Be a Cheapskate: Take a 'Staycation' The program kicks of "Cheapskate Week," a series helping listeners save money in tough economic times. In the first installment, increasing food and fuel cost are prompting many families to consider taking a staycation, replacing expensive travel with local destinations. Nancy Lewis, a family and consumer expert explains the hype.
NPR logo

Be a Cheapskate: Take a 'Staycation'

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/92513069/92513063" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Be a Cheapskate: Take a 'Staycation'

Be a Cheapskate: Take a 'Staycation'

Be a Cheapskate: Take a 'Staycation'

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/92513069/92513063" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

The program kicks of "Cheapskate Week," a series helping listeners save money in tough economic times. In the first installment, increasing food and fuel cost are prompting many families to consider taking a staycation, replacing expensive travel with local destinations. Nancy Lewis, a family and consumer expert explains the hype.

MICHEL MARTIN, host:

I'm Michel Martin, and this is Tell Me More from NPR News. Just ahead, one man's journey to a new life in America. National Book Award winner Ha Jin's bittersweet account of his first summer in America.

But first, we're kicking off Cheapskate Week. We will try to