If you’ve still got a job, some money in the bank and your other financial plans are on track–you’re saving for retirement, paying down debt–you should seriously consider a real summer vacation this year. Here’s why:
Staycations don’t work. Staying home may save money, but it won’t provide the break you need to relax and “sharpen the saw.” For that, you need a change of scenery. Otherwise, you’ll spend a good chunk of your time being constantly reminded of all the things you “should” be doing (“I really should clean that closet. The hallway needs a coat of paint. When am I going to take that load of clothes to the Goodwill?”)
The deals are amazing. The recession is forcing hotels, airlines and restaurants to cut prices. Some of the most impressive deals are at the higher end, making it easier to upgrade to a more swank experience if you want. Shop for 4- and 5-star hotels at Hotwire or Priceline; the savings can be tremendous and you’re guaranteed a decent place to sleep. Sign up for email updates from your favorite airlines and hotel chains to get first crack at the deals. Also, if you have kids, check out KidsEatFree.com for child-friendly restaurant deals in all 50 states.
It’s easier to use points and miles. Fewer travelers mean more opportunities to score airplane seats and hotel rooms with your frequent traveler programs. Since these programs are constantly being changed and watered down, you’re smart to use your rewards as you accumulate them rather than wait and see them devalued.
Memories matter. Studies about what makes us happy agree: experiences matter more than stuff. Making memories with family and friends can be an investment that offers lifelong returns. So go visit your college roommate or your Aunt Zelda or take the kids fishing.
Travel can make you a better person. Not every trip to every place, of course, but if you take time to appreciate a new place and its residents, the experience will change you–make you smarter, wiser, more understanding.
So pack up.
Afternoon update: If you are sticking close to home, check out this excellent Trent Hamm post: “10 resources to find cheap or free summer fun.”