This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.
If you believe the Internet reports on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the economy is making a comeback.
And perhaps it is. With Americans spending record amounts of money in the first few days of the unofficial start to the holiday gift-buying season, its safe to wager (or is it?) that 2012 holds promise for our pockets.
Right now, however, its still 2011 a year marred by tumultuous stock markets, a social movement fueled by economic inequality, and an unemployment rate that has remained above 9%.
Yes, we could all use a vacation from reality this winter. But the reality is, a lot of us still cant afford it. If youre one of those folks who needs to get away but who cant find the funds to make it happen, dont sweat it. Stay home, save your money, and find something fun to do to help you relax even if only for a few hours. Here are 14 ideas to jumpstart the planning. (See also: 21 Frugal Ways to Reward Yourself Right Now)
1. Visit the Local Ski Resort
Winter resorts can be costly if you plan to ski the snow-covered slopes, but thats not the only activity these destinations offer. Ive found snow tubing available at many resorts these days to not only be cheaper and safer than skiing, but also a lot more fun. Theres no skill involved either, so virtually anyone can plop down on the rubber tube and slide down the slick hill until they cant laugh and smile any longer.
2. Plan a Spa Day
Im not talking about your high-end boutique here although even those are offering steep discounts on signature services this time of year but rather an excursion to one of those mammoth complexes that seem to be popping up in every major city lately. For about $40 for the day, youll get access to the entire facility, which often includes private baths with steam rooms and saunas, whirlpools, and relaxation areas where you can nap, watch TV, or read. My husband and I try to locate one whenever were on vacation, and weve visited a local establishment in the dead of winter in the past. After just a couple hours, youll feel refreshed and rejuvenated without feeling ripped off.
3. Check Out the Latest Museum Exhibits
Unless you have kids, chances are you havent been to your local museums in quite some time. Do yourself a favor during your staycation and research online whats new in your area and not just the art museums, either. Ive always found the science museums to be loads of fun, even as an adult. Of course, I dont have to tell you to also check to see which days have free admission before you plan your trip. No sense in paying for something you really dont have to.
4. Schedule a Movie Marathon with Friends
If I were planning a movie marathon with friends, I would probably screen the entire Harry Potter series since the final film was recently released on DVD but thats just me. If this idea appeals to you, but youre not a fan of witchcraft and wizardry, heres another way to schedule a movie marathon depending on how many friends youre inviting, suggest that each person choose their favorite movie to bring. This is a great way to ensure that theres at least one flick in the bunch that every one wants to see, and its also a great way to find out something you might not have known about your friends before and enjoy a movie that you may never have heard of.
5. Start a New Craft Project
There are tons of craft projects that I think about doing throughout the year, but then I get too busy. Dont put yours off any longer. If you have a few hours to a few days to spare, choose an activity that gets your creative juices flowing. Maybe its something simple like making a gift for an upcoming special occasion or perhaps its a larger undertaking like painting a mural on a wall in your home. Whatever it is, dont let time prohibit you; set some aside to express yourself creatively.
6. Embark on a Food and Beverage Tour
This sounds expensive, but it doesnt have to be if you plan ahead. Identify a few restaurants youve been dying to try and schedule an eating and drinking tour. I would recommend going during lunch hours, since many places have specials and the prices are generally lower midday anyway. If youre really thrifty, score deals on Restaurant.com or a daily deal site that will let you eat and drink for a fraction of the price which is even better when split with friends.
7. Challenge Yourself With New Recipes
I love to cook, but most of my cookbooks collect dust on a shelf in my kitchen. When Im in a hurry and thats often I either wing it or look up a recipe online. This winter, do it the old-fashioned way. Crack open a book, browse the recipes, and choose something that takes a bit of time and effort.
8. Rearrange the House
Ring in the New Year with a new home or at least one that looks like it. Move the couch to another wall; change up the position of your art; hang up new pieces and remove some of the old; and reposition rugs, lamps, and knick-knacks. Youll be surprised at how refreshed youre home will feel with a few simple changes.
9. Take a Trip to Nearby Wineries
Most people head to wineries during the spring, summer, and fall which is why winter is the best time for you to take a trip. A thinner crowd means a more relaxed tasting. Pack a picnic some grapes, cheese, maybe a Thermos of soup, and fresh bread and plan an afternoon tasting the fruits of natures labor.
10. Hit the After-Holiday Sales
Last year I was away in Miami on vacation, so I wasnt able to partake in my annual ritual of scouring Target for their post-holiday sales. Totally heartbreaking. I love going right after New Years to score the 90% off deals on Christmas dcor, wrapping paper, lights, and more. By the time it reaches 90% off, the lot is totally picked through, but beggars cant be choosy. Im always happy with my purchases, especially since I save a ton of cash.
11. Visit a New City by Bus
Bus fare is cheap these days. For instance, I travel from my home in New York City to visit family and friends in Baltimore for less than $40 round trip. Thats a steal! You dont have to go far during your staycation (because that defeats the whole purpose), so pick a place less than two hours away from your home and take a day trip. Do your research before you get there so you can identify restaurants and shops that you dont want to miss. Dont forget to pack your computer, either. Many bus lines featured onboard Wi-Fi nowadays, so you can pop a DVD into your computer and cozy up the entire ride there and back.
12. Devour a Stack of Books
Whether you prefer books on tape, books on your tablet, or those paper things that line the shelves of the library, set aside a few hours or even a whole day to get whisked away in a story or two.
13. Invite Other Staycationers Over for a Sleepover
Who doesnt love a good sleepover? In the winter, we occasionally invite friends over for a night of movies, games, food, drinks, and other fun in our pajamas. We have a guest bedroom so we allow them to sleep there, but even a pullout is great to pile up on and talk the night away. We even invite over their dog, if they have one, so ours has company while the adults are kicking back.
14. Go Thrift Shopping
Whats great about thrift shopping right after the holidays is that a lot of people have cleaned out their closets and donated their old clothes and accessories to make room for the new items they received as gift. Make a run to the local thrift or vintage shop (and check to see what days offer discounts first) and browse the aisles for an hour or two to find the perfect pieces you never knew you wanted.
Have other fun winter staycation ideas? Let me know in the comments below.
ShareThisWritten by Mikey Rox and published on Wise Bread. Read more articles from Wise Bread.Free Starter Kit Give Away from Seventh Generation!
Where Did Your iPod Come From? The Story of Stuff
Budgeting for Your Next Vacation: Yaycations
Amazon Toy Savings Includes Secret Rebate
How to Get Free Shipping and Online Discounts Across the Web