My husband and I are trying to save up for a new car. We've simply outgrown the old one. Toss a double stroller in the back of our current SUV and suddenly there's no room for the dogs...or anything else for that matter. In order to get into a bigger car as quickly as possible, we are attempting to cut back basically anywhere we can. Everyone seems to be cutting back these days for one reason or another, and the small, frivilous things are always the first to go. So what's a Daily Vacationer to do?
The whole idea of the Daily Vacation is the ability to give yourself some fun and enjoyment no matter your financial situation (because if we could afford to be on an actual vacation all the time, believe me, we'd all be there!) Having less to spend just forces you to get more creative in your local travels. Take stock of everything in your area, and you'll probably be surprised by how much is actually out there.
To start, take advantage of all the freebies, giveaways, and discounts possible to you. Be on the lookout for chains celebrating their own special days by giving things away (Local Destination: Eatery Events). Plan your adventures outside to coincide with a National Park Free Entrance Day. Stroll around Philadelphia Museum of Art (or a museum in your area) for the literally the change in your pocket during their Pay As You Wish hours. Look for unexpected ways to utilize what you already have for discounts and free passes: military ID, student ID, senior discount, children's discount, your library card, your bank card, AAA membership, and, of course, your birthday! The trick with most of these is to only go for the free part. Companies and organizations give out the free stuff hoping you'll spend money with them once you're there - don't fall for it!
Invest in memberships or annual passes to the places that you frequent the most. In one of the first years of our marriage (before starting a family), my husband and I enjoyed taking impromptu visits to the Tyler Arboretum just to stroll around and talk. We know another couple who frequent Longwood Gardens for the same thing. Now that we have a family, we have memberships to both The Philadelphia Zoo and Adventure Aquarium (and as a plus, we get a discount on Ride the Ducks: Philadelphia - pay attention to the added discounts!). Not only do we use these on a regular basis for ourselves, but they also give us some place to take out of towners without us having to pay out of pocket each time. Often an annual pass is only a little bit more than a regular day pass, so pay a little bit extra once, and then don't pay a thing the next time for a year. When I was in college, I visited a theme park in Orlando during my winter break and was advised to spend the little extra for the annual pass for when I returned on the family vacation. That summer, I was able to enjoy the same theme park again for free!
A key part to keeping costs down for outings is to apply the B.Y.O.A. method (Bring Your Own Anything!). Chairs, umbrellas, strollers, water, cameras, reading material, etc - anything that you'll need on your Daily Vacation and can fit and are allowed to bring, bring it! Food and beverages are the main things that places really increase the prices on. You're already there, and it's breakfast/lunch/dinner/snacktime - they know you have to eat. Always try to pack your own meal and snacks for anywhere that you are able to bring them. This often goes hand and hand with getting the most bang for your buck with annual passes. To make a free outing truly free using our memberships, our family is always the one with the little cooler tucked away to pull out at mealtimes (ironically, we always have tuna fish sandwiches at the Adventure Aquarium). Even stopping to pick up something on the way can be cheaper than getting something there. I recently spent a rainy day at a Barnes and Nobles. I love to sip a warm drink while I browse, so I picked up a small hot chocolate from Dunkin Donuts using spare change from the car so as to not be tempted by the coffee bar's expensive beverages.
Of course to be able to literally take a Daily Vacation daily, you need to learn to embrace the simple pleasures that you love. Spend a part of a beautiful day outside at a park or in your own backyard. Add your favorite meal to the dinner schedule this week. Pick up a new book or borrow a movie you've been wanting to experience (or revisit one you already know you appreciate). Figure out what simple and easy things you get enjoyment from and Vacation even with an empty wallet!