14 Staycation Ideas & Ways To Save Money With Local Travel

by Millie Kay G. on 2011-11-1618

Long distance travel does not suit everyone’s fancy. A lot of us, including myself, prefer to have fun by becoming a local explorer. Why not entertain a few ideas for saving money by focusing on local travel?

When I want to know what’s going on around town, I like to pick up my local newspaper for event listings. Another resource to consider is the website for your state’s tourism department. The Twitter feed for your city might lead you to exciting yet low cost events as well. Stretch your definition of local travel to the city next door if you want to venture away from your zip code.


You’re lucky if your area provides a lot of cultural or entertainment stops (cities and coasts have a lot going on!). See if you have any of these places close by:

Local Travel Stops For A “Staycation”

1. Museums

For our first stop, let’s see if any museums are open. Note that some places give discounts on certain days. Others may offer a family pass that gives you discounted admission all year long. Zoos, botanical gardens and public parks are other areas to explore. Get a group of relatives and friends together if a group discount is offered. Allow time for the gift shop, because you can find anything from T-shirts to fascinating jewelry there.

2. Restaurants

I can’t go out the door without a member of my crew asking what we’re going to eat next. To escape our usual routine, we consult Yelp, local food blogs or the newspaper’s restaurant reviews. Asking coworkers and friends for recommendations can bring you to eating spots you wouldn’t think to visit on your own. I got one charming idea from a recent issue of Bon Appetit: encourage your children to tour the world by visiting a local restaurant with a different world cuisine. The young girls in the article tried out Swedish, Spanish and Brazilian meals without their parents having to break out their passports.

Another way to check the food scene is to drive around to see which eateries are busy, a week or a month before you want to go out. Avoid the places with the help wanted signs and nearly empty parking lots. Make sure you scope out restaurant discounts before you go.

3. Overnight Stays

There are certain days I’d be happy to check into a hotel for a change of scene. Other people I know have rented hotel rooms for a crack at the swimming pool. If you’re looking for a break from your home, arrange a visit to a local hotel or bed and breakfast. When you’re booking the reservation, ask if you’re eligible for a local resident’s discount. Travel sites like Kayak or Hotwire can compare rates for you.

4. Regional or Seasonal Festivals & Celebrations

Our next stop on our virtual tour takes us to food festivals, cultural festivals and celebrations like Oktoberfest, Renaissance Faires or even Burning Man (in California). Sampling cuisine from different regions and dancing like a chicken can be welcome breaks from your daily routine.

5. Your Own Star Tour

Tourists in Los Angeles have the ability to jump on a tour bus to drive by the homes of the stars. If you do some research, you might be able to find out where figures of historical interest lived or where various famous people were born in your city. Thanks to Wikipedia, I learned I went to the same school as a famous former football player, so you may end up surprising yourself.

6. Conventions

While some conventions are trade shows that only industry professionals can appreciate, there are other conventions that are devoted to TV shows, video games, science fiction, and comic books like the San Diego Comic-Con. So if one of these events is in your own background, then give it a whirl. Some conventions feature loads of free entertainment, vendors and talks given by experts in the field. Admission costs can vary, though. You might be able to get discounted or free admission by volunteering.

7. Universities & Colleges

Our next stop takes us back to school. If you live near a college or university, you can typically find a lot going on throughout the week. Seek out plays, opera performances, concerts, lectures, films and sporting events at low or no cost. For example, the University of Michigan has a news and events section that features a new art collection.

8. Casinos

Sure, casinos put the spotlight on games, but they usually offer other types of entertainment such as restaurants, concerts and comedians on tour. If you’d like to gamble, set a firm limit before you leave home.

9. Wine Tastings & Art Gallery Openings

See if vineyards or galleries in your area are hosting events. You can learn more about local producers and maybe take home a new treasure.

10. Events at Arenas or Stadiums

These can range from concerts and games to health fairs and expos for children. Ask about group discounts if you have a crowd.

11. Bookstores & Libraries

Take advantage of signings, readings and story hours for these stops. You could meet anyone from famous romance writers to the folks at the top of the bestseller lists at signings. Call ahead for details in case of schedule changes, though.

12. Fundraisers

Get dressed up, hear interesting speakers and meet like-minded givers.

13. The Unusual Suspects

You’ve probably heard that New Yorkers hardly get around to seeing the Empire State Building or other popular tourist destinations. Are there monuments, historical homes or cathedrals within driving distance? For our penultimate stop, let’s find out the top three tourist spots for our town and stick them on the calendar for the next few months.

14. Farm & Factory Tours

This may seem unusual, but it can prove interesting (especially for the kids). Our last stop can show us where our food is grown or where our furniture is designed. I’d like to fit in a visit to an ice cream factory at the very least.

More Ways To Cut Travel Costs

By the way, you should check out those entertainment coupon books for your city or a nearby location. You can find discounts for dining out, local attractions and shops. Amazon or another bookseller may have a variety of coupon books on sale. Groupon or Social Living might be able to yield discounts, too.

It’s also worth a reminder that your rewards credit cards can yield helpful perks for your local travel adventure. American Express has a Premier Rewards Gold Card with an events feature that puts members first in line for different concerts, sporting events and shows. The Membership Rewards program includes offers for dining out, too. Make sure to consult your credit card if it has benefits of this sort just waiting to be used.

