You may not have the cash on hand to take an impromptu trip to the Eiffel Tower, but don't let that stop you from enjoying the vacation you deserve. By setting your sights a little closer to home, you can go all-out for your vacation without abandoning your budget. Here are a few ways to make the most of a quick trip close to home, each paired with examples in some of the South's best staycation destinations.
If you're already active in a local community, try branching out and experiencing a new culture. Are you a regular at local music shows? Try taking in a play instead.
Central Florida (Orlando and Tampa Bay)
While we might not think about it during our daily routines, many of us live just a car ride away from popular tourist destinations. When planning your staycation, seek out any special deals for locals at world-famous destinations. Take the most magical place on Earth, for instance. Orlando's Disney World draws in visitors from around the globe, but Floridians get access to unique offers that other visitors don't have. There's a whole page on Disney's site dedicated to discounts for locals. Staying overnight in a hotel is a great way to make even a short drive feel like a true destination, and Disney also offers packages to pair tickets with hotels.
Disney is far from the only organization to offer this. Universal, Marriott, and Busch Gardens also offer discounts for Florida residents from time to time. Sometimes the deals expire or cycle out for a different deal. If you don't see a locals discount for somewhere you want to visit, keep an eye on it. It may roll out the perfect deal for you in time.
Remember, big tourist destinations like Orlando and Tampa Bay offer free attractions. It doesn't cost anything to take in the sights and sounds at Universal's CityWalk. For just $2, pedestrians can take a ferry to Honeymoon Island.
Try as theme parks might to transport visitors to another world, there's still nothing like nature for those who want to get lost and forget about their worries. Natural escapes are perfect for those who want to stretch their vacation dollars without sacrificing adventure. People who live in the Atlanta area are especially lucky. The city is surrounded by natural beauty. It takes less than a half hour in the car to find unique respites for local wildlife: the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, Constitution Lakes, and Panola Mountain State Park to name a few.
If you're not one for "roughing it," try staying in a yurt. These stripped-down cabins offer beds, roofs and electricity within a wilderness setting. They've become popular recently, as people look for ways to enjoy the outdoors without giving up the best comforts of home. They cost a little more than a campsite, but it shouldn't be hard to find one for around $100 per night or less. You'll find them in state parks like Fort Yargo and Cloudland Canyon. When you buy a yurt, you'll usually get sleeping space for up to six people, so round up the family or get a group together and plan a trip.
Vineyards and wineries also mix the luxurious with the natural. Just about an hour outside Atlanta you'll find the Chateau Elan Winery, which also features a resort hotel and all the high-class amenities that come along with that.
San Antonio, Texas
If you live in or near a big city like San Antonio, the sheer number of possible activities can be overwhelming. It's tempting to fall back into old routines during your staycation – visiting the same attractions and eating at the same restaurants you would on a normal weekend. To shake it up for your staycation, look for special deals that'll break you out of your comfort zone while saving you money for travel.
Luckily, a quick web search will bring up tons of sites dedicated to getting you the best deal to try something new. Customize a Groupon search to discover attractions you didn't even know your city had. Get creative with a boozy art studio session or channel your inner lumberjack with an axe throwing lesson. Big cities with lots of major attractions also offer packages that cut costs for multiple attractions at once. Pick up a Go Card and fill your weekend with roller coasters, skydiving, and zoo animals on the cheap.
It's not only unusual activities that get lost in the hustle and bustle of daily life. Many cities have vibrant subcultures and rich histories that lie just beyond the perception of the average resident. Staycations offer a wonderful opportunity to take in local culture and history you miss during your day-to-day life. While you're in Birmingham, do your grocery shopping somewhere other than the same grocery chain as every other week. Instead, stop in on the farmer's market at Pepper Place and plan a meal based on fresh ingredients from local farmers.
If you're already active in a local community, try branching out and experiencing a new culture. Are you a regular at local music shows? Try taking in a play instead. Have a drink at an open mic event, and support up-and-coming comedians from your hometown.
Birmingham is home to one of the best art museums in the region. If you haven't been recently, or perhaps even at all, make the Birmingham Museum of Art a part of your staycation. Birmingham also played a crucial role in America's civil rights movement. Take time to honor that legacy, and learn about the challenging circumstances that faced the activists who made our country a better place with a visit to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.