Staycation set-up in living room with paper palm trees and furniture fort

How to Have a Spectacular Staycation While You Work Your Way Out of Debt

We’re all familiar with it. Those enviable social media posts from your affluent friends vacationing with their families in Greece … Thailand … Australia. It can be absolutely maddening, especially when trips like this feel so out of reach as you gradually work your way out of debt.

But there’s a secret we’ll let you in on. Your friends probably aren’t having as much fun as these pictures suggest. These shots have been captured in between toddler meltdowns and arguments about meal destinations — not to mention scrambling to replace toiletries from that bag the airline lost. Vacations aren’t always all they’re cracked up to be. And the average cost for a 1-week vacation for two people in 2022 is a whopping $3,838. Many of your friends may actually be going into debt to pay for these “relaxing getaways.” 

To be clear, time off is essential, both to your mental and physical health. We’re not advocating working 52 weeks a year without a breather. We just don’t think that breather needs to add to your stress by costing you an arm and a leg. 

A staycation can be just as — if not more — relaxing than a vacation (remember, you’re skipping all the stress that comes with travel!). That’s why we’ve decided to share how you — even while you’re working your way out of debt — can have the most spectacular staycation ever.

First Things First

Staycation Money Piggybank

First you’ll need to figure out what you can afford. This number may be no more than you’ve already been spending weekly, and that’s OK! You can still have a fabulous staycation with no extra expenditure. If you are able to afford a few extra luxuries during this time, great. But make sure you have your budget set ahead of time.

What Does Treating Yourself Look Like?

“Treating yourself” means something different to everyone. For some it may mean binging all three Lord of the Rings movies. For others, it’s a spa day or massage. For others still, it’s experiencing an exciting new cuisine. Figure out what kind of things would genuinely make you feel good during this time, and keep this in mind when planning your staycation.

Staycation Preparation

Couple planning their staycation in a notebook
Your Home

If you’ll be spending a fair amount of time in your home, make sure it feels relaxing! Clean the place or, if it’s in your budget, hire someone else to do it. You might even buy some fresh flowers, put out candy dishes … anything to make it feel extra ritzy!

The Kids

If you have kids and you worry they may get in the way of relaxation, see if a friend or relative can take them for the next few days. This will go a long way when it comes to allowing you to focus on you.

Setting Some Ground Rules

Because you may be spending more time at home, you might feel obligated to continue to do your regular chores. Don’t fall into this trap. Set some boundaries in advance around what and how much you’re “allowed” to do on your staycation.

You’ll also want to restrict the amount of outside communication and distraction you let in. Limit your tech usage and social media visits, even if this means removing the apps from your phone for a week. Certainly don’t check your work email. Limit the amount of news you read and watch. In fact, think about putting your phone and computer away all together! This is a time to “get away from it all” — even if you’re staying right where you are.

Staycation Planning

While you might enjoy vegging out with a favorite show on one of your staycation days, you don’t want to reach the end of your break only to realize you spent the entire time on your couch. 

With the budget you’ve landed on, figure out exactly what you’d like to do each day of your staycation. If you end up encountering an unexpected adventure and want to stray from the original itinerary, that’s fine! Just make sure you’ve actually laid out a plan and scheduled some fun and relaxing things to do so it really feels like a rejuvenating change! (Hint: Groupon could be your best friend here.)

Below we’ve laid out plenty of ideas to fill your staycation schedule, some requiring a bit of money, some requiring none at all.

~44 Budget-Friendly Staycation Ideas~

Outdoor Fun

Check out some of these ideas to incorporate fresh air and sun into your gorgeous staycation.

Group of happy people eating lunch at a picnic table at a park
1. Have a Picnic

Pick a park you haven’t been to and have a lovely picnic! Enjoy the sites, sounds, and some delicious food. You can even up the “fancy factor” with some wine, cheese, and fresh bread. If you’re alone, bring a book, journal, or sketch pad to keep you occupied.

2. Take a Walk

Many times we’re rushing around so much we don’t take time to literally stop and smell the roses. Schedule a walk — perhaps in an unfamiliar area of the city or suburbs — where you can simply explore, and enjoy what’s around you. You may be surprised at the hidden gems you find just a stone’s throw from where you live!

3. Go for a Bike Ride

If you don’t have a bike, borrow a friend’s or rent a Divvy. Check out your local bike trails and pick one that speaks to you. 

4. Go Canoeing or Kayaking

If there’s a river or lake nearby, rent a canoe or kayak and get to paddling! 

5. Go Birdwatching

Birdwatching can be a deceptively exciting pursuit: it gets you out into nature, provides that “thrill of the hunt,” and becomes really fun when you start “collecting” rare bird sightings. See if there are birder tours in your area, or print out a guide to local species and set out on your own.