Need more ideas for things to do in your city? See what Budget Travel, Lonely Planet or other guides recommend to visitors. A travel blogger might have unearthed an attraction you haven’t heard about yet. And if you’re a retiree or AARP member, you may want to see if you can dig up any special discounts for venues you’d like to visit.

By using some of the ideas here, you can have a great time even without a large vacation budget.

Created September 7, 2008. Updated November 16, 2011. Copyright © 2011 The Digerati Life. All Rights Reserved.

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Silicon Valley Blogger September 7, 2008 at 11:56 am

I’m a homebody. When my high school reunion came up, I debated a lot on whether I should attend it, given that it was halfway around the world! I honestly did not know whether I should stay or go, given that I would only be there a short while but I would be out a chunk of change if I went. Plus, it’s 16 hours of travel time.

On the other hand, I quite like staycations (they involve less money and energy ;-) ).

ericabiz September 7, 2008 at 12:48 pm

Hi! Just wondering what you’ll think you’ll regret. I made the decision not to go to Burning Man this year, in large part because last year it cost us almost $5,000 because we bought an old RV that then became temperamental and broke down on the way home.

I went to a friend’s party last night where he showed pictures of all of my former campmates at Burning Man this year. While sad that I didn’t go this year, I don’t regret it, since I know it wasn’t worth my personal/emotional time.

So what, in particular, do you think you’ll regret from not going to a reunion? Ponder that, and then see if there are ways to alleviate it. If it’s just seeing and hearing from all of your old school friends, catch up with them online or by phone and stoke some of those old memories. If it’s something deeper, how else can you replace it with another memorable experience?

-Erica

Eden September 7, 2008 at 3:43 pm

I don’t really miss anyone from high school, so the decision would be easy for me. However, if you really care about these people and think it would be a great time, it probably is worth the expense (really not that much money in the big picture of life). 16 hours of travel sounds awful though.

Mr Credit Card September 7, 2008 at 5:27 pm

If you are even thinking about whether to go or not, then it is best to stay. I like local attractions myself. Sometimes it’s about the timing.

Mr CC

Andrew September 8, 2008 at 4:04 am

I wouldn’t regret not going. Times are tight right now, maybe you can catch the 30th (anniversary).

Patrick September 8, 2008 at 4:49 pm

If you truly think you’ll regret any kind of trip, then it is probably not worth going. Like Mr. Credit Card says, if you need to mull over the decision, it’s probably best to stay. :)

nina September 9, 2008 at 1:18 am

I would love to go and catch up with my highschool buddies but if it will be a financial burden to fly home to attend a reunion, maybe, I won’t go. I don’t want to make a trip I can’t afford.

BW September 14, 2008 at 8:09 am

I haven’t traveled outside of my home state for nearly three and a half years. Some people love to travel, but I have a good time just using the internet, so I don’t feel like I’m missing out.

Escape Somewhere September 14, 2008 at 9:31 pm

I am probably going to cut back in travel next year. I like traveling but I like saving more. I always hear about tips for how to save money when traveling but it seems that the biggest tip to save money is simply not to go.

Jack September 15, 2008 at 12:55 pm

Staycations are all the rave these days. They certainly beat paying out the wazoo for plane tickets, gas, or rental cars. I also find that I really like relaxing in the familiar, so a staycation is great for that type of holiday.

Capiz September 26, 2008 at 8:34 pm

Great tips to cut your travel budget. I love traveling to another place.

Mike May 29, 2009 at 12:51 pm

I’m having the same issue, but high school reunions are once every 10 plus years. It’s expensive but I think it’s worth it.

Holidays in Norfolk May 12, 2010 at 7:07 am

Tip: whenever you travel locally, take a lot of pictures. You’ll be surprised by how much fun you’ve had once you get home.

Chris Chong June 3, 2010 at 10:43 am

You should go on fun trips. There will always be time to make money later.

James Ekimes November 10, 2010 at 9:42 am

Life is short. And experiencing the world via travel is one of life’s most excellent rewards. Never live your life with “shouldas”. If you don’t want to go on a lengthy trip, then travel to another place that will make your heart sing!

Jana @ Everything Finance November 18, 2011 at 9:22 am

We did a sort of-staycation this year. My in-laws live near the beach so for our vacation, we stayed with them for a few days and just did activities around their area. They don’t live too far from us (less than a 2 hour drive) so the travel was easy and the accomodations and food were free!

We try to plan a staycation and a vacation each year. We use a lot of the resources that are listed here, especially the library and the local university. With a 5 year old, it’s nice to have a variety of activities to choose from!

Dragan November 22, 2011 at 7:10 am

Well, it depends on how much you know your local places and stuff like that. Every place in the world has something unique and who knows if it’s a location you can enjoy or not. Of course, many of us want to travel as much as possible, but that is not always an option.

readtoawake com December 6, 2011 at 9:47 am

I like the idea of saving money by traveling locally. You can save money by bringing lunch with you and refillable water bottles with you.

There are many ways to save money when traveling abroad.One mantra to save money is that you should travel in the Off-Season. In summer, go to popular winter destinations.

Another mantra is make your own reservation for airline and hotel booking. Consider staying in 2 star hotels.

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