How to Build Your Own “Modified Staycation” Vacation Package

Going away on holiday can quickly become an expensive and stressful adventure. Over the last year many couples and families have opted for a “stay at home vacation”, or staycation, to counter the costs of airfare, travel, and hotels.

Sure, vacationing at home has its stress-free and cost-conscious merits, and if you haven’t become a tourist in your own hometown then there’s fun to be found by visiting your local museums, parks, festivals, and swimming holes for a refreshing day away. But what if you’ve dined locally and seen it all? Or maybe you want to get away from it all!

staycation vacation packages
Getting Away: Enjoying the view from a local winery.

If you’ve got even a little cash in your pocket, then perhaps it’s time to leave town for what I call a “modified staycation” — a vacation where you pack your things and drive one town over to enjoy the sights and sounds of a neighboring community. Daring to drive to the town, city, or quaint village just a few miles away can afford you many vacation benefits without spending the big travel bucks.

Depending on where you live, it can be easy to plan and dash away for a refreshing weekend on the cheap. I’d love to share a few of my frugally fun “modified staycation” ideas with you and get you on the road to a little vacation fun. Here’s how to build your own modified staycation vacation package! Yay!

1. Pick a Place

If you’re going to hit the road it helps to know where you’re heading. To pick the perfect place, head to your local Tourist Info Center and ask about seasonal activities just outside of town. Does the next community over host a big sporting event, boast amusement parks, host city festivals, offer picturesque camping grounds, or run tours through farms and wineries?

travel travel deals travel guides
Stunning Staycation: A local winery offers free tours and wine tastings.

Chances are you’ll find many local activities for a lot less. Being a member of AAA or CAA could score you free travel maps and give you access to local travel deals — so don’t forget these resources to help you pick the perfect local travel location.

If you don’t want to blow your budget on fuel, here are 10 Ways to Save Money on Gas, and check out this Gas Mileage Calculator to help you calculate your costs.

2. Plan Your Adventure

Are you looking to lounge around or actively pursue an adventure? Whether you’re a beach bum or a thrill seeker, there are lots of opportunities around town. You just need to know where to look!

Best Travel Sites for Helpful Tips

If you’re stuck for activity ideas, then why not get online and search around — there’s an endless amount of information on the internet for free. I’ve often consulted large travel sites to get the goods on local areas and events. I’m constantly amazed to find honest reviews and candid experiences posted via online travel guides. Here are a few of my favorites:

Just enter your local travel area into the site’s search and find awesome reports on what’s happening in and around town. You may just find some of the following frugal activities:

  • Wine tasting and winery tours
  • Local resort discount packages
  • Sunset cruises on local lakes, served with dinner
  • Local theater, a touring circus, or a one-stop Broadway show
  • Farm tours, hay rides, and U-Picks
  • Concerts and music festivals
  • Gallery and museum special collections
  • Historic home tours
  • Off-season ski lift rides
  • Local Bed and Breakfasts
  • Local bike tours, hikes, and serene secret beaches
  • International sporting events

Using these simple tools and travel guides I’ve found many amazing outdoor activities for free — many of which I never would have discovered without doing a bit of online research.

travel staycation vacation package
International Sporting Event: Watching Ironman Canada and getting inspired by the athletes at the finish line.

For example, I’ve done several road trips over the years to Penticton B.C., either to watch or compete in the Ironman Triathlon. But last summer Carl and I ventured to several vineyards around Naramata to taste and experience the local wineries.

wine information wine tasting
Wine Education: Enjoying the abundance of free wine information.

wine information wine tasting wine making

We found that getting a winery tour is usually free, and the wine tastings are a mere $3-$5 for several sips. Buying a bottle (or two) usually waived any and all tasting fees, making the tour a fun “try before you buy” experience!

wine tasting wine guide wine education

Along with our love for vino and free wine education, we met many amazing people and had fun for less.

3. Get a Room

The downside to traveling away from home is you need a place to stay. For the outdoor enthusiasts there’s always sleeping under the stars at a KOA camping site. If you prefer less people, then find a camping-approved State National Park (USA) or Provincial Park (Canada) to pitch your tent.

