Can't afford a summer vacation? The staycation is here to help

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Can't afford a summer vacation? The staycation is here to help

There's nothing better than leaving work knowing vacation awaits, but what if you can’t afford the hefty price of flights, hotel rooms and rental cars? After all, summer vacations are a luxury not every budget may not allow for. Luckily, staycations provide an affordable alternative to help you unwind.

Whether you want to save money on your vacation this summer or just don’t want to deal with the hassle of traveling too far, staycations provide the perfect solution — and the relaxation you're craving.

This is the perfect time to get things done

If you decide to stay home, you might choose to take day trips to see nearby attractions or you might want to work on completing an abandoned to-do list.

According to CFP R.J. Weiss, there are a variety of ways to optimize your time away from work while also enjoying your staycation.

“A staycation is a great time to be productive," Weiss said. "Think about a fun house project you could accomplish if you devoted an entire week to it. Or maybe there's a local organization you’ve been wanting to help and this is a chance to devote 100% of your time to it. Or perhaps there is a friend who needs your help.”

Ruby Escalona, a money expert in Jacksonville, FL, echoes Weiss’ thoughts about staying home.

“You can also use the time to do errands like renew your passport, fix stuff around your house, garden, learn a new trade, discover a new business or hike a new local trail,” Escalona said.

The biggest takeaway? Planning the perfect staycation is about knowing yourself and what makes you happy. There’s nothing wrong with staying home and getting stuff done.

Want more adventure? Think like a tourist

“Look at TripAdvisor and see if you've been to all of the places that people have been recommending in their 'things to do' reviews [in your area]," Escalona said. "You can also look in Google Maps and play around with the maps options because you may find parks, conservation areas, and the like that you never knew were there before. You may also find ideas about towns or cities that are a drivable distance and have a lot of things to see or do.”

You may also want to turn to discount tools, like Groupon or LivingSocial, that can give you insights to new things to try in your area — all at a reduced price.

Make sure you plan ahead

Planning ahead is key to a successful and frugal staycation because it allows you to avoid common money pitfalls and strategically splurge on the things you really value.

Going on a short road trip? You may need some entertainment for the ride. Escalona suggested heading to your local library to get books, CDs or DVDs to pass the time — all at no cost (as long as you return them on time).

No matter where you choose to go or do on your staycation, you're going to need to plan for meals. Travel expert Lee Huffman recommends you, "stock up the fridge — at home or a local hotel — to have breakfast and dinner at ‘home’, then you can feel comfortable splurging on lunch at a restaurant that you've always wanted to try. The kicker is that lunch menus are often significantly cheaper than dinner menus, so you'll save even more.”

Remember what you gain

If it feels like you’re the only person in your social circle embarking on a staycation while everyone else is jetting to a tropical resort, resist the urge to feel bad. Instead, think of what you’re gaining by staying local.

"In addition to saving money, you get to avoid the hassle of traveling," Weiss said. "This is a huge benefit for parents. Plus, there's the opportunity to gain more appreciation for your local community."

Image: RonTech2000