Stop and think about the last family vacation you took. Chances are, it was more expensive than you planned, and you arrived home feeling spent in more ways than one.
According to research cited by Forbes, a single family vacation costs over $4,500 — and that’s just for an average vacation. According to TIME, if you decide to splurge and take your family of four on an iconic vacation to Walt Disney World for four days, then you can expect to spend around $6,300.
In other words, vacations can get expensive. Yes, they’re fun, and yes, you can make some great memories that your kids will cherish forever. However, you don’t have to break the bank to do it. What if you take a portion of what you would typically spend on a week-long vacation and plan a luxury staycation instead? Let’s take a look at how you can design a luxury vacation, at home, on a budget.
Benefits of a Staycation
You can save a lot of money staying home for vacation. According to a Forbes report, most Americans spend 10% of their annual income on vacations, and a quarter of respondents said they spend 15% or more.
Spending this much on vacations is fine — if you can afford it. The problem is that most Americans can’t. According to research cited by Reuters, 74% of Americans go into debt to pay for a vacation, putting an average of $1,100 on credit cards. This debt piles up mainly because most people don’t prepare in advance; CNBC reports that 55% of Americans admit they don’t set aside money in their monthly budget for vacation.
There are also plenty of people who don’t take a break all year. According to a poll conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, almost half of Americans won’t take a vacation at all, merely because they can’t afford it. Staycations have grown in popularity in recent years because they’re the only type of vacation most Americans can afford. But that’s not the only reason for a staycation.
If you plan it right, a week at home can feel far more relaxing than a rushed, expensive trip in an unfamiliar place. If you’ve ever arrived home thinking, “I need a vacation from my vacation,” then you can understand.
Staycations can also give you quality time to reconnect with your family. Instead of being distracted by an endless array of “must-do” activities during a typical vacation, you can slow down and choose one quality activity per day. You can spend time with your kids in the comfort of your hometown, and you don’t have to stress over packing and unpacking.
Avoid the Staycation Trap
The problem that many families run into with a staycation is that the parents usually end up spending too much time doing chores and housework during the week. It can also be harder to disconnect from work.
It’s easy to be tempted to spend the entire vacation doing chores, catching up on home projects or lingering renovations, or running errands. But your kids will quickly get bored, and it won’t feel like a vacation at all. If you want to enjoy your staycation and spend quality time with your family, make sure you don’t fall into the “chore trap.”
How to Plan a Luxury Staycation
Spending a week vacationing at home can be a real treat if you do it right. Here are some ways you can make it work for your family.
1. Look at Your Budget
The most significant benefit of a staycation is the money you’ll save. But just because you’re not spending $4,000 on a family vacation doesn’t mean you shouldn’t spend anything. In fact, when you’re staycationing, some strategic spending can make a big difference.
Start by looking at what you spent, on average, for your last few vacations. Tally everything up: airfare or other travel costs, hotels, restaurants, dining out, souvenirs, and entertainment. If you’re unsure about costs, that means it’s time you set up a budget. We recommend using Personal Capital because they will give you a full 360-degree view of your finances.
Now, spend some time thinking about how much you can spend on your staycation. What percentage of what you usually spend on vacation are you comfortable spending on a staycation?
When you have a total that feels good for you, write it down. After you figure out your staycation allowance, your next step is to plan how you’re going to spend it.
2. Identify What “Luxury” Means to You
Stop and think about how you define “luxury” at home. Defining your ideas might take a few minutes because, unless you’re a celebrity millionaire, you don’t equate “luxury” with “home” at all. Home is home and luxury is somewhere else. Instead, ask yourself what small steps you could take to make your home and your life feel more relaxed and luxurious for a week.
For example, would you feel luxurious sleeping on heavenly sheets while wearing some decadent silk pajamas? Or would eating out at a new restaurant every night feel more luxurious to you? Everyone has a different definition of what luxury means, so it’s important to think about what it means to you.
3. Schedule Some Luxury Services
You can also think of luxury in terms of not having to do the household chores you dread. What do you loathe doing most? Which tasks or errands would be luxurious to give up or delegate for a week? Make a list of the chores you really can’t stand doing. Your goal now is to use some of your staycation allowance on luxury services you’d never splurge on otherwise. To get you thinking, consider some of the following ideas.
Hire a Chef
If you want to take a break from cooking, consider hiring a personal chef for a week. A personal chef will do all the meal planning, shopping, cooking, and cleaning up. According to Angie’s List, some chefs charge per plate (around $20 to $30), while others charge by the hour (typically $30 to $40). Most chefs can cook an entire week’s worth of meals in one or two days.
