With rising inflation and fears of an impending recession, it might not feel like a good time to plan an elaborate vacation. But that doesn’t mean you can’t escape the monotony of everyday life and put on your explorer hat every once in a while.
A great way to travel and unwind without over-extending your budget is by taking a “nearcation.” According to the travel marketplace Outdoorsy, Americans are increasingly looking to explore a little closer to home and prioritize “nearcation” experiences.
But what exactly is a nearcation and how do you take full advantage of this kind of trip? Below, travel experts break it down.
What exactly is a “nearcation”?
“A nearcation is simply a vacation that you take close to home,” said travel blogger Sean Lau. “This could be in your own city or town, or even just in the next state over. The beauty of a nearcation is that you don’t have to do any extensive planning. Nearcations are becoming increasingly popular as people look for ways to save money and time.”
The idea of a nearcation is that you’re close to home but far enough away from your actual house to properly decompress and feel a sense of escape.
“If the drive is more than one or two hours, you have to get on a plane, or if it lasts more than a few days, it should be classified as a traditional vacation,” said Phil Dengler, co-founder of The Vacationer.
Although some people use the terms nearcation and staycation interchangeably, he believes there’s one major difference.
“On a staycation, you stay home,” Dengler explained. “On a nearcation, you stay at a local accommodation such as a hotel or Airbnb. In both cases, you take part in local activities within 50 to 100 miles of your home without worrying about work or chores.”
What are the benefits of a nearcation?
“There are plenty of advantages to taking a nearcation,” Lau said. “For one, it’s much more stress-free than traveling to a different country. You don’t have to worry about booking a flight, packing everything into your luggage, or figuring out the conversion for the local currency.”
With fewer moving parts, there’s also less opportunity for disruptions that could derail the experience.
“When you take a nearcation, it takes the stress out of potential travel hiccups like flight delays, trip interruptions, lost luggage, etc,” said travel blogger Esther Susag. “Most of the time, nearcations are literally just a short drive away.”
Nearcations might be particularly suited to people who feel too busy to plan the logistics of a trip during the workweek but still want to relax and explore new places over the weekend.
“Another advantage is that nearcations are cheaper and more carbon-friendly,” Lau added. “You’re not traveling by airplane, which can produce a lot of carbon emissions, so you can feel good about taking a trip that’s eco-friendly. And since you’re not going too far from home, you can save money on gas as well.”
Indeed, price is one of the biggest benefits of choosing a nearcation. You don’t have to make room in your budget for expensive airfare and Ubers or rental cars.
“Taking a nearcation is great because it saves you money,” Susag said. “So if you are in desperate need of some R&R but don’t want to fork out a lot of cash, exploring someplace close to home is a great alternative.”
You also get the opportunity to explore more of your hometown and region.
“A great thing about nearcations is that it really pushes you to fall in love with where you live and discover hidden gems right in your backyard,” Susag noted. “Most of the time, when we think of vacations, we think about getting as far away as we can from where we live, and sometimes that makes us forget that where we live can have beautiful spots to explore as well.”
How can you maximize the nearcation experience?
There’s no one right way to take a nearcation, but there are some helpful factors to keep in mind if you want to maximize the experience.
“First, pick a location that’s close to home but still new to you,” Lau recommended. “The most important part about a nearcation is being far enough from home that you feel like you’re on vacation but not so far away that it’s a hassle to get there.”
He also suggested booking a “unique accommodation.” Think outside the box as you research lodging.
“Since you are not spending money on flights, you have a little extra to splurge on your nearcation,” Lau said. “Look for unique places to stay such as cabins, beach huts, or treehouses to make your nearcation more special and memorable!”
Make sure you’re putting some thought into the overall location selection process as well.
“Take a little bit of time and research your destination to make sure that there are some things to do nearby,” Lau advised. “You don’t have to plan every leg of your itinerary, but just having a rough idea of what to do in the area could help you select the perfect destination for your nearcation. You don’t want to get to your nearcation and realize that there isn’t much to do.”
Susag suggested asking friends and family for recommendations as you think about places you might want to go for a nearcation.
“Also, utilizing Facebook groups is a fantastic way to get some ideas on places you may have never even heard of,” she added. “If you do a little digging, you will find so many Facebook groups in your area of like-minded people ready to share places they’ve been and loved.”
If you’re on a tight budget, consider cheaper options like renting bikes or packing some food and a blanket and grabbing a bottle of wine for a scenic picnic in a new area. But if you have the funds, take advantage of the opportunity to try different restaurants.
“On a nearcation, you should explore your hometown or nearby cities in the ways that you normally explore cities that you vacation to,” Dengler said. “That means new restaurants, museums, tourist attractions, and hikes.”
But perhaps the most important tip for enjoying a nearcation to the fullest: Unplug and get away from the little stresses of everyday life so that you can feel present.
“Like a staycation, the point of a nearcation is to take a break from work, chores, and other potentially stressful aspects of daily life,” Dengler noted. “Ensure everything is done before the nearcation starts. Complete grocery shopping, mow the lawn, and ensure all of your work is done. During the nearcation, you should not be worrying about household chores or attending any appointments.”