Home, sweet home. It's not Bermuda or Barcelona, but you can make it feel like a new locale for your stay-in-the-neighborhood vacation nonetheless.
Whether you plan to spend your summer in your backyard or take a trip to a nearby town, it's important to treat it like any other vacation. Just because you're not heading to the airport doesn't mean you shouldn't research your itinerary or note it on your calendar.
"Make sure that you set aside the time and plan carefully," said Travelocity Senior Editor Genevieve Shaw Brown. "Treat it as if you're going to Paris. The way life tends to be, it could fall by the wayside if there isn't a set plan."
Here are five ways you can make your staycation feel more like a vacation — without emptying your pockets:
Go out on the town
Check out a park or arts center you've never visited. Most cultural organizations offer free or reduced admission at least once a week, according to Kitty Morgan, executive editor of Better Homes and Gardens magazine. Scan your newspaper's local classifieds section for free activities or special summer programs for kids, such as an overnight stay at a museum.
The local mall, craft or garden store will likely sponsor special demonstrations or workshops. Bookstores and coffee shops, meanwhile, hold author readings or feature live music. For outdoor activities, check with your local parks department as well as the YMCA or community center, which may have affordable pool memberships.
If you're near a big city, minor league baseball is a cheap way to enjoy the rush of catching a foul ball without breaking the bank. The average cost to buy tickets for a family of four this year is about $55, according to a recent survey of the 160 clubs in the U.S. and Canada. If you live in a smaller town, supporting your local teams could be fun. Even Little League has its exhilarating moments — and it's usually free.
Or, for something a little more luxurious, your itinerary could include a relaxing stay at a historic bed-and-breakfast or a visit to a local winery. Many vineyards and restaurants offer free wine tastings, or discount rates around $2 a glass.
"The point is to get out of your routine, relax and rejuvenate — whether it's 20 miles, 200 miles or 2,000 miles away from your house," said Brown.
Involve friends and neighbors
Throw a beach- or nautical-themed block party with sprinklers, sand boxes, surf shorts and tiki torches and serve frozen cocktails that you would typically see at resorts. Or for something simple that requires little planning, you could hold a backyard movie night with rented movies, a projector and a screen fashioned out of a sheet tied to trees.
Create a do-it-yourself spa
Recipes for facials or other treatment concoctions are plentiful online with ingredients found at most health food stores or supermarkets. A basic homemade facial scrub can be made with sea salt, honey, uncooked oats and vitamin E oil, ingredients that cost only a few dollars.
You or a friend could lead a class for yoga, meditation, healthful cooking or massages. Set the mood with candles and relaxing music such as Enya, Yanni, or sounds of the ocean and nature.
Reinvent your backyard
Fire pits can be purchased from a home-improvement store like Lowe's for as little as $59, while hammocks, which can be found for as cheap as $38, are easy to install. The ancient art of gardening could help you transform your landscape into a summer retreat. Try wrapping big leaves, vines and bold flowers around your patio to create your own private jungle. If you live in an apartment, ask your landlord if you can spruce up the roof.
Change your dinner routine
The ho-hum summer barbecue can easily become a fun activity if you make it participatory, Morgan said. Taco nights or pot lucks are fun ways to veer away from hot dogs and hamburgers. Instead of making lemonade, try something different like blending cantaloupes or honeydew melon with lemon-lime soda.
"There's so much you can do around food," Morgan said. "Instead of having the dad just throw a burger on the grill, try something like build-your-own kabobs. Activities like that create an opportunity at home that's not just about staying inside and locking up."