If your hands shake with excitement at the thought of handing over family meal planning and prep for a week, this can be a worthwhile splurge. To find a personal chef in your area, visit HireAChef.com, which is run by the United States Personal Chef Association. If you live near a culinary school, you might be able to hire a student chef for a fraction of the cost; you’ll still get great meals cooked by someone else, and they’ll get some much-needed experience and perhaps a testimonial from you.
You could also consider using meal planning and delivery services, such as Blue Apron or Freshly. These companies do the meal planning, shopping, and prep work for you and ship everything you need for each meal right to your door. Although you’re still responsible for cooking and cleanup, so it’s not quite as luxurious as a personal chef, it is much cheaper. Most meal delivery services cost around $4.99 per plate, but you can often find deals if you look for coupon codes online.
Doesn’t it feel great to start a vacation in a squeaky clean vacation home? In the same way, a staycation is much better in a clean house.
Finding a housecleaning service to deep clean your home at the start of your staycation is another luxury that can be well worth the splurge. Not only do you get a break from the tedium of everyday household chores, but starting your time off in a spotlessly clean house that you didn’t clean can relieve stress immensely.
Do your research before you decide to invest in a housecleaner for your staycation. Many housecleaning companies want you to sign a contract for a specific number of weeks or months, and it can be challenging to find a team willing to clean just once. Typically, a first-time deep clean runs $300 to $400, but prices will vary depending on the size of your home and your location. Check Handy.com or HomeAdvisor for reputable services near you.
Hire Out Yardwork
If you can’t stand weeding or cutting the grass, hiring someone else to do these tasks for you while you’re on your staycation can be worth the money. However, this is another service that typically requires a long-term contract, so you’ll have to do some planning to find someone who’s willing to do it once. HomeAdvisor and Handy.com are great places to start; however, you might also find someone on Craigslist who wants to make a few extra bucks for a one-time job.
Send the Kids to Camp
If you have kids, then you need to plan a staycation that’s fun for them too. Consider sending your kids to camp for the week, while you and your spouse or partner get some much-needed rest and alone time at home.
According to Care.com, the average cost for a week-long sleep-away summer camp is $768, plus any additional expenses like food or lodging. These camps can make lasting memories for your children and give them unique experiences such as campfires every night, daily art projects, hiking, camping, and group singalongs.
Sending kids to camp is nothing new; parents have been doing it for centuries. But sending them to camp while you take your vacation at home might be something you haven’t considered. If you, like many others, are experiencing parenting burnout, then sending your kids to a fantastic camp for the week might be the only luxurious splurge you need to feel like you’re on vacation. To find a camp near you, visit SummerCamps.com.
If you can’t afford camp, then plan fun activities for your kids at home to make the week more special.
4. Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
One of the most significant benefits of traveling for vacation is that it exposes you to new people, new sights, and new cultures. Researchers with the University of Vermont, profiled by the BBC, analyzed tweets from people on vacation and found that people’s happiness rose the farther they traveled from home.
You might not be able to take a jet to Thailand’s pristine beaches or eat at an elite sushi bar in Japan. But you can expose yourself to new sights, sounds, and cultures in your city and still feel like you’re taking a luxury vacation. Consider the following ideas:
- Visit a restaurant you’ve never tried before, or find a recipe featuring a different cuisine and make it at home.
- Research the nearest big city. Most large cities have ethnically focused neighborhoods that can make you feel as if you’re in another country. Find out where these neighborhoods are and take a day trip.
- Visit a museum you’ve never been to before. While there, sign up for a tour so that you can immerse yourself more fully in the exhibits.
5. Forget About Time
Many of us have lost track of time while on vacation. Time doesn’t matter as much when you’re walking through a new city, trying a new bistro, or indulging in a day at the spa.
Recreate this feeling at home by putting away all clocks and watches for a few days. Turn off or hide the clock on your phone. You might be surprised by how relaxing this can be.
Another way to forget about time is to stop watching the news while you’re on your staycation. Most of the press is stressful anyway, and it can be surprisingly liberating to go without it for a week. Do the same thing with social media; why not take a break from Facebook and Instagram for the week and see how you feel? You might find that you’re happier and more relaxed when you stop checking your feeds a dozen times a day.
Last, don’t forget about your email. When you leave for vacation, you likely set up an auto-reply to handle messages until you get back, so make sure you do the same for your staycation. Make it a goal not to check your email the entire time you’re “away.”
6. Plan Some Unique Activities
Chances are, there are tons of tourist attractions, parks, or recreation activities in your area that you’ve never tried before. Your staycation week is the perfect time to try something new.
