Vacations are underrated. I know, because I’m having one for the first time in years.  And to quote Chris Traeger from the show Parks and Rec, we ‘litrelly’ hobbled across the finish line to get there.

It’s the work from home trap.  Hubby does it, so do I.  So last year on Dec. 6 when I said to Hubby ‘How many vacation days do you have left?,’ on Dec. 7 he promptly announced he was on vacation for the rest of the year.  Use it or lose it, baby.

And that means our vacay was a staycay.  Which equals nocay.

Newsflash: staycays are not vacays.  Neither are mini getaways, trips back home to visit family, weddings, trips for work or job interviews or visits to colleges or universities.

I’m talking about a real unplugged, beach-preferred, no sight-seeing, do nothing for at least 8 days chillax vacation.  Unplugged.  Days off.  Books read.  Movies watched.  Games played. Naps taken at will.  Sleep in.  Go to bed early or late, whatever-you-want-to-do vacation.  Daiquiris at 4? Great.  Lunch at 11 am? Awesome.  No cares, who cares.  Just hang loose.

As my cousin Kristi likes to say, if you don’t take time to enjoy it, ‘Life Gets in the Way.’

Don’t let it.

If budget concerns you (and isn’t that just about all of us at this point?), here’s a tip list and links for doing it on the cheap.  Don’t freak about the cost, don’t language yourself into fear and lack, just be open to the fact there’s a way to do it and still have a relaxing time.

And have a margarita for me.

Tip #1: Plan Ahead

Find a great spot and book it in advance, which ensures you will actually take a vacation.  Deals can be had before Memorial Day and after Labor Day.  September is a great time to take a vacation because all the kids are back in school.  By booking in advance you set your intention — and your budget — to make it happen.  It also gives you time to plan, since most places require a modest deposit down but full payment deferred until a week or two before you arrive.

Tip #2: Stay in a Rental, Not a Hotel

It’s the best way to have a relaxed vacation for less.  All the creature comforts of home without the distraction of maintenance.  I cook  Hubby cleans, which shares the workload even more.  If you’re a foodie, cooking on vacation means eating better food for less and the luxury of enjoying what you want when you want it.  A little meal planning before you depart equals that much more down time once you arrive.

Tip #3: Get a Discount Gas Card Before you Leave

Finding a rental closer to home saves on transportation costs.  Scoring a discount gas card before you leave and trip planning makes it even cheaper.  Nerdwallet is a great site for credit card discounts of all kinds, including gas.  We prefer cash to credit, so can you.  Arco offers gas discounts for cash, buy an Arco prepaid gas card and you get the same discount.  Use their station locator to plan your trip before you leave since most 1300 Arco stations are on the West coast.

Tip #4: Plan Minis in between your Biggies

Mini-getaways are great, just don’t let them become instead of.  Did you know many modern, high rise hotels now sell units as condos?  Owners often list them for rent.  I found one in Miami through VRBO — on a busy spring weekend when all the hotels were booked — for less than $200 a night.  Sometimes booking last minute when your trip is optional can get you a deal.

Tip #5: Share with Friends

Sharing the burden by booking vacations with friends can be great fun and more cost effective. Be sure everyone has enough space to have privacy, and if you have children, choose families whose kids play nicely with yours.  Take turns babysitting so each couple gets a night out.  And if you can, choose families that have the same kind of temperament and enjoy the same activities as your own.


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