Put down the TV remote and stop scrolling aimlessly through Instagram: There are so many cooler things to do with your downtime—that you’ll actually remember. Not to mention, summer’s almost over, so taking advantage of longer days and warmer weather is paramount right now.
Whether you’ve already taken that nature getaway or aren’t planning on traveling this season, there are tons of other ways to enjoy yourself without leaving the comfort of your home or city. Enter the genius idea of a sweet staycation: a vacation that takes place in your very own home or backyard. It’s the ultimate budget-friendly way to feel like you’ve accomplished something, made a new memory, and even got some much needed R&R.
Proof that you don’t need to break the bank or go far to have an incredible time? Of TripAdvisor’s top 10 experiences in the US, eight cost less than $100. From spa moments to activities made for family fun, city exploration, and more, these ideas will make even the biggest travel buffs jealous. Ahead, check out some staycation options that are guaranteed to give both you and your family a good time without burning a hole in your pocket.
Get a day pass at a local hotel pool.
Grab a good book and some sunscreen, and head to your local hotel pool. Many establishments sell day passes that you can buy just to lounge and swim for the day. Perfect for one of those late August scorchers, you’ll feel like you got away for the day, caught some rays, and lived a little bit of the luxe life, all without having to pay a fortune. Check out websites like Resort Pass or Daycation App, which show you which establishments in your area have day passes available. Starting at just $25, these make for an excellent (and super relaxing) staycation.
Go on a boat cruise.
Major cities like Boston, New York, and Chicago have some amazing deals on boat tours that feel like their own escape. From cruises of the Hudson River, Boston Boat Tours, and Architecture Tours of Chicago, these are surprisingly cheap. If you have a large group, chipping in to rent a boat for a day and take a cruise is another option. Don’t count out sites like Groupon to give you some sweet deals when it comes to organized tours and excursions.
Take a cooking class.
Master the art of cooking by cheffing it up at a cooking class near you. Local restaurants and culinary schools offer classes that help you prepare a variety of dishes, all consisting of different cuisines and mastery levels. The cost of a cooking class depends on where it’s being held, what’s being taught, and whether ingredients are included in the price. The average cost ranges from $75 to learn how to prepare a basic home-cooked meal to $200 for instructions for making a full-course feast, so you’re bound to find the best option for you.
Bring the spa home.
Spas can get pricey, so emulate that feeling of total relaxation by bringing those vibes into your own space and making an oasis of your own. Draw a zen, spa-like bath or recreate your very own Korean spa with a few products that will make your bathroom feel extra relaxing. After all, an at-home wellness retreat is a staycation we can all get behind (and could probably use more of!).
If you want to splurge a bit, try inviting some girlfriends over and hiring a masseuse to provide massages. Websites like Zeel will send certified massage therapists to your home for a fee, while apps like TheGlamApp, Manestreem, and Priv will bring beauty services to your door. A bit of necessary pampering? Check.
Do a winery, brewery, or ice cream factory tour.
Give some love to your local businesses by participating in a winery, brewery, or ice cream factory tour (depending on what’s available near you). Wineries sometimes offer free daily tastings, or you can pay roughly $25 for the full, sommelier-led experience. Breweries are also great because you can tour the facilities where the beer is boiled, fermented, and eventually made. Plus, most breweries will allow you to sample some at the end!
For breweries, your best bet is to get a group of people together and pay per person—the more people, the cheaper the experience is. Prices typically range from $15 to $65, depending on the size of the group and the length of the tour. Finally, since we all scream for ice cream, try out an ice cream factory tour. These can run pretty cheap (the iconic Ben and Jerry’s Factory in Vermont costs just $4 for adult admission), and they’re fun for the whole family.
Participate in a free walking tour of your city.
Play tourist in your own city by opting to go on a free walking tour. Most major cities offer group tours in certain areas to anyone who wants to join, and some larger cities (like New York and Nashville) offer themed tours tailored to a specific interest. Take the day getting to know your stomping grounds from a new point of view. (Who knows? You may just learn something.) While these are free to participate in, make sure to tip your tour guide at the end.
Create a movie night in your living room or backyard.
Bring the movie theater home by transforming your living room or backyard into a personalized movie viewing experience—you can make your way through our summer movie bucket list or pick from the latest flick. Then, indulge by making some creative popcorn recipes, serving themed cocktails, and cozying up on the couch or lawn chairs with a blanket or two. You’re all set for a binge-watching extravaganza that’s both better and cheaper than a trip to the movie theater.
Catch a show at your local theater.
Whether it’s the national tour of a Broadway musical or a locally produced play, getting out and enjoying the theater is an artistic escape from the stressors of real life. Look into what’s being performed at your local theater, or check out when the next Broadway tour is making a stop near you. Shows that offer dinner and a show for a fixed price are another great way to steal a deal, all while getting the benefits of seeing a live performance. Theater tickets can run you anywhere from $35 to $65 on average, depending on the show, day, and production company.
Rent a house for the night.
Sometimes, a change of scenery is necessary. Even if you want to stay close, try getting a few friends to chip in and spend the night at a hip Airbnb or HomeAway for the night. Certain rentals cater specifically to large groups—and more people typically means a lower cost per person. Some of our favorites include swoon-worthy pools, which serve as the perfect summer escape. Maybe even take note from the Trading Spaces reboot and swap houses with a friend or neighbor for a night.
Eat your way through a food truck tour or food festival.
Summer calls for an abundance of fun and tasty food festivals, where you can sample hundreds of different cuisines in one place. Hit up one in your area by buying a ticket (typically priced between $35 and $50, depending on the festival) and embrace your inner foodie. When taking into account price, consider the collective value of all of the food and beverages served, and you’ll usually be able to find some pretty good deals.
Create a scavenger hunt in your city or town.
Down for a little DIY? Get a group together and set out on a scavenger hunt through your city or town. Separate into teams, and have each person check off items throughout. Take photos at your local landmarks, set out to find hidden treasures, eat at local hotspots—the possibilities are whatever you want to make them. Plus, this family-friendly option costs almost no money, but is sure to create some lasting memories. Get creative and have fun!
Go for a bike ride or run near you.
For the active among us, savoring that fresh, summer air can come in a variety of forms… but planning a day trip around exploring a nearby area by foot or bike is the perfect way to get outdoors. You don’t necessarily need to have an organized plan, but look into the biking and hiking trails near you and make a day of it. You can even make the excursion more memorable by setting up a picnic on your route.
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