If you haven't planned your summer vacation because of budget constraints, now is the time to think about a Staycation.

If you haven’t planned your summer vacation because of budget constraints, now is the time to think about a Staycation.

According to Mary Ann Kizer, University of Arkansas, Division of Agriculture, Jefferson County Extension Service family and consumer sciences agent, vacations can be an expensive item in the personal budget with travel costs, hotels, restaurants, and activity fees. Many people are limiting unnecessary spending and an expensive vacation is an easy place to cut costs.

One way to keep the fun without so much expense is to have a Staycation — staying close to home means that you save money on travel costs. But there’s another reason to have a Staycation. Many people are tired of the hustle and bustle of everyday activity and want a break. Vacation travel can feel even more hectic than your regular life. A Staycation is a great way to get some R and R by chilling out at home. Another benefit of a Staycation is that it supports your local and state economy.

Planning a Staycation

According to Kizer, the first step is to decide what type of Staycation you want – active, relaxing, or a mix of both. Look for activities that match your interest. If you’re planning a Staycation for the whole family, be sure to include activities that everyone will enjoy. Have a family meeting to discuss and select activities. Schedule a start date and an end date. It’s a good idea to plan a specific activity to mark the beginning and the end of your staycation – that way it feels more like you’ve set aside a special block of time. For example, you might have a kick-off breakfast on your first morning and host a cook-out for family and friends on the last evening. When you plan your Staycation, you will need to think about the activities you want to do and establish a budget for your estimated expenses.

Active Staycation Ideas

• Museums – Old Statehouse Museum, Territorial Restoration, “hanging judge” Parker’s courtroom in Fort Smith, Arkansas Arts Center, Plantation Agriculture Museum, and many other fascinating exhibits. Check the Arkansas Tour Guide from the Department of Parks and Tourism, visit their website, or check with your local chamber of commerce.

• Parks — Arkansas has many parks featuring either nature (Buffalo National River, Ouachita Mountains) or history (Toltec Mounds Archeological State Park, Historic Washington State Park).

• Festivals — Toad Suck Daze, Brickfest, Riverfest, Timberfest, etc. Many towns have a local festival.

• Events — races (horse, stock car, or chuck-wagon), holiday light tours, eagle awareness workshops, etc.

• Activities — tour Arkansas’ wine county, take a scenic train ride, go ice skating or roller skating, take a dinner cruise on Lake Ouachita or on the Arkansas River.

• Fishing — In Arkansas, you can fish in lakes or rivers and fish for trout, bass, catfish, and more.

• Adventure — Active outdoor adventures in Arkansas are hiking, bike-riding, floating, back-packing, hang-gliding, and rock climbing.

• Amusement Parks — there are several amusement parks in Arkansas (Wild River Country in Little Rock, Magic Springs in Hot Springs. Neighboring Silver Dollar City in Branson may be a day trip.

• Concerts, Theater, Sporting Events — larger towns have an orchestra and/or professional theater venue. Many smaller towns have local bands and community theater groups. Occasionally, groups offer free concerts or play for free at festivals. The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra offers a few free concerts each year. Professional sporting events can be attended in Little Rock. Colleges and universities also host musical, theater, and sporting events. Call your local college or university or check their website for more information.

Relaxing Staycation Ideas

• There’s no place like home — Stay home and relax, but beware of distractions that can make your Staycation all work and no play. Cleaning out closets, painting the living room, and building a new deck are all productive ways to spend time- BUT, REMEMBER – a Staycation is supposed to be fun! Try to limit the household chores. In fact, it might be a good idea to do a thorough house cleaning before the Staycation starts so you won’t be tempted to spend your fun time doing housework. Some people get their best rest in their own home and their own bed; so staying at home can be relaxing. Another benefit of staying home is that there is no lodging expense. You might choose to stay at home the entire time or spend one or two nights out. If you do stay home the entire time, remember to plan plenty of “vacation-type” activities.

• Fun things to do at home can include board games, renting movies, hosting a party, or even cooking a special meal for your family. Relax and spend time at home doing fun activities with family and friends.

• Spa Day — you can gather supplies to have your own “spa day” at home. Give yourself a manicure and pedicure, buy a facial mask, and use special bath oil for a long soak in a warm bath. A more expensive option, would be to spring for a day trip to a spa during your Staycation week at home. Some spas offer discount packages if you buy several services (massage, facial, pedicure) at once.

• Just Relax — recline in the hammock and read a good book, sleep late or take a nap, linger over your coffee and the morning paper, etc. Do whatever you like to do that helps you to feel relaxed and refreshed. Take a break from being busy. But, don’t spend the entire week being a couch potato. Sometimes too much inactivity can make you feel sluggish. Try to plan a balance of activities.

Your Staycation Budget

A Staycation should be designed to fit your budget. Decide how much money you want to spend and then, look for activities to fit your budget. Some of the expenses you might have on a Staycation include:

• Food — You don’t have to leave home to have “vacation” food. Now you finally have time to try that new recipe you saw on the food channel. You may also want to take a break from cooking some days. Look for a new restaurant to try. Another fun alternative is to go on a picnic. As you’re planning your Staycation, think about meals and snacks to include this expense in your budget for the week.

• Gas — The closer to home the activity, the less money you’ll spend on gas. This is one of the biggest savings categories when choosing a Staycation over a vacation. With a Staycation, you don’t have the cost of airline tickets or gasoline to drive across several states. Decide how much money you want to budget for gasoline based on the activities you’ve chosen and the money you have available.

• Entry fees – Some museums charge an entrance fee – usually less than $10 but often only $2 or $3. Concerts, theaters, and sporting events may have a fee associated. Choose the activities you would like, think about how much money you can afford to spend, and then make a decision.

• Lodging — Staying at your own home is the least expensive option. Camping is an inexpensive option for travel lodging – if you like to camp and there are many campsites in Arkansas. If your budget allows, you might include one or more nights of lodging in a hotel, motel, or bed and breakfast. Look online or call and ask for specials or discounts.

• Miscellaneous — Budget some money for miscellaneous items such sunscreen, fishing supplies, or maybe even a souvenir.

Enjoy Your Staycation

Enjoy your Staycation and remember to:

• Plan your activities and be sure to include both active and relaxing activities so that you will feel both refreshed and re-energized.

• Schedule a start and end date just like you would on a regular vacation. Schedule activities. Purchase tickets ahead of time if necessary.

• Budget so that your Staycation doesn’t upset your regular spending plan.

• Take pictures to document the special memories you are making on your Staycation.

• Keep fun in mind as the focus during your Staycation!

Anyone may order the Arkansas Vacation Planning Kit which includes an Arkansas State Highway Map, State Parks Guide, Tour Guide, Adventure Guide, and Calendar of Events from the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism at www.arkansas.com or call 501-682-7777.

If you want to begin saving money for a vacation further from home, the next Navigating the Financial Journey money management session will be held June 16, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Jefferson County Extension Office, 500 Idaho St. Cost is $15 per person. Reserve your spot by calling Kizer at 870-534-1033 or e-mail mkizer@uaex.edu or send a message on Facebook.

The Cooperative Extension Service is part of the University of Arkansas, Division of Agriculture, and offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, gender, age disability, marital or veteran status, or any other legally protected status.