Every now and then, we just need to give ourselves a little tender loving care. The stresses of the world tend to pile up, and it’s up to us to stop the madness every once in awhile, blow off a little steam, and relax doing something fun. The problem is, often times, that the break we need isn’t within reach because that island vacation we’re dreaming about just isn’t affordable. Who really has the time or money to take a two-week vacation to Tahiti?
Maybe the answer isn’t in wishing for the ultimate vacation and never being able to take it. Maybe the answer is in treating ourselves with small, fun, affordable, and stress-relieving activities along the way. That way, we can keep from breaking the bank and treat ourselves more often than once every couple years.
In reality, it doesn’t take a lot of money to have good time. With a little creativity, you can find ways to have fun without breaking the bank. Let’s look at a few.
Plan a Staycation
With airfare and hotels being a very large part of vacation expenses, planning a staycation may just be the best idea to keep your vacation affordable and doable. Moreover, you don’t need more than a few days to pull it off and have a great time.
To start your planning, take some time to research all the events and places your local area has to offer. You’ll be surprised at what you can find within a short distance of home. Throughout the year, there are events going on in local areas that are fun, interesting, and best of all, affordable. Art walks and shows, festivals, and other community events can make for a fun weekend, and they’re usually free or cost very little. If you’re near a big city, check out all the events happening there on the weekends. Even if you spend one night in a hotel to make the most of your trip to the city, it’ll be much cheaper than a weeklong vacation to a tropical island. If you’re near the coast, see what’s happening in the beachside communities. A couple days at the beach can definitely soothe your soul and take the edge off your stress level.
Taking a few days to explore your local area can lead to a better understanding of how to enjoy life “in your own backyard.” This can make for a less stressful existence as you can continue to take advantage of these newfound treasures.
Take a Camping Trip
Our nation is full of wonderful and beautiful state parks that exist solely for the enjoyment of citizens. Chances are strong that there are several within a relatively short drive of your home. You can plan a cost-effective vacation by taking advantage of the camping facilities most of these parks have to offer. Camping is a great way to relax and reconnect with yourself and your family. It also helps you disconnect from all the electronics that seem to rule the world and connect with nature and the beauty in and around the many parks.
You don’t have to buy a lot of expensive equipment to camp either. Borrow equipment from friends and family and keep it simple. Trying to plan for every scenario is a fool’s game, and it’ll only up your stress level. Trying to haul half your house to the campground defeats the purpose of relaxing and enjoying a simple few days.
Do make it fun by bringing along entertaining foods that you can cook over the fire, such as s’mores and hot dogs. Make sure to check out the area around the park so you’re sure to take advantage of all the area has to offer. Using your campsite as a home base, you can sightsee, explore, and make the most of your camping experience.
Plan a Short Weekend Getaway
Most likely, within a short few hours’ drive, there’s a great destination just waiting for you. Whether it’s a coastal hideaway, a mountain retreat, or a historic town, destinations like these can offer you a wonderful experience and a chance to relax, unwind, and recharge your batteries without spending a lot of money.
Stay off the beaten path and take advantage of low-cost accommodations such as a bed and breakfast or an Airbnb. These will be a lot more affordable than a hotel, and usually more charming. When it comes to meals, talk to the locals to find the best places to eat that are inexpensive and provide a local flavor. If your accommodations have kitchen facilities, you can save money by eating a few meals in, especially breakfast or lunch.
Take advantage of all the area has to offer by finding out about the best sites from the area locals. You can design your own walking tour simply by getting a map and identifying the best locations to see. If there are places to hike, swim, or bike, you can have a day’s worth of fun at no cost. Sometimes, just strolling through a small town, window-shopping, and getting an ice cream can make for a very nice afternoon.
Have a Movie Marathon at Home
If you’re short on time and cash, you can have a fun day by staying at home and planning a movie marathon day. You can rent Redbox movies or, if you have a subscription service such as Hulu or Netflix, choose your lineup from there.
Make it fun and turn your movie viewing room into a theater by blacking out the windows with blankets and rearranging the furniture. Pop a lot of popcorn to get ready. You can also get movie-style candy at the drugstore or grocery store to make your movie day more authentic. To top it off, you can fill a cooler full of drinks so you don’t even have to get up to go to the fridge.
