Vacation vs. Staycation: Which Is Right For You?

Our daily routines can become a grind, which is why it is so important to take some time away from work. But you might find yourself comparing the possibility of a vacation vs. a staycation. Both options have their own unique benefits, but every situation is a little different.

We will help you explore the pros and cons of both vacations and staycations so that you can make an informed decision that meets your personal needs and desires.

Vacation vs. Staycation: What’s The Difference?

While vacations involve traveling away from your home for multiple nights at a time, staycations are spent enjoying activities closer to home. Staycations might involve a night in a hotel in your hometown or nearby, but only in a limited manner. Vacations typically cost more money than staycations. Both can be fun.

In considering vacation vs. staycation options, you have to consider your unique situation.

Defining A Vacation – Fun Time Spent Away From Home

I define a vacation as any trip intended for leisure in which you are away from home for at least two nights. Vacations often involve booking accommodations with a site like Expedia or Priceline, planning itineraries, and often traveling away from your home state.

Most people take vacations to break from their daily routines and enjoy life a little. While vacations can come in many forms, ranging from trips to amusement parks to overseas travel, vacations often create lasting memories with friends and family.

Defining A Staycation – A Deliberate Change of Pace Near Home

On the other hand, I define a staycation as time set aside to reset your daily routine without taking a full vacation. A staycation might involve a local camping trip, a night at a local hotel, or even time dedicated to lounging around the house.

Staycations are often much more affordable than a full vacation but are just as important for level-setting your mental health. While a staycation might involve a night in a local hotel, once that hotel stay passes two days, it turns into more of a traditional vacation, and you might as well leave town completely.

Still, staycations can last just as long as a traditional vacation. The key differentiator is whether or not you still use your house as a home base for your time off from work.

Where will the road lead you on your next vacation or staycation?

Advantages of Vacations Over Staycations

While staycations are practical, vacations offer a sense of adventure and exploration that staycations can’t match. There are other advantages that vacations offer too.

Cultural Experiences – Cultivating a Bigger Worldview

One of the best things about going on vacation is learning about new people and places. You might find that traveling expands your worldview and gives you a better perspective on life.

When you see new places, experience new cultural norms, and break from your daily routine, you start to realize that the world is bigger and different than you previously realized. Visiting new places may even enrich your appreciation for your day-to-day life, even while offering an enhanced viewpoint.

If nothing else, it is interesting to learn about people that live differently than you live. Everything from your geography to the clothes you wear impacts the human experience.

New Foods and Flavors – The Reason Foodies Love Vacations

It is also fun to try new food as you travel. As one simple example of this, I love pizza, but the pizza in Charlotte, North Carolina, is much different than Chicago-style pizza or Detroit-style pizza. The same analogy works for BBQ across the United States.

The differences in food become exponentially more different as you travel abroad. You might learn that Taco Bell isn’t a great representation of Mexican Food. Or you might find that you love a dish you’ve never tried before, like authentic Spanish paella.

Still, the truth is that you will find new types of food regardless of whether you travel domestically or internationally. New Orleans gumbo is unmatched across the United States, just as New England lobster rolls are unmatched.

In comparing vacations vs. staycations, the food experiences draw me toward vacations. I love to eat, and local specialties always taste much better than I could ever find or recreate near my hometown. I am still dreaming of the last lobster roll I had when my family road-tripped through Maine.

Trying local food is one reason to consider a true vacation over a staycation.

Unique Bonding Experiences – Make Deeper Connections

We all live busy lives, but vacations enable us to disconnect from our routines, which often frees us to connect at a deeper level with our loved ones. In comparing vacations vs. staycations, one downside to staycations is it much easier to slide back toward your routine.

On full vacations, you will be less likely to check your work email or hang out with your work and school friends. Instead, you can have meaningful conversations with your family and loved ones. Plus, experiencing new adventures together often deepens relationships.

Conquering New Adventures – Do Something You’ve Never Done Before

Speaking of experiencing new adventures, that is one area vacations truly shine when comparing vacations vs. staycations. Sure, you might find some local adventures, but your mindset will be completely different when you are in a new place, one where you have little familiarity.

Challenging adventures often teach us something about ourselves and our loved ones. Overcoming obstacles will result in a sense of accomplishment and bonding with those you are traveling alongside.

