July 4, 2008

Staycations: Spending a Little to Save a Lot

(Part five of a five-part series this week)

All week we've explored some ways to save money while still having fun during a stay-at-home vacation. Now it's time to look at some slight extravagances (wait, isn't that an oxymoron?), some affordable ways to do those things that truly say "vacation" to you. And just what are those things?

Take a few minutes to think about three things that you really treasure during a vacation. Is it just the downtime to sit around, maybe read or just laze on a beach, is it shopping in unusual places, or is it a truly elegant evening out?

For really relaxing, consider renting a portable hot tub for a week, one that will be delivered and set up right in your own backyard. Have a mini-spa day, with a hair stylist, make-up consultant or masseuse coming to your home. And don't think this idea isn't for the men, they like pampering too!

If a day at the beach is your choice, try a new beach and pick up a packed gourmet lunch to enjoy there. Although we in Maine have many beaches from small and rock-strewn to white-sand and almost-warm waters, Bert and my biggest beach treat is a trip to Crane's Beach in Ipswich MA. Miles of perfection overlooked by a castle! And Zabaglione's, a bakery-cafe in Ipswich, offers the best beach fare and gorgeous baked goodies you can imagine.

If you're feeling that a little bit bigger splurge is in order, stay, even just one night, right on/near your favorite beach and enjoy the sunset and sunrise walks you always miss. And, yes, the Castle Inn at Crane's Hill does offer lodging, not inexpensive but this is the most perfect mini-vacation I can imagine!

But maybe it's shopping that's a big part of your usual vacation as it is for the great majority of travelers and tourists. In your mind set a figure that you can honestly afford to...well, fritter away. Now be sure you have this amount in CASH. No credit cards, not one cent more than your cash cache.

Where to go shopping? Well, do you want to find some souvenirs to take home, even if you never left home? Are you looking for a new golf club, some funky clothes, local pottery, or would you like to just keep an open mind to whatever may fortuitously present itself?

If you've never been to an auction, they generally cost nothing to attend, can be so much fun and you can find the most unexpected treasures, things you never knew you just had to have! Some are estate sales, some are more specialized featuring old fishing gear, or even art or antique firearms. GO! BUT, stick to your cash amount as it's easy to get caught up in the bidding.

Or, pick three shops, nearby or a little further afield, that you've always intended to check out. For me, that would be a jam-crammed barn filled with antiques and who-knows-what, and probably a nearby llama farm that makes and sells lovely soft yarns. I'll have to think about my third choice, but I suspect it would involve books...

And then there's that lovely dinner out that often caps your away-from-home vacations. The secret here is to treat it as a real dress-up night out, maybe complete with limo. After all, you've been pretty darned frugal all week! There are always a few totally elegant, four-star restaurants in your vicinity, places you've read about, admired and yet that you've just never dared to visit. But, you've probably spent that kind of money on one of those away vacations without a second thought. This IS your vacation, so go for it! Heck, order some champagne...

I hope you've had or are now planning - a wonderful staycation. Let me know how it goes, and please share your good ideas too.

Happy Fourth of July!


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