workers, or neighbors for recommendations.)

Finally, while you don’t have to go out to eat several times a day, it’s a good idea to try at least one new restaurant during your staycation. If you’d like to save costs on your other meals, you can also shop at farmers’ markets, purchase food from street vendors, or go on a picnic. With any luck, these efforts will help you find a new favorite eatery or come up with a new tradition — at a minimum, they’ll help you break out of the everyday routine of cooking, cleaning, and doing dishes.

No matter how you choose to get creative, this area of your itinerary will let you give your staycation a personal touch — and help your own home base surprise you.

Good luck!

Have you ever planned a staycation? If so, how did it go? What did it teach you about yourself and the area where you live? Sound off in the comments below!

Header image by Christian Koch