Having friends or family in fun places could save you some bucks by staying with them, and asking for a sofa to sleep on is free! If curling up on a couch is your style of vacay, then check out the Couch Surfing directory to find people willing to have you stay over for free.

For a special night or two away I prefer a little splurge by staying at a Bed and Breakfast Inn. Find one near you via Bed and Breakfast Inns or BB Canada. You might even find a discounted off-season rate by calling ahead!

4. Dine on a Dime

Dining out can get super expensive super fast if you’re eating out for every meal. A smart way to keep costs in check is to choose only a few local restaurants worth your dining dollars. A great way to find the perfect local eatery is to ask the locals when you get in town. I’ve often stopped at cute stores and clean gas stations and asked the staff for their best recommendation.

If you’re too shy to stop for dining direction, check out Chow Hound — where “food-lovers worldwide gather to swap expert tips about restaurants, foods, stores, and bars.” You may just find a local sweet spot for dessert by searching Chow Hound’s popular forums and talking to others with keen taste buds.

If you’re super frugal, then rent a room that comes fully equipped with a kitchenette and cutlery, and make the majority of your meals at home. Stopping in at a grocery store with a simple shopping list can keep your costs very low and lets you spend your modified staycation cash on other activities.

Building your own “modified staycation” vacation package is easy if you’ve found the right local place, the right frugal tools, and have your activities all planned out. But, before you leave your home, be sure to download your Printable Travel Checklist and Packing List so you don’t forget your wallet. :)

Your Two Cents: Got a frugal staycation or local travel tip for would-be vacationers?

Your two cents:

  1. ParisGirl111 February 12th, 2010

    I also love going to festivals at nearby cities. I am in a great area..we have the mountains 3 hours away and the beach 2 hours away. It’s a great place for a Modified Staycation. :)

  2. Lance February 12th, 2010

    Hey Kerry,
    The wine idea really makes me think…we should check out some of the local wineries around here (thanks!!).

  3. Mrs. Money February 12th, 2010

    That’s totally not you right now, poser. ;)

    I have an idea! We switch places! You come here for a vacation, and I’ll go there! :)

  4. Kerry February 12th, 2010

    @ParisGirl111 Your home sounds like mine — lots of mountains and beaches. Perfect staycation territory!

    @Lance Yes, you must visit your local wineries. ;)

    @Mrs.Money The picture of me is from summer. I didn’t want to post it while I was on staycation. ;)

  5. Lance February 13th, 2010

    Kerry,
    Ha!!! Okay…you convinced me on the wineries!! (not too hard of a sell job, was it???)

  6. Ken February 15th, 2010

    Great post. This is great info about another frugal option ..’staycation’..I like the idea. A good read for someone who can’t afford the ‘far away’ vacation….your link to other sites was great as well.

  7. Doctor Stock February 15th, 2010

    I spent some time around that area last year… beautiful. I plan on returning sometime this Summer… cheaper than other vacations, fun, and relaxing! A great budget builder, not buster.

  8. Frugal Babe February 15th, 2010

    Our son is almost two, and we haven’t done any traveling with him at all so far – it’s so much easier to just hang out near home. We live in a state that gets lots of tourism dollars from people visiting, and I figure we might as well take advantage of that ourselves. I’ve lived here for 17 years now, and there are still lots of close-to-home spots that I haven’t seen. We’re planning to take lots of “staycations” over the next few years, and focus on appreciating what we have in our own backyard. Long distance travel lost a lot of its appeal for us when our son was born – traveling with a little kid just doesn’t appeal to us.

  9. donjoe February 16th, 2010

    Minimum ingredients for a staycation to feel like a vacation:
    - radical change of immediate surroundings (you don’t have to travel long distances for that) – where you spend your time, where you go to sleep and wake up etc.
    - complete elimination of chores (don’t have anything around to clean up, fix or cook unless it’s an absolute pleasure for you to do that)
    - have at least one uncommon experience, something you can’t engage in too often (e.g. go to a once-a-year festival).

