That dream vacation to the beach, theme park, or quiet mountain retreat might be out of reach right now, but that doesn’t mean you should just plow through the year at work, letting your vacation days go to waste.
Studies show again and again that stepping away from work can translate into all kinds of benefits. They include less stress, overall satisfaction with life, improved mood, increased productivity, and even a reduced risk for heart disease, according to the American Psychological Association.
And while it’s nice to sink your feet into a sandy beach or explore a new city, getting away doesn’t have to involve plane tickets or a high-priced resort. Relaxation and fun are as close as the couch in your living room or the park 20 miles away.
But first, set some ground rules. Turn off notifications and access your work email on your phone. If you plan on eating out or visiting local destinations, set a budget. And, as you make memories, be sure to take a few pictures too — just like you would if you’d traveled to some far-flung destination.
Here are 12 out-of-the-box ways to have a fun and affordable staycation.
In our busy day-to-day lives, it can be almost impossible to take a deep breath and just sit and look at the stars. A staycation provides the perfect opportunity. And to set you on the right course on your stargazing journey, apps can help. Good Housekeeping lists 15 great stargazing apps, and many of them are free. Just install and start looking for Orion.
If you haven’t left the borders of your own town or county in recent months, take a day and explore what the next town over has to offer. Play at its parks, pick up food at a new-to-you restaurant and find some new local shops to check out.
Turn your home into a multi-day board game convention or movie festival. Pick out games or movies that appeal to everybody in the house, set out the snacks, and start relaxing.
Wish you could be traveling somewhere in Europe right now? Or Asia? Bring other cultures to your home by planning theme nights. Research different countries. Explore the food. Watch a movie or TV show based in the country you’d rather be visiting. So plan an elaborate English tea and binge-watch “The Crown.” Try your hand at making crepes and check out one of these movies. Or make one of these easy Japanese recipes and watch the popular manga series, “Naruto.”
Are there restaurants in your own community that you’ve always wanted to check out but never had the time to? Now you do. Plan for a day of eating every meal out.
Just like taking time off, volunteering also can boost your mental and physical health. It may even help you live longer, according to the Mayo Clinic Health System. And there are a lot of great ways to give back — from making a week-long commitment to simply spending part of a day gathering, for example, toiletries to donate to a homeless shelter. The United Way can connect you with local volunteer opportunities.
Whether it’s painting the living room or adding that bookshelf to your bedroom, find a few house projects that you can start and finish during your staycation.
Search out the perfect spot to take in the sunrise and sunset near you and make plans to be there for both. While you’re at it, set out early morning or late evening picnic to make it festive.
Are there parks, museums, or other destinations in your hometown that you’ve never visited? Or has it been some time since you’ve visited the local zoo? Be a tourist in your own town and visit.
It’s easy to “travel” with a good book as the stories and settings transport you to another time and place. So go on multiple “trips” by reading multiple books. Head to the library or finally get to that stack on your nightstand.
Head to a local campground or just pitch your tent in your own backyard. Roast hot dogs, make s’mores, play some card games, tell ghost stories and create some fun memories together with the ones you love.
Whatever you do during your staycation, treat it as an actual vacation. Don’t cook up a storm — unless you want to. And don’t try to finish every house project — unless you truly enjoy it. Be sure to set aside time for you, so your own tank is full when it’s time to get back to working life.
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Filed Under: Cheap living, Entertainment, Family, Finance for Young Adults, Financial tips and tricks, Marriage & relationships, Money saving tips, Relationships and Money, Saving, Travel, Ways to save money
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