5 secrets for keeping your staycation under budget

Think staying home for the holidays means you’ll save money?

Think again.

Travelers overspend no matter where they are, even if it’s a staycation. A recent survey conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of SunTrust Banks found that about 40 percent of Americans feel pressured to overspend during the holidays. And for those with children under 18, the pressure runs deeper, with more than half the respondents saying they feel compelled to spend more.

But with some planning and some limits, families can put more thought into discretionary spending and realize the value of quality time.

Be a tourist in your own city
I live in suburban Philadelphia, and many times I don’t take advantage of the cultural attractions within a 30-minute drive.

Not only is Philly packed with historic gems, but there are plenty of free holiday activities. Visit Philly touts lighting displays, festive attractions, and spectacular events to celebrate the season in Philadelphia. Some of their picks include the long-running Christmas Light Show at Macy’s and sensational strutting during the Mummers Parade on New Year’s Day.

You can enjoy outdoor fun at the expanded Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest, do some shopping at the Christmas Village at Love Park or ring in the New Year at the always incredible New Year’s Eve fireworks show along the Delaware River.

Check social media sites for discounts
Platforms like Groupon, LivingSocial or other sites may offer discount offers or deals that can garner impressive savings. I found discounts for concerts, shows in Manhattan and restaurants. If a road trip or day trip is on your agenda, look for offers in nearby towns.

Related story:   Now what?

Limit eating out
With long, leisurely days, cooking at home can create a relaxing vibe, and it’s likely healthier. Treating extended family to restaurants not only raises your tab quickly, but, also, eateries are liable to be packed. Bring youngsters to the grocery store and ask them to pitch in during the preparation of the meal.

A high school friend of mine says she creates a special menu of lobster and filet mignon during winter break “That way it feels special,” she says.

Retro fun
With everyone pretty much glued to a gadget these days, consider unplugging and getting back to basics. Think board games, factory tours, museums and even movie marathons. With Netflix and on-demand, choices are boundless.

There are family holiday movies that are added to on-demand selections. Cuddle up under a cozy blanket, drink hot chocolate, enjoy the fire and savor the partial technology break.

Burn some energy
Staycations are an ideal opportunity to declutter or tackle a home improvement project. A friend says she painted a room she had put off, and organized her closets to create a tidy vibe for the New Year.

And with the extras from those clean closets, she demonstrates the benefits of charity to her son and daughter. “We donate clothes we no longer need to shelters and other charities,” she said. “It’s a way to calm down the excess and show in concrete terms how fortunate we are.”

Be Web savvy
There are ample free attractions in most U.S. cities. Simply search the tag “free in (city name)” and many options will pop up. My friend tells me she takes full advantage of holiday light displays, enjoys picnics in parks, and even plans midweek visits to the zoo, when prices dip.

Erica Lamberg

Erica Lamberg is a writer based in suburban Philadelphia. She’s married and has a son and a daughter. She writes for Gannett, Fodor’s Travel, Bankrate.com, USA Today’s 10 Best. She also wrote a road trip column for The Philadelphia Inquirer.

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