Duty always comes first, even if you already have a vacation planned. There are plenty of service men and women who have found themselves calling hotels and rental companies, to cancel or modify their vacation at the very last minute. Thankfully, many service providers are happy to accommodate the ever changing schedules of the men and women who serve.
Tight budgets of those who serve are often not very vacation friendly. However, a staycation is a marvelous way to get that precious R&R without breaking the bank. To make the most of a staycation, here are some fun ideas and budget tips.
- Book a hotel. The best way to feel like you are on a vacation is to book a hotel. One of the best money saving tips is to book based off amenites offered. All hotels have the standard bed and towels. The trick is to find some place that has something super cool that makes you feel like you are on vacation. It can be a pirate ship in the pool with a tiki bar or it can be something as simple as a complimentary cocktail hour. Weekdays are generally cheaper, and less crowded. Tip: Book directly through the hotel to avoid third party fees.
Photo of Lake Buena Vista, which offers Military Discounts
- Become a tourist in your current town. Military personnel are often located in places far away from where they grew up. This alone makes a staycation the ideal low cost activity. Check out your town’s tourism website or the Chamber of Commerce for popular sights and activities. Pick a hour radius you are willing to drive and explore a new town.
- Take a walking tour. Many cities and small towns have free or low priced walking tours of historical areas. Some are even called ghost tours and are very popular around Halloween and Christmas. The guides typically relate interesting stories along the way about people and events from days gone by. Tours usually end with coffee, tea, dining or shopping.
- Plan your staycation time around local festivals and special events. Small towns to big cities have special events throughout the year. It might be a chili or bar-b-q contest, music festival or art show. Within a short drive from wherever you are, there should be at least one big interesting event that draws a crowd. Find out what that is and check it out.
- Have a fantastic lunch. For budget minded folks, fine dining is often out of the question. However, fine dining establishments typically serve the same foods at lower prices during the lunch hour. Look into it and plan a lovely lunch followed by an afternoon movie and ice cream.
- Use the Groupon app. Sign up for Groupon and be amazed at the savings. There are deals on dining, entertainment and shopping. The deals change frequently so keep checking until something fantastic comes up. This is a great way to try an expensive restaurant on a budget. Tip: most purchases have a 24 hour wait period before you can redeem them, so read the fine print if you plan to use the deal the same day.
- Get outdoors. Most towns and almost all cities have parks and recreational facilities from pools and tennis courts to hiking and camping areas. Get out and enjoy the local nature trails. Check out the differences in flora and fauna from where you grew up to where you’re currently stationed.
- One way of enjoying some down time is by turning off all devices. In today’s world, we live and breathe with devices in hand that keep us connected, sometimes overly so, to the world. Disconnect for a preset period of time such as 12 to 24 hours. Now you can read a book, take naps, try a new recipe, play with the kids and dog without trying to divide your attention.
- Look for museums. What sounds dull, such as an old tractor museum, may turn out to be a very interesting day. Plus, some museums are actually free of charge or pay by donation so a couple of bucks gets you in. You can find a list of museums that offer a military discount here.
- Check for military discounts on hotels. If you live somewhere extra fun but that also has a tendency to be pricey such as Orlando, Florida, don’t despair. Look for deals, especially those military discounts. Often times you have to skip the booking engines and go directly to the site. These are often hotel brands you know and trust like Hawthorn Suites Lake Buena Vista.
- Look for a local brewery. It’s not only an educational experience, you get to know the locals on a new level by sharing their unique brews and finding out what made them decide to go into business in the first place.
- Do a movie or bowling night. Again, check Groupon for possible deals but both these activities can be relaxing and fun. If you haven’t bowled in a while, or ever, give it a go. You might be surprised how much fun you have.
- Take dance lessons. This is something that requires a time commitment of at least a few weeks but once you’ve learned how to rock the dance floor, take your significant other out for dinner and dancing someplace special.
- Try something new. One of the most amazing benefits of military life, is all the new places you get to see. Take that a step further and try something new. Find out what is popular in the area and give it a try.
- Look for local theater group performances. A good play is typically entertaining and inexpensive. Some high schools put on amazing performances as well. Dress up more than usual and make a special night of it. You can find a list of participating theatres here.
If done correctly, a staycation can be as relaxing as the real thing. You and your family will get a recharge while the bank account stays intact. Sounds like a win-win for all military personnel.