Summer is just around the corner--time to make plans to get the most out of those long, glorious warm weather days. No doubt, your Facebook friends will soon be posting selfies from exotic locales. But if your budget is tight, a fancy vacation may be out of reach. No problem! Consider a few ideas for the greatest "staycation" of your life:
1. Discover your hometown.
Sure, you've lived here for years. But have you really explored all the free and cheap experiences that are right at your doorstep? Check out TripAdvisor or Yelp for travel tips on your own local area.
- It's summer, so there's sure to be a county fair, parade, festival or free music in the park somewhere nearby.
- When was the last time you visited the public library? Most of us are so entranced by the internet that we've forgotten about the library as a terrific, free resource. Get yourself a library card and borrow a couple of new beach reads or a few classic movies. Check out the schedule for interesting classes, movies or seminars.
- Make the most of a sunny day. Head to the park for a walk, run, or just hang out with a good book.
2. Plan a special summer event right at home.
- Plan a good old fashioned barbeque in your backyard. Grill it! You don't need a pricey gas grill. Go old school with an inexpensive charcoal grill, a bag of charcoal and a match…done. The very best ending: recall the pleasures of childhood summers with a few gooey marshmallows toasted to perfection. Summer nirvana!
- Make movie night special. Rent a summer classic (Jaws, Independence Day, National Lampoon's Vacation), and kick back in the comfort of your living room with a giant bowl of freshly popped popcorn.
- If your idea of heaven is a pina colada and a beach chair, you don't need a ticket to Cancun to celebrate summer. Capture the same island flair with a pitcher of margaritas, some Jimmy Buffett tunes and a chaise lounge in your own sunny backyard.
3. Rediscover the delight of summer produce.
There's sure to be a farmer's market nearby, a fun outing for a sunny summer morning. Look online for local farms and check out the roadside stands for fresh produce. Even better, find a pick-your-own farm and get out in the fields, an especially great idea for the kids.
4. Plan a fun day trip.
The beach or lake is a no brainer, but also think outside the box. Many zoos have free admission or simply ask you to donate what you are able. Visit a nearby art or natural history museum. Find a local minor league team and head to the ballpark. Go for a hike at the State Park.
5. Cool off!
Your kids won't miss the pool when you introduce them to the joys of running through the sprinkler. Ice pop, anyone?
6. Treat yourself to dinner.
That fancy French restaurant may be out of the question, but you can certainly treat yourself to some tasty summer takeout. Even a pizza can feel special with a little effort, be it a blanket on the lawn with the kids, or sharing a nice bottle of red with your honey by candlelight.
7. Enjoy the simple pleasures.
Indulge in a nap in the middle of the afternoon. Read a good book just for fun, or dive into that stash of magazines. Play a marathon game of Monopoly with the kids, or show off your mean Scrabble skills.
You relaxed. You had fun. No delayed flights, no lost baggage and best yet, no credit card bill as a souvenir of this wonderful vacation.