Take Some Interesting Day Trips
Sometimes, the perfect day is right around the corner, literally. If you live in a well-populated area, you probably have a wealth of cultural experiences just waiting for you to discover them. Take the time to research all the places of interest in your area so you can plan some time to take them in.
If you have any museums near you, these can make for excellent day trips for families. You can spend an entire afternoon wandering through the exhibits and learning all kinds of things you never knew before. If you live near a big city, you’ll probably have several museums to consider. Art museums may be more for adults, but museums of natural history and science museums are great for the whole family.
Other things to look for if you live near a big city are aquariums and zoos. These make for great fun and learning experiences for the entire family. Most of the time, the admission is cheap, but the food and snacks are not, so be sure to pack a lunch or snacks to keep the cost down.
If your area has a botanical garden, check the calendar of events to see what’s happening there. Usually, you’ll find some interesting events that are appropriate for both couples and families. Many locations host movies in the park where you can watch a free movie while enjoying a picnic.
Bottom line, your local area probably has more to offer than you know. By just doing a little research, you’ll be able to find a new world of activities to enjoy for not a lot of money.
Treat Yourself to a Fancy Dinner, at Home
Dining out and enjoying a gourmet meal is a wonderful luxury; unfortunately, it’s usually very expensive. So, instead of breaking the bank at a fancy restaurant, cook yourself a fabulous high-end dinner at home. By shopping carefully and buying items on sale, you can put together a tasty and fancy dinner for a lot less than what you’d pay in an expensive restaurant. If you can, make some items ahead of time so you can better enjoy the experience without spending half the night in the kitchen. If you have a partner, alternate cooking a gourmet meal for each other so each of you can enjoy being pampered.
If you want to involve the entire family, you can have the kids cook for the parents one night. It may not end up being super gourmet, but it’ll definitely be a lot of fun! Choose a dish they can make with ease, such as tacos or spaghetti, and have them serve it and clean up the kitchen afterward. Sometimes, just having a little break from the daily grind is a wonderful treat.
Take a Spa Day, in Your Own Bathroom
There are few things as relaxing as a day at the spa, getting a manicure, a pedicure, perhaps a facial. Unfortunately, a day at the spa is also usually very expensive. Just because you can’t afford all those fancy treatments at the spa, that doesn’t mean you have to go without. You can have many of these same relaxing experiences right at home. Take a day for yourself and soak your feet or entire body in a warm bath, do your nails, and give yourself a facial with a mud mask or ingredients in your kitchen, such as sea salt and coconut oil.
If you have friends who want to join in, that’s even better. You can have a spa party and paint each other’s nails, give massages, and share beauty and grooming secrets. Couples can share the same fun and have a relaxing day together.
Bake Some Goodies
The kitchen can be a source of great fun, and the results of your labor can be a delicious treat. Many times, you can bake something wonderful from scratch with just the ingredients you have on hand in your pantry. Baking can also be a relaxing endeavor, and it can make you feel good when you share your yummy creations with friends, family, and neighbors.
Once you’ve baked something wonderful to enjoy, up the experience by making yourself a gourmet cup of coffee, an espresso, or a fancy cup of tea. Find a quiet place to enjoy your goodies with a good book, an article you’ve been meaning to read, or in front of a sitcom that you’ve wanted to watch. Allowing yourself some downtime away from life’s responsibilities is important, and it only takes a small effort to make it special.
If it’s close to the holidays, you can use your baking skills and your downtime to bake up some lovely holiday gifts. Not only will you be creating very personal gifts for your friends and family, but you’ll also be saving lots of money.
If you have a giving heart, you can bake up batches of bread or other baked goods and take them to your local food pantry or homeless shelter to help feed the less fortunate. Not only will it make you feel good, but you’ll also be doing something good for your community.
It doesn’t take a lot of effort to find ways to treat yourself if you’re just a little creative. The world around you is full of opportunities to enjoy yourself that don’t cost a lot of money. Don’t miss life’s simple pleasures; sometimes, they’re right in front of you.