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How to Play & Getaway on the Cheap & Easy

jen neitzel

For years I didn’t take vacations. I thought I didn’t need them. That they were an indulgence I could live without.

I thought vacations were too expensive, required too much planning or were just unnecessary. But then I went on a cruise a few years ago in April, which is a particularly rainy time of the year here in Oregon and thought, “WOW!  I need more vacations in my life!”

I came home excited, inspired and feeling really enthusiastic about my life. It was such an ah-ha moment for me.

Ever since then I’ve been very pro vacation.

Palm Springs by Jen Neitzel

Vacation shot from my last vacation in Palm Springs.

The hard part about vacations is that they can still be very expensive and can take a lot of planning, so I thought today I’d focus on some vacations and getaways that won’t break the bank and don’t require that much advanced planning.

Of course there are the obvious ways to keep vacations affordable: go camping or rent a yurt, but that is really just the tip of the iceberg .

Rather than discuss specific locations or forms of dwellings, I thought it would be more useful to talk about the key ingredients to an affordable vacation.

Lincoln City by Jen Neitzel

A photo of our Jena and our friend Julz on a vacation that we took together last year.

Many of the tips that follow we all know, in theory, but it’s so easy to forget these things and get caught up in the day to day experiences of our lives. My hope for this post is that by reminding everyone of the importance of vacations, that it might help motivate you to put a vacation on your to do list and in your life, if you don’t have one planned already.

1. Priorities

The main obstacle to taking a vacation is not actually money, or even time- it’s making vacations a priority in your life. You have to decide you WANT a vacation. After that, you can find a way to take one. If you’re on a tighter budget, try not going out to eat or skipping the mocha at the coffee shop for a month or so. It’s amazing how much cash you can free up by doing this.

Here’s some simple math. If you spend, let’s say $5 on fancy coffee x5 a week, that’s $100 a month that could go toward a vacation. Or maybe you’re into going out to eat with your spouse and you always have a few cocktails. If you do that weekly you can easily spend $60 a week. If you skip going out to eat in favor of cooking at home that $60 x 4 weeks is $240. You can see how without really sacrificing, or by sacrificing minimally and temporarily, you can come up with funds for a little get away.

2. Access

What amazing landmarks exist near you? If you don’t have a lot of extra cash for a vacation take advantage of the natural environment around you. Is there a natural wonder near you? Is there something novel and interesting in your area? Is there an event you can find that might be of interest to you (think low stress event)?

Sometimes just a day trip with a picnic going to a waterfall, forest area, a waterhole or maybe some blueberry picking can help you refuel your system and can bring a little inspiration into your life. If a vacation feels like too much to manage at the moment, think small and local. Try to get out and see something new. Wine tasting at a local winery? Just spend the day doing that new thing. Maybe you drive to a nearby coast (I’m lucky to live in Portland, OR so I can be to the coast in just over an hour) and rent bikes or dune buggies with friends. It doesn’t have to be a weekend or a week away to qualify as a getaway.

3. The Numbers Game

If you really want to go away for a night or two and feel that the cost is a bit too high for you, gather a group of friends or family and share a hotel/motel room or rent a house. I do this a few times a year with a few different groups of women. Each year a group of friends of mine and I rent a hotel room at this bed and breakfast that has an outdoor soaking pool. The rooms are around $100 per night and 4 of us ladies share a room for 2 nights. It costs us each about $50 per person for a weekend stay at this great B&B. That’s an affordable vacation.

I also try to book hotels and motels that offer extras, such as breakfast included whenever possible. Another thing I try to do is book rooms in hotels that have kitchenettes. I have another motel that I like to go to that sleeps 6 per room with a kitchenette on the Oregon Coast, which is around $120 per night, but since it sleeps 6 we each pay about $20 per night and then because we have a kitchenette we are able to keep food and drink costs down, since we bring the food ourselves and share it with each other.