6. Enjoy a Lake or Beach Day

Depending on where you’re located, you may have access to a sparkling body of water right on your doorstep. Gather your beach ball, sunscreen, towel, and book, and head to the water.

7. Check Out a Nearby National Park or Nature Trail

Even if you’re not close to a national park, there are often nature preserves and trails even in large cities. Find one you haven’t been to (or one you have!) and take a relaxing hike.

About Town

There are plenty of activities and adventures right in your hometown! Check out some of these ideas to get you going.

Image of tour boat
8. Be a Tourist in Your Own Town

Whenever we visit a new place, we hit all of the classic attractions, but many of us have skipped over the things that make our own town unique. Do some of those touristy things! If you’re in a large city, check out CityPass or Go City for deals that bundle multiple attractions into one discounted pass. 

9. Find Free or Discounted Festivals & Events

Even if you’re on a strict no-frills budget, there are likely to be a myriad of free or discounted local events in your area! Do your research and see what kind of low or no-cost concerts, outdoor plays, or fests are happening during your staycation.

10. Go to a Local Museum

You may have been to some of the museums in your area, but the truth is that each time you go, there are new things to discover! Museums can transport you to other times, places — even dimensions — if you let them. Visit one of these local treasures and see what there is to see. You can even check which days are free or discounted, to save on cost.

11. Go Bowling

Do you enjoy knocking back a few brewskis and throwing a deathly heavy ball at ten little innocent pins? Make sure to schedule some bowling during your staycation!

12. Try Geocaching

Geocaching is essentially treasure hunting … using your phone. You download a geocaching app, and use GPS to track hidden “caches,” write in their logbooks, and potentially trade out mini-treasure items for mini-treasures of your own! To get the best experience, you’ll want to do a free trial membership for the premium version of the Geocaching app.

13. Do an Escape Room

These lifesize puzzles can be super fun! Just make sure you have enough friends and family members participating to solve all the clues.

14. Watch a Minor League Game

Even if you don’t have the funds to go watch a professional game, it can be really fun to watch amateur players throw their all into a sport! See who’s playing in the area, and go cheer them on as if they’re your absolute favorite professional team.

15. Take a Tour

If you’re in a city, check out the local tours offered! Ghost tours, boat tours — even wine tours — these things can be loads of fun and will often have you learning more about where you live.

16. Hit Your Local Farmers’ Market

Even if you don’t need anything, checking out your local farmers’ market can be a fun way to stretch your legs, get to know your neighbors, smell some flowers, and admire the gorgeous array of homegrown fruits and veggies.

17. Have a Spa Day or Get a Massage

If your budget allows for some pampering, consider a day-pass for a spa. If that’s too pricey, check around for an affordable massage nearby. These can be absolute relaxation game-changers. 

18. Take a Class

Sign up for a one-time painting, art, or cooking class — whatever sounds interesting to you. This is a great way to explore a new skill, meet new friends, and just plain have fun.

19. Have a Delectable, but Affordable Meal

If you’ve budgeted a nice meal or two into your staycation, there are still ways to save! Do a little research into happy hours and early bird specials. Just by eating a little earlier in the day, you can get some great deals. 

20. Go to a Film Festival or Matinee Movie

If you’re a cinephile, see if there’s a film festival going on during your staycation. By purchasing a pass, you’ll often be able to see multiple films over the course of a day or weekend. If you just want to catch a single flick, make it a matinee and save some serious dough. Just beware of those inflated snack and beverage prices.

21. Volunteer

There’s a deep sense of purpose and fulfillment we get from giving back. Add that satisfying feeling to your staycation with a few hours of volunteer work at an animal shelter, food pantry, or another place in your community which has meaning for you.

At Home

You may feel like doing a fair amount of relaxing at home during your staycation. This is, of course, the very best way to keep from spending too much money. But staying at home doesn’t mean having to lay around! There are plenty of fun and luxurious experiences to have right from the comfort of your own home.

Couple sitting on couch, smiling and holding Nintendo video game controllers
22. Sleep In

Sure, we did say staying at home doesn’t mean having to lay around, but sleeping in is the exception here. You should be able to catch up on some winks during your staycation, so think about scheduling in some late morning snooze time.

23. Create Your Own Spa

If an official spa day isn’t in the budgetary cards for you, that doesn’t mean you can’t recreate a spa all your own! Light candles, put on some spa-like music, throw epsom salts in the bath, and get relaxing. Feel free to go the extra mile with cucumber slices, a facial, flower petals, fresh towels, and a fluffy robe.

24. Split Room Service Responsibilities

If you’re spending your staycation with a partner, take turns serving a lavish breakfast to each other. There’s nothing like being brought a mimosa and eggs benny in bed!

25. Plan Indulgent Meals

The lavish meals don’t have to end at breakfast. Either order or prepare your own indulgent dishes. If you’re cooking the meals yourself, it doesn’t have to feel like work! Put on music, dance around, and enjoy every part of this wonderful food, including its preparation.

