Staycation vs. Vacation

Posted by: on Aug 4, 2013 | No Comments

At least once a year – usually in the late fall or early winter – my husband Tony and I talk about our financial planning and priorities for the next year. We know each other for six years; we are married for over three years and yet have to experience our first vacation together.

Air PlaneWe had planned a short honeymoon a few months after we got married, but the company I was working for folded and I was laid off. We live on a budget and the meager savings we call our own are for a household emergency, but not a vacation.

Since then I’m gratefully employed again, yet our vacation plans are pushed aside every time. Usually it’s a major project in or around the house that needs to be done, or an expensive car repair, or a sick pet… you name it. Even though I’m very rarely disappointed or annoyed that I’ll be spending my vacation days at home – again.

Wirtschaftswunder and Travel Fever

Before I share with you why I actually love my staycations, let’s digress a bit. I was born during the Wirtschaftswunder (economic boom in Germany in the 1950s and early 1960s) to parents who were children during World War II. By the time I was about four/five years old it became extremely popular in Germany to travel abroad and indulge in all amenities the economic boom had to offer.  At the age of five I spend an incredible six weeks’ vacation with my parents in Italy. A few years later we had to tighten our belts. After my grandfather died, we had to close the family business and every “Deutsche Mark” was spend on maintaining and repairing the apartment complex that we still owned at that time. During the next few years there was never enough money left for traveling. Some of my classmates’ parents and friends of my parents would apply for loans to afford traveling to exotic destinations – the further away, the better. The era of borrowed prosperity began, and everybody tumbled along just to keep up with the Joneses.

A Kid At Home

I honestly can’t remember that I was ever very upset about the fact that my classmates spend four or five weeks abroad all over Europe and Scandinavia during our summer breaks at school. Usually my dad took part of his vacation during my school break, and we would spend some relaxed weeks at home. These days were filled with day trips, playing with my toys – later card and board games when I was older – and taking care of my dog. Staycation time with my dad is one my most favorable memories I have about my childhood.

Throughout the years I did a very few trips, which I enjoyed tremendously. However,  very early on from the time I started my first job a pattern in my lifestyle became noticeable and established: I either didn’t have enough money to travel during my free time, or I didn’t have the time. Hence it shouldn’t come as a surprise when I consider myself a Staycation Expert.

 A Debate

Very much to my dismay I recently stumbled across an article on MSN Money that attempted to shatter my nice and cozy staycation bubble.

Let me share with you why I still think that staycation is a great concept to recharge your batteries and why I regard the author’s tips as a naïve fallacy.

I’m quoting some of aspects Angela Colley, the author of this article, was emphasizing on in her article.

“Relax. Vacations are meant to be relaxing. I predict that a few hours into your staycation, you’ll realize the floors need mopping and your closet needs organizing. And when was the last time you sorted through your DVDs?”

Rebuttal

Let me ask you a question: If you owned a hotel or a Bed & Breakfast, would you lease a room without cleaning if first after it has been used? Most likely not.

With a little bit planning ahead you can avoid the cleaning and declutter staycation pitfall by tidying up your home the weeks BEFORE you spend your relaxing time at home. At first my husband always was kind of amused when I turn into a cleaning maniac a few weeks before Thanksgiving. I literally clean everything in our house very thoroughly from top to bottom. My reward: By the time Thanksgiving and Christmas rolls around I’m not busy with cleaning but can indulge into the Christmas spirit with minimal cleaning touch ups during holiday season.

Recharge. A visit to a new city or region is time spent outside of your routine. When you come back, you’ll feel refreshed and ready to tackle work again. If you stay at home, you might not get far enough out of your routine to accomplish that.”

Rebuttal

This is a reason worthwhile considering. However, I still don’t think you need to travel to spend time outside your routine to recharge. How to avoid the same old, same old routine staycation pitfall: Educate yourself about recreational activities offered by organizations, libraries, community colleges and churches in your neighborhood. Take a class about a subject you always were curious to learn more. Start learning a new language or spend a day at an animal shelter. Daydream away and read books that take you everywhere around the world in a snap. Think about what defines your daily routing during a normal week and come up with doing something completely different. For example: If you go out for dinner a lot, stay at home and cook, and I don’t mean warming up Chinese food in the microwave. Cook something healthy and wholesome from scratch and make the preparation a family activity. Go and watch a movie first show on a regular weekday morning. You can almost you’ll be alone in the theater.

Have new experiences. Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson often says life experiences are one of the few things worth spending money on. When I was old enough to begin taking vacations on my own, I’d already seen everything worthwhile in the town where I lived three times over. So I picked a new city to explore every year.”

Rebuttal

Uh-oh, this is a typical affluent society attitude: Something can only be of value if it costs some money. Fundamental life experiences like loving somebody or be loved by somebody, mastering life and its set-backs, experiencing separation, death and grief, honing your skills, and so much more come without financial charge.  On a lighter note: I’m living now over 15 years in Dallas and I still haven’t discovered everything this city has to offer.

Find fulfillment. We’ve all heard of bucket lists. If you have one, I bet spending more time at home isn’t on it. If you want to travel Europe, see New York City or ride a horse on a ranch in Montana, you won’t get there by taking a staycation. Spending your limited vacation time at home likely won’t be as fulfilling as traveling.”

Rebuttal

Dear Ms. Colley: You lost your bet. Especially since my husband paid off the mortgage for our home, this home really feels home to us, and we enjoy spending every minute here. Within four years we finished some major remodeling projects and cultivated a wonderful garden. Indeed, with 10 vacation days per year my vacation time is very limited. I don’t want to waste any minute of it by perching for hours and hours in a car or on a plane, get travel-sick, lose my luggage, and infinitely inconveniences more. There are certainly things on my bucket lists and traveling later in life is one of them. But if this falls through for a reason, I can live with it too.

How about starting a new life from scratch overseas with not knowing anybody and still learning the language? I would guess this qualifies for life experiences and fulfillment.

“Probably the No. 1 reason to have a staycation is to save money. But if you think being a tourist in your own town will be cheap, think again. Last year I took a staycation and planned plenty of tourist activities around my city of New Orleans. Here is a sample day:

  • Tickets to Audubon Zoo — $17.50.
  • Snacks and drinks at the zoo — $9.50.
  • Dinner and Jazz Cruise — $72.50.

I spent $99.50 on entertainment in one day and honestly would have been happier roaming the streets for free and having a cheap bistro lunch in another city.”

Rebuttal

This example is extremely misleading. First you need to cover your travel expenses like air plane tickets, rental car and gas money. Add on top lodging and provisions. Don’t forget all those other tourist activities you want to do take advantage of while you’re there and that don’t come free. Or the fancy dinners you didn’t plan for, but get nevertheless because you can eat a Subway sandwich any time at home. At the end of the day, a cheap bistro lunch might be all you’re able to afford.

All Things Considered

If you live on a budget, you learn one thing very well: Having fun and doing fun activities without spending a mini-fortune for it (unless, of course, you’re willing to and have the provisions to do so).

No doubt, traveling is a fantastic experience that keeps you thinking on your feet. However, in times where money is scarce, I prefer a common sense approach when it comes to spending money for having five days of travel experience a year versus living in a comfortable home with all the amenities I need to feel comfortable 365 days a year. And here are at least 20 more reasons why I prefer staycation over vacation.

Please feel free to share your thought with me on this subject.

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