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!

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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?

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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.

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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.

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Wine Education: Enjoying the abundance of free wine information.

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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!

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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?