Do some research on local activities and write them all down — yes, all of them. Next, let everyone in your family choose one that they would like to try that week. This is a great way to open everyone up to new experiences and give your kids the opportunity to take control for a day. Ideas might include:
- Going to a local amusement park
- Hiking at the nearest state or national park
- Seeing a movie at a drive-in
- Going to the nearest fair
- Going to a local U-Pick farm
- Visiting your local planetarium
- Going kayaking or canoeing
- Visiting a local zoo or aquarium
- Going fishing
- Getting tickets to a Major League Baseball game or concert
7. Splurge at Home
If you splurge on some items for your home, your staycation will feel more luxurious, and the investment will make that feeling last long after the vacation ends. Again, take a look at your budget and decide how much you’d like to spend on home luxuries for your staycation. Here are a few ideas.
Turn Your Bedroom Into a Retreat
If you’ve ever stayed at a luxurious or boutique hotel, then you probably remember the sheets. Yes, those incredibly soft 1,500-thread-count sheets that made you feel like you were sleeping in the clouds. Well, why not buy a set for your bed?
High-thread-count sheets aren’t as expensive as you might think, and they can transform the way your bed feels. To get the best bargain, start shopping around on Amazon; Chateau Home Collection 800-thread-count sheets are $73 for a queen set and have great reviews. This 1,500-thread-count set on Wayfair is only $34 and also has excellent reviews.
When you’re looking at different brands, pay close attention to the details; Egyptian cotton will feel crisper and cooler than microfiber. However, it will be more expensive. Some brands advertise their sheets as “luxury high thread count” but use microfiber to cut costs. Aim for sheets that have a thread count of 600 or more; the higher the thread count, the softer the sheets will feel.
You can also make your bedroom feel more like a luxury hotel with aromatherapy. Before the start of your vacation, buy a good diffuser on Amazon like this one for only $16. Next, decide which essential oils you’d like to experience during the week; lavender will help you relax at night, and eucalyptus can make your home smell like a spa. Consider buying a starter set of oils to try like this set for $11.95.
Last, buy a beautiful bouquet of flowers to keep by your bed, and maybe even splurge on some luxury pajamas for yourself.
Indulge at the Grocery Store
If hiring a personal chef doesn’t interest you or isn’t in your budget, another way to splurge at home is to go a little wild at the grocery store. Find some decadent recipes you’d like to try during the week and invest in top-quality ingredients. Recipes could include anything from filet mignon with mushroom sauce to scallops with a white wine sauce. If you want to cook at home this week, then let yourself experience some luxury food. Some ideas to try include:
- Crown Roast of Lamb with Fresh Herbs
- Celery Root and Mushroom Lasagna
- Salt Baked Leg of Lamb with Olive Oil Potatoes
You can also splurge on drinks. Look up some new cocktail recipes and buy everything you need to make them at home. Or, buy a few bottles of wine you’ve been wanting to try. And don’t forget the fancy desserts. You can either buy these from a local bakery or make them at home. Act like you’re actually on vacation and let yourself eat dessert every night after dinner. Your kids will think you’re a hero.
Consider buying a new recipe book for your staycation. One of my favorites is “The Tuscan Sun Cookbook” by Frances and Edward Mayes. I’ve made many of the recipes in this book, and they’re fabulous, especially if you love hearty Italian cuisine. Guisi’s Ragu recipe is posted on the book’s Amazon page and is by far my favorite. Your house will smell heavenly for hours when you make this. Pair it with some crusty bread and a good bottle of wine, and you’ll feel like you’re in Tuscany for the night.
8. Create a Mini-Oasis in Your Backyard
Another option for splurging at home is to create a relaxing oasis in your backyard. Depending on how much of your staycation budget you want to invest, there are several options.
Simple splurges, such as a water fountain, can help your backyard or patio feel more like a getaway. For under $200, you can buy this tipping jugs fountain on Amazon, or for under $36, you can get this bamboo tabletop fountain. Add some outdoor bistro lights like these for $39, a bright patio rug like this one for $149, some inexpensive tea lights, and a colorful container of sunflowers or tropical plants from your local nursery, and you can transform your outdoor space for a few hundred dollars. Spending your cocktail hour in this new “getaway” can be surprisingly relaxing.
If you prefer to spend a more substantial portion of your staycation budget on an outdoor oasis, you might want to invest in new patio furniture. You could also set up an outdoor projector for you and your kids to watch movies under the stars.
A staycation can be far more relaxing than taking a vacation somewhere new. After all, you won’t have to deal with the stress of travel, long TSA lines at the airport, finding your way around a new city, or even holiday break-ins.
However, planning is essential for making the most of your staycation. Without a plan, you’ll end up catching up on chores and binge-watching your favorite shows on Netflix. And you can do that anytime, right? Instead, take the time to think about what would make your week at home feel special and relaxing. Research some restaurants you want to try or talk to family and friends you haven’t seen for a while and set a date to get together. Small things like this can feel special when you plan them with intention.
Have you taken a staycation recently? Was it worth it? If not, what would you do differently next time?