Staycations are all the rage right now, and it’s no wonder: for a fraction of the cost required to go away this summer, you (and your nearest and dearest) can have a dynamite week at home! Here are my suggestions, under the subheads of On the Cheap, Party Fun, and Splurge a Bit, that will make you feel so happy that once you’re back to work, people will be envious of your new relaxed glow.
ON THE CHEAP
Exotic Meals: In my town, the international food store has lower prices than the chain grocers. Go to the library and check out a cookbook from another country/culture, and then cruise the store’s often indecipherable aisles for galanga, lemongrass, and the like.
Free Prizes: See what programs your library is sponsoring this summer. Some offer prizes at the end of a summer reading program — the more books you read, the more chances you have to win. Cost: free.
Group Movie Night: If you and your friends have kids, set up a few nights’ worth of movies. The kids gather at a different house each night for a few hours of flicks, fun, and food (popcorn popped over the stove is both novel and cheap — throw in some Jell-o and you’ve got yourself a pint-sized fiesta for pennies). Then, the parents who aren’t hosting can have a few evening hours to go away for dinner or go back home for… whatever.
Blind Tastings: My dad and his cronies get together once a month to do blind tastings of inexpensive wines. Everyone brings two bottles of something that retails for less than $10/bottle. They put the bottles in bags and taste a bunch of wines they wouldn’t normally go for. You could do something similar with international beers or organic juices, too.
Scavenger Hunts: Have some retro fun with some friends and a few copies of the same list. This is a good way to get to know your neighbors — part of the fun of vacations is getting to know new people, right? This activity can serve double-duty if your list is themed with items that can be used for future, or further, partying: spaceship-building materials; paper cups and cocktail napkins; off-beat food items, and the like.
Get in a Jam: Get a few friends together, with kids even, and take advantage of abundant and inexpensive summer fruits by whipping up a few batches of freezer jam. The munchkins can help with mashing and measuring, and there’s no need to heat up your kitchen with a kettle of boiling canning water. Find recipes at your library or on the Internet.
Spa Day: Get in touch with your inner girly girl: Hit a local discount store for some new, oversized, fluffy towels, and then visit your local herbalist (my husband calls ours the Witch Doctor) for some bulk, pore-clarifying clay. Team this with your homemade scented candles (and maybe some Blind Tastings) for a lovely afternoon of lounging and girl talk. Gift bags of inexpensive nail polish, orange sticks, and cotton balls will allow each guest to tend to nail care, too.
Get Crafty: Get a head start on holiday gifts by inviting friends over for an evening of crafts. With a bit of preparation, scented candles are fun and easy to make. Likewise, holiday cards. Hit your library or eHow or How To Do Things for other one-night craft ideas. Men, you can do something similar with power tools, I feel certain.
YOU’RE SAVING MONEY BY STAYING HOME: SPLURGE A BIT!
Stay Local: Call your local hotel-with-a-pool to see what kind of deal you can swing for a one- or two-night stay. Speak directly to the local booking manager, rather than the chain’s 1-800 number, for the best deal. In my town, the radio station offers a “Save 30″ store, where you can purchase gift certificates for goods and services at 30% off. Contact your Chamber of Commerce for similar money-saving opportunities.
Eat Out: Splurge on a fancy lunch, or really splurge on dinner, at the most extravagant restaurant in your area. By not paying for plane tickets, you’re saving enough that you can spend some on a local fancy meal. Follow it with a concert in your town, or a cultural event at your local college town, where quality entertainment can often be found at the fraction of the price of an urban area.
Start Cocktail Hour Early: You’re on vacation! Think tropical fruit, fancy rum, whipped cream, and a blender. Hearken back to your college days, or find fun recipies online or at your library. Save money and calories by leaving out the rum.
Throw Money at the Problem for the Week: Make a list of five things you DON’T want to do while on staycation and pay someone to do them. Hire a local cleaning service (or a couple local teens) to scrub your house. Order take-out or spend a few hours at Dream Dinners. Pay your kid to clean the litter box. Stuff like that. Or, take a more permanent approach to the problem…
Throw Money at the Problem and Make It Last: For the price of plane tickets for a family of four, you can buy a really nice dishwasher. Or have a bit of cosmetic surgery done (I think you look great, but you’ll be off from work for a week, which is plenty of recovery time for some procedures). If you really want to splurge, check into laser eye surgery and just think of the money you’ll save on contacts and glasses. Just tell ‘em Wallet Blog sent you.