    I did these things last year on my week-long first-time staycation at the edge of the city and it worked out great – it ended with a 2-day music festival (there was also wine, if it matters) and left me feeling rested/disconnected like any proper vacation.

  10. RJ Weiss February 18th, 2010

    Great article. I love taking staycations. Great post.

    One tip that my wife and I use for out staycation is to set the dates in advance, then plan it last minute based on deals available.

    One time we used Priceline and get a $50 a night, 4 star hotel in the city of Chicago. We took the train down and had a great 3 day trip for about $100 a day.

  11. Timothy Chu February 19th, 2010

    Something in-between going to a restaurant and buying groceries is to get pre-cooked food at a deli at the supermarket. Cheaper than a restaurant (plus you save on tip), and no dishes to clean.

  12. Jon Hartman February 21st, 2010

    Irrespective of the intention of the article, the biggest takeaway I acquired was to appreciate the local opportunities. Speaking as someone that may be relocating in three months, it’s a great reminder to get out and enjoy your local area, instead of necessarily leaving to go find other stuff to do. It’s amazing how we only seem to take advantage of 1/10th of the activities close to home.

    Thanks for the reminder.

  13. Rob August 10th, 2010

    I blew off a 3-week fly & drive & visit lots of friends vacation this summer for a stay at home vacation. It was wonderful – I hiked in the mountains, took time for my favorite coffee shops and relaxed a lot. And planned my January vacation in NZ :)

  14. George December 30th, 2010

    I have never really heard the term ‘staycation’ until coming across your site. It is really a neat idea. I guess we have done it in a modified sense. We take some trips a couple of hours away and stay in a cabin,eat-in except for maybe one meal a day and site see. We enjoy that a lot.

    Really enjoyed your site, keep up the good work.

  15. Andrew Hallam July 23rd, 2011

    Looking at your photos makes me homesick!
    And they remind me of a honeymoon my wife and I took to your area of the world. OK, we have loads of honeymoons, but this one was particularly funny. We live in Singapore (but I’m Canadian and my wife is American).
    I grew up in Kamloops, and wanted to show my wife the Thompson/Okanagan area. We drove to Penticton, but found that camping was really expensive. I was willing to spring for it, but my wife said the prices were outrageous. So we proceeded to a beautiful restaurant overlooking the lake, where we spent a ridiculously high sum on dinner (ever read the book Predictably Irrational?) and then we drove to the Skaha Estates area, pulled our car into a paved driveway (at 10pm) of a home that was 95% completed and pitched a tent next to the house. There was even an open porta-potty in the front yard. I would have sprung for the campground, but my wife was inconsistently cheap: $120 for dinner; $0 for camping.

  16. Lucy August 8th, 2012

    My spouse and I have perfected frugal, the only unfrugal thing we ever did was buy the ‘entry level’ timeshare points for about $10,000 about 6 years ago, we use it every year and always cook for ourselves in the condo, the local markets provide us with interesting ingredients we do not usually see, we have used our points to have vacations that would have cost $4,000 if we had rented the condo by ourselves for our large teen family, now we are empty nesters we save monies by using close by resorts and keep our minimum ‘entry level’ points, despite the sales pitches to buy more! this level has given us the vacations we need for soul preservation! We pay only $500 per year in maintainance fees.The folks that tell us that they have “paid for the timeshare” and do not use it or refuse to pay maintainance fees are nuts, this is the ONLY time we get to feel like a “king and Queen ” at some of these resorts (esp. the ones in Mexico)
    We have also taken a hot plate to a hotel that has only a microwave and cooked in our room. We have a travel coffee maker for the hotels we know do not have a coffee maker in the room (vegas does this) We have used priceline for ‘bidding’ on hotels and done well, it’s worth the time. We take airport snacks with us (target has the best nice snacks)and take a really nice refillable water bottle, no $3 water for us! We use the hotels that have free parking near the airport, just make sure you have good theft car insurance.We research free activities before we arrive, even the Mexican national parks, we have stayed in state parks cabins and yurts and plan to get a camper one day to travel on weekends when we need a break.good luck to all, have fun

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