As the kids finish school and the weather heats up, many people are getting excited about long-awaited summer vacations. Summer vacations are a time to relax, unwind and spend some quality time with loved ones. Big vacations, however, do require quite a bit of planning and, of course, can end up costing some serious cash, especially with a whole family in tow.



If you haven't gotten around to making summer vacation plans, or it's just not in the cards this year, you might be the perfect candidate for a summer staycation. (A staycation can be just as enjoyable as a vacation, and can enrich your life for the whole year. Check out 9 Summer Staycations That Feel Like Vacations.)

A staycation is like a vacation, only you spend it at home. Instead of spending lots of money on airfare and expensive hotels, you can take advantage of the attractions your area has to offer that you never get a chance to enjoy. This includes your house - when was the last time you relaxed at home? A few ground rules will help ensure you have a successful staycation:

  • Put it on the calendar - with a start date and an end date - so everyone knows when you're on staycation.

  • Get a visitor's guide. Check out your local Chamber of Commerce's website or stop by for a visitor's guide. You might be surprised to find great activities that you didn't know about. (Keep the kids out of your hair and wallet by saving on summer camps, sports leagues, day trips and more. Learn how in Budget-Friendly Summer Fun.)

  • Limit the chores. Plan ahead and try to get as many chores out of the way so that you don't spend your staycation doing laundry and mopping the floor.

  • Write it down. Your staycation doesn't have to be scripted, but it is helpful to write down the things you want to do, and then have fun crossing the activities off the list.

Whether you live in a bustling city or off the beaten path, you should be able to find plenty of activities to keep you busy. To get you started, here are eight great ideas for your summer staycation.

  1. Get Out
    Outside, that is. National parks, state parks, county parks, metro parks and nature centers all provide a place to run around and enjoy nature. As an added bonus, many are free. You can easily spend a day hiking, swimming and picnicking in your local park. Visit http://www.nps.gov/ to find a national park or http://www.stateparks.com/ to find a state park.

  2. Stay In
    A rainy day during your staycation is a terrific opportunity to visit a local museum or two. Art museums, aquariums, planetariums, science museums and natural history museums can be enjoyable and interesting. You can search for museums at the American Association of Museum's website at http://www.aam-us.org/ (click "Museum Resources" tab"); or search the Association of Zoos & Aquariums' website at http://www.aza.org/.

  3. Get Active
    Take advantage of the local swimming pool, tennis courts, golf course or skating rink. Go for a bike ride, a walk, or try a new sport. Dust off the old baseball mitts, soccer balls and Frisbees and have fun.

  4. Get Festive
    Summertime is usually ripe with festivals in one form or another. Your local newspaper or Chamber of Commerce can keep you up to date with goings on. In addition to daytime festivals, many locales host free music nights during the summer months. (With the plethora of summer music festivals happening around the U.S., we check out which one offers the best deal in The Best Summer Festivals For Your Buck.)

  5. Learn Something New
    Have you always wanted to learn how to throw pottery or paint with watercolors? How about cook Cuban food or weave a basket? Your local recreation department or community college probably has a great choice of classes to get you started. Many of them are just one-day introductory classes that won't require a huge investment.

  6. Be Pampered
    With all the money you're saving on your staycation, you just might be entitled to a trip to the local spa for a massage and facial. Most spas do require advance reservations, and many offer specials and packages so be sure to ask. Try http://www.spafinder.com/ to find a spa in your area.

  7. Tell Ghost Stories
    Pitch the tent and build a small fire - in your back yard. Camping in the backyard is a fun and easy way to camp. You can chase fireflies, sing songs, look at the stars and roast marshmallows (or make s'mores: roast a marshmallow until golden brown, place between two graham crackers with a piece of chocolate and squeeze together).

  8. Splurge
    Is there a fancy restaurant you've wanted to try? Have you wondered what it would be like to hire a personal chef for a delicious meal at home (try http://www.personalchef.com/ and click on "Find a Personal Chef")? A staycation is a wonderful opportunity to splurge on something you wouldn't normally spend the money on, without feeling guilty.

When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Stay Put
A staycation can be just as much fun as a regular vacation. Often it can be more rewarding than a vacation simply because there is no travel stress and it costs less money. Being under less stress, and not spending so much money, can allow for more relaxation while creating quality time for you and your family. A staycation might be just the vacation you need. Don't forget to send the postcards. (Still want to get away? Don't miss 7 Ways To Save On Summer Getaways.)

Catch up on the latest financial news in Water Cooler Finance: Crying Over Spilled Oil, And Buffett Goes To Court.

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