How to Plan a Staycation That Creates Memories (+ Won’t Break the Bank!)

downtown san diego

This is a guest post by Susan Guillory of The Unexplorer.

You’re stressed to the max, and all you can think about is lounging on a tropical island somewhere…only, your bank account won’t permit a vacation right now. What’s the cure for the common blues?

A staycation!

As a travel writer, I don’t always have time or funds to traipse off to points unknown, but I make sure to enjoy all my sunny city of San Diego has to offer in between bigger voyages. You might not live in such a warm paradise as Southern California, but I guarantee that, with these pointers, you’ll see your city from a different point of view.

Tip 1: Act Like a Tourist

st patrick's day parade

You live and work in your community. You pick up your dry cleaning from the guy down the road. You eat at the restaurant on the corner every week. Sometimes it’s hard to have an outsider’s view when you’re so immersed in your town. But for a moment, I want you to put your Tourist hat on. See your city from someone else’s perspective.

See if your city or town has a visitor’s bureau website by Googling “visit [my city.]” Even if there’s not a site dedicated to tourism, there may be Trip Advisor pages that can point you to what tourists like to do in your town. If you live in a bigger city, check out a travel guide from your library.

Now, go crazy. Make a list of every attraction that you’ve either never seen or love and want to visit again. Maybe your town has a cheesy tourist-trap shopping area that you avoid (because, you know, you’re local). But you’re not local for this staycation, so put it on your list. Maybe you haven’t been to the nearby theme park since your kids were little. Put it on the list.

Tip 2: Check for Events

sandcastle competition san diego

If you have a specific date range picked out for your staycation, see what’s happening in town for that period. If you are open to dates, plan around an event you’d like to attend. Again, get outside of your comfort zone by picking activities that you wouldn’t normally do.

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There might be a strawberry-picking festival. A car show. Art exhibit. Music fest. Beer fest. You’d be surprised at what’s happening right beneath your nose. Don’t overlook community theater, church events, and neighborhood festivals.

Tip 3: Book a Hotel Somewhere Fantastic

Empress Hotel La Jolla

When friends come to visit, which part of town do you suggest they stay in? That’s where you want to find a hotel. Or maybe there’s a hotel you’ve always wanted to stay in, but never had an excuse to (for me, that’s Hotel del Coronado, but the holdup is the high price for a room!).

Make sure the hotel has all the amenities you want for a few days. If you want to mainly stay in, find a hotel with a great pool and maybe a spa. If you want to be close to the action, book one near your target event or near the area you want to explore.

Here’s a bonus tip: if the hotel charges $25 or more for parking, it’s cheaper to Uber from your house to the hotel and back than pay the overnight rate for parking.

You can also check Groupon to see if any local hotels are offering special packages, like with spa services or meals. Going off season and midweek will guarantee you pay less than tourists do.

Tip 4: Plan to Eat Well

dining in san diego

You are not on a diet on this staycation. You will not eat at your regular haunts. Pretend you’re in a different city and try a place you’ve never been to. Maybe try a cuisine you’ve never tried.

(Again, Groupon and other deal sites can help you save big. I use this tip locally and when traveling to save money.)

Splurge on a three-course meal. Order room service. Do whatever floats your boat dining-wise.

Tip 5: Pack Like a Tourist

san diego camping

Once you get into the mindset of being a tourist, shut down the thoughts of, “but I just live down the street! I can go home to do a load of laundry then go back to the hotel.”

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You are a tourist, so act like one! Pack your swimsuit, a stack of books, wine, and plenty of junk food. And hey, you won’t have to pay to check a bag at the airport, so put that saved money toward a nice dinner!

Sit Back. Relax. And Enjoy Your Staycation!

Commend yourself for not having to waste time flying or driving to find your happy vacation spot. Although you’re close to home, you feel like you’re thousands of miles away from your daily worries. Totally disconnect. Don’t worry about home. Turn off your phone. Get some sun. Pamper yourself. Sleep all day if you want.

You don’t need to go far from home to unwind. All it takes is having the right frame of mind…and a little planning.