But keep in mind that not every adventure requires something extreme like skydiving. Your adventure might be something as simple as navigating backroads to explore a small downtown. Adventures come in all shapes and sizes.

Regardless of the destination, vacations naturally create unique memories you won’t find near your daily routine.

You can try new adventures on a vacation that you might not be able to do on a staycation.

Advantages of Staycations Over Vacations

While there are some distinct advantages to taking true vacations, the reality is that staycations are much cheaper and much easier to plan. There are other advantages, too, such as the chance to explore your local area at a deeper level.

Financial Savings – Comparing Vacation vs. Staycation Options

Dealing with money is a reality of life. And while most of us long for a break from our routines, the reality is that sometimes vacations are just too expensive. A vacation can cost $5,000 or more for a family of four, and that is serious money.

Staycations are often magnitudes cheaper because you don’t have to pay for transportation or lodging. You can then budget your staycation to meet your personal circumstances. You can still do some fun activities in your local area, budget-allowing, and still spend significantly less money than you would spend while traveling.

So go to a spa or a professional sporting event. Hit the golf range or the local putt-putt course. Enjoy life on a budget and be proud.

Less Stress and Planning – Staycations Are Much Easier Than Vacations

Staycations also require significantly less planning. You don’t need a full itinerary to ensure you make the most of your extravagant vacation. Instead, take the opportunity to unwind and recharge.

Let someone else worry about passports, connecting flights, packing challenges, and the like. If you want to do something fun, wake up and head in that direction. Otherwise, enjoy a few lazy mornings and the peace of mind that you are living your best life.

In comparing staycations vs. vacations, staycations can be way less stressful.

In considering vacation vs. staycation options, you can always take a day trip to go for a hike.

Local Exploration – Experience Something New About Your Hometown

Have you ever met someone from Orlando that’s never been to Disney? I have, and there are countless other examples too. Sometimes our routines blind us from our surroundings.

Staycations offer an excellent opportunity to enjoy your local community in ways you’ve never done before. And if you are up for a short drive, you might find local hikes or other attractions worth exploring.

Take a day trip to a nearby city, or check out that restaurant everyone is raving about. Learn about your city, and take pride in the things to do in your hometown.

Environmental Impact – Go Green While Making Yourself A Priority

While this may not be a driving factor for everyone, staycations may be much more environmentally friendly than most vacations. Airplanes and cars are major carbon emitters. If you choose to stay close to home, the environment comes out a winner.

You can have a great time while contributing to a greener planet, and this is just the cherry on top of the other likely staycation benefits.

Disadvantages of Vacations

Many of the disadvantages to taking vacations align with the advantages of choosing staycations. We will try not to beat a dead horse, but the disadvantages are still worth noting.

Expense and Budget Limitations – Vacations Get Pricey

As previously noted, vacations are expensive! A family of four might spend $5,000 or more, and that wouldn’t even be that hard to do. You might save some money by driving, but the cost of hotels and eating out still adds up quickly.

There is a time and place to make this splurge, but you shouldn’t feel pressured to put your family in a bind. Having to choose between your budget and family bonding activities can be very stressful.

It is difficult to stay on track financially, and this is one of the big reasons people dread vacations that should otherwise be bright spots on the family calendar. In comparing potential vacation vs. staycation options, this is likely the biggest deciding factor.

Jet Lag and Travel Fatigue – Build In Recovery Time!

For those looking to get rested up, a staycation may be a better option than a vacation. How many times have you heard someone return from a vacation only to say, “I feel like I need a vacation?” It happens all of the time. And sure, vacations can create lasting memories so that it may be worth the fatigue; other times, vacations are too much.

For those traveling by air, you have to deal with jet lag and changing time zones, plus time wasted in airports, flight cancellations, and more. And road trips can be tiring in their own right. I’ve never felt as tired as after a road trip in which I was crammed in a car staring at the road.

I love road trips and think road trips are almost always worth the effort, but they are undeniably tiring, just as flying is tiring.

One way to counter this is to build in a recovery day back home before you start back to your typical routine.

Flying can be very tiring.

Packing Woes – What Should I Pack?!