4. Create a Sanctuary

If all else fails, and even if all else doesn’t fail, create a sanctuary in place of, or in addition to a vacation. Creating a place in your home where you can relax and feel like you’re getting away from it all can help keep that feeling of enthusiasm and zest for life going year round.

For some people, this might mean a garden space, for others it’s a mediation room. For me, I just recently created an outdoor living room space on my front porch where I like to crochet and listen to music.

porch sanctuary by Jen Neitzel

My front porch sanctuary at night

I rounded up various items that I already had around the house and moved them onto my front porch. It’s amazing what you can do with some throws to cover old furniture, some plants (ones that were formerly indoors) and some outdoor rugs can do to a plain old space.

I live on a busier street, so I try to use my front porch area in the mornings and in the evenings. I find it to be such a nice getaway. I have a vintage tropical music playlist that I like to play when “vacationing” on the front porch. Obviously it’s not a real vacation, but when you’re between vacations or maybe when your schedule doesn’t permit a vacation, it’s nice to have a place that feels separate from the main areas of the house. An area where you can sit, or move quietly and just be.

porch sanctuary by Jen Neitzel

Another shot of my front porch sanctuary.

Just like a computer, we can start to run less efficiently when we’re “in use” and maxed out all the time. We are living in times where even if you don’t want to burn the candle at both ends, it’s challenging not to do so, because that sort of behavior is so prevalent in our culture and it’s easy to fall into habits that mirror our collective cultural behavior.

This is why vacationing, getting away, and/or creating a sanctuary is really important. It’s not optional. It’s required for optimal happiness and health.

The more we honor the fact that we need a break from our lives, even when we love our lives, the more we can find happiness, inspiration and increased creative expression. Vacations are a time to catch our breath, to look at where we’re at, where we’ve come from and where we’re going. It’s a time to connect with loved ones and get present in our lives and where we are at in this moment in time.

When we’re old and gray it’s not the photos in cubicles that we’ll look back on and remember, it’s our vacations moments – times when we’re laughing with friends trying to put a worm on a hook or singing campfire songs in front of a bonfire – those are the photos we’ll cherish, those are the memories that never leave us.

So go make some vacation memories this summer. Play, have fun and invite some friends to join you. Be the one to initiate it. Come up with a cool vacation idea and share it with your loved ones.

Do you have any vacation tips to share? I’d love to hear about your vacation plans this summer or really any sort of vacation tip you have to share.

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7 Responses to How to Play & Getaway on the Cheap & Easy

  1. Deanna Larson says:

    I feel like a broken record, but: great post!! I haven’t had a vacation in 7 years (no money, have to find a petsitter, etc.) but I realize after reading this that excuses don’t work when you NEED to recharge. I have an auto-immune disorder so healing is even more important but travel can be challenging. Still, I’m going to start planning how I can take a much-deserved vacation!

  2. @themavencircle suggests you take a vacation! Great blog!

  3. Kerry says:

    Love this post and it is all so true! Your vacations with your friends in the last year really have me itching to do something similar with a group of ladies here. I also love your idea of creating a sanctuary at home. I am working on that now. Any chance you can share some hits from your tropical music playlist? Because now I realize I just might need a similar playlist ;)

    • Sure, Kerry! I have some vintage Hawaiian music, which is a compilation of old timey stuff: Steel Guitar Masters 1928-1934 and there’s another band on there too called Petty Booka, which is a Japanese all girl band. They sing a unique combo of songs, covers, like Material Girl by Madonna, but done with banjos and steel guitars so it has a Hawaiian sound to it. They also do a lot of other types of songs, but all with a tropical sound, with their cute style.

      Everyone should get away with friends from time to time!Hope you’re able to do that soon! xo, Jen

  4. It’s been over 2 years since I’ve gone on a true vacation but I always do my best to find little local sites to visit and feel like I am getting away. We live near Disney and I love visiting their Boardwalk area (which is free for everyone). It feels like you are by the beach on vacation. They even have a little “beach” area where you can make s’mores and watch movies at night. It’s sort of cheesy but love that it makes me feel that I am on vacation. :)

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