26. Immerse Yourself in a New Culture

Pick a country or area of the world you’re unfamiliar with and explore it from your very own home. Check out a library book, watch a movie, eat the cuisine, and listen to music from this fascinating foreign location.

27. Start a New Hobby

Is there a skill or craft that’s interested you, but you’ve never gotten around to taking the first step? Use your staycation as an excuse to dive in headfirst! Watch some YouTube videos and get knitting, baking, watercolor painting, or whatever other activity that’s caught your eye.

28. Splurge at the Grocery Store or on Home Stuff

If you’d like, set aside some of your staycation funds on deluxe ingredients or more permanently, some fancy home stuff. Whether it’s a delicious charcuterie spread, or soft new sheets, make sure it’s something that’ll really give you joy and comfort.

29. Learn to Make a New Cocktail

There are few things that relax quite like an exquisite cocktail. Do some online research for a drink that speaks to you, gather the ingredients, and get mixing!

30. Throw Your Own Film Fest or Movie Marathon

Pop some popcorn, grab your favorite candy, and stream your all-time favorite movies. Or if you’re feeling more adventurous, pick a genre or director you’re less familiar with and explore an entirely new body of work. 

31. Journal

Journaling can help reduce your anxieties, sort out your thoughts, and encourage a little extra introspection. It can also just be a great way to preserve memories! If any of this appeals to you, make sure to add some journaling time to your staycation schedule.

32. Throw a Game or Sports Tournament

Love competition? Gather the friends and family and have a board game night or outdoor sports tournament — your choice! Or if it’s just two of you, have an all-out video game throwdown.

33. Catch Up on Some Reading or Streaming

You know that book that you’ve been dying to read? Or perhaps it’s a Netflix show you’ve been trying to find a moment to binge. There’s no better time than the present! 

34. Make Homemade Pizza

Making pizza is incredibly affordable, easy, and — as it turns out — fun! You can certainly do this on your own, but it’ll be a blast to do with a partner or the whole family. The best part? Everyone gets to pick their toppings.

35. Do a Puzzle

Puzzles can be another great way to unwind. Pick some background music or a podcast, and tackle a puzzle with a picture you love.

36. Have a Paint Night

Buy some cheap paints and brushes and throw a paint night! Invite a few friends or just do it with your family. Paint each other, the family dog, or recreate your favorite Van Gogh.

37. Create Your Own Wine or Beer Tasting Party

Invite your friends over and have everyone bring one wine and one cheese. Go around the table, with everyone giving their best impressions of professional sommeliers. If you prefer beer, swap wine out for ale! 

38. Meditate

Meditation and mindfulness can bring peace, improve focus, and slow the thoughts whizzing through your brain. Find some different guided meditations on YouTube and schedule a brief one at the start of each of your staycation days.

Change of Scenery

While you can certainly stay right where you are and have a brilliant time, you might enjoy these budget-friendly options to change up your surroundings, while still staying close to home.

Two men walking down a cobbled street, laughing and eating out of takeout containers
39. Go Camping

Camping can be one of the most relaxing and fun ways to have an affordable break, and as a bonus, it allows you to breathe some fresh air and connect with nature. Bring some hot dogs, s’more makings, and ghost stories and enjoy a few nights under the stars.

40. Swap or Borrow a Friend’s Home

Want to recreate the “getaway” experience at no cost at all? Perhaps a friend is going on a trip and you volunteer to house watch! Or alternatively, you and your friend could simply swap places and both get that home-away-from-home experience. Just make sure you both hand over keys to clean living spaces!

41. Rent an Airbnb

If you have a little extra cash to spare, rent a low-cost Airbnb! This can give you that change of scenery without having to spend hundreds on airfare. 

42. Try a Last Minute Hotel Site

As part of your planning stages, schedule in a search of sites like HotelTonight which let you book fancy rooms “day of,” for a fraction of the price.

43. Explore a Nearby Town or City

Is there a nearby quaint area you’ve been meaning to explore? There’s nothing that says you can’t be in the next town over for your staycation! Either take a daytrip to this place, or rent an affordable motel room or Airbnb there.

44. Change the Scenery Right Where You Are

We already mentioned making sure your own home felt relaxing. But you can elect to go even further by making it really feel like a whole new place! Rearrange the furniture, put up string lights, get out the candles — go full hygge (a Danish concept that describes coziness).

And if you don’t feel like hopping in the car and heading to a campsite, camp out in your backyard or your living room!

Final Words

You’re doing something remarkable right now. You’re slowly but surely working your way out of debt. But instead of thinking of this time as one of deprivation, frame it as a moment to celebrate your successes thus far! 

You are worthy of relaxation, fun, and a little extra luxury. Make sure you’re taking the time to give yourself that — even if you don’t spend a dime.