Packing for vacation can also be a daunting task. You definitely don’t want to pack too much. At the same time, you need to pack for changing weather, casual settings, and family dinners. I find this even more challenging when I want to pack a pair of shoes to go running.

And even if you pack the perfect amount of clothes, chances are high you will forget something important. It happens without fail.

Then there is also the matter of lugging your luggage around as you vacation. Keeping track of luggage alone can be stressful and inconvenient.

Stressful Planning – Coordinating Can Be Overwhelming

Planning a vacation may be fun and exciting to most people, but some will find it more stressful than the effort is worth. You have to invest time researching destinations, booking lodging and transportation, and planning out all of your activities.

And all along, you have to keep your budget in mind. Throw in that family member or friend that is always complaining, and your stress will elevate even further.

Pandemic and Geo-political Exposure – The New World We Live In

The world is different than it was before 2020. Sadly, we live in a world in which embassies have often encouraged their citizens to leave various countries because of pandemics, wars, and other geopolitical risks. Can you imagine being one of the many people traveling abroad when COVID-19 really broke out?

The other reality and saving grace is that there are some areas of the world that are safer to travel to than others. Still, you can’t plan for a pandemic outbreak or European war. It’s a surprising set of risks, but they are risks all the same.

In comparing vacation vs. staycation possibilities, it’s important to consider both the pros and cons so that you can make an informed decision.

Family Friendly Winter Activity

Disadvantage of Staycations

Like vacations above, the disadvantages of staycations almost directly mirror the advantages of vacations. Staycations are a good way to save some money, but saving money will come at the cost of certain experiences.

Limited Cultural Exposure – You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

I appreciate my routine and enjoy the comforts of home, but staycations might limit exposure to living outside my little bubble. And I’ve lived in little bubbles at times and looked back to retreat doing so later on.

Experiencing the world beyond my bubble has offered new insights and perspectives which make me who I am today.

Limited Adventure – Been There And Done That?

Charlotte, NC, offers a surprising list of possibilities, including professional sports, an arts and culture scene, and even the Whitewater Center. Still, there comes a point at which my beloved hometown starts to feel a little routine.

Serious adventure awaits away from home, and in comparing vacation vs. staycation itineraries, you quickly realize the confines of your usual surroundings. Stepping into unknown cities, cultures, and situations can be exhilarating and satisfying.

During a staycation, it is easy to slide back down into your list of chores and normal routine.

Local attractions might include professional sports.

Household Distractions – Laundry and Yardwork Never Go Away

Life doesn’t stop when you are on a vacation or a staycation, but at least when you take a vacation, you are removed from your daily schedule. Sometimes it takes a vacation to truly step away from your routine.

Otherwise, you are bound to deal with housework, chores, and other obligations while trying to enjoy your staycation.

So in comparing staycation vs. vacation pros and cons, it’s clear that both have their time and place. It might take a little self-reflection to decide which is best for you and your family and friends.

Maximizing Your Time Off: Is Vacation or Staycation Better?

In comparing vacation vs. staycation options, there are some clear differences. Vacations offer adventure, escape from the daily grind, and exposure to new people and cultures. On the other hand, vacations are much more expensive than staycations. Staycations also require much less stressful planning than vacations require.

Family road trip

The Final Verdict: Considering Vacation vs. Staycation Options

If you have the money and time, we recommend taking a vacation because there are distinct benefits to removing yourself from your daily routine. Plus, there is a sense of adventure and exploration that is simply hard to achieve in your normal environment.

On the other hand, it takes great discipline to put your financial well-being first, and we understand that there are seasons in which this is the right decision. We totally respect this decision! And one thing that is great about staycations is they are much more doable, so that you can plan small staycations more frequently than big vacations.

Regardless of what you choose after comparing your vacation vs. staycation options, seek adventure, and take the opportunity to enjoy life in the moment. Sometimes the daily grind gets us all down, and a few days set aside to be present and have fun may be just what you need.

Find yourself, and make lasting memories. 😎

Jeremiah moved to the Charlotte area with his wife, Erin, back in 2013. The family has grown over the years, and they now call the Carolinas home. They enjoy hiking and adventures, road trips, backyard fire pits, and pizza night. Jeremiah loves to explore, and looks forward to sharing tips, tricks, and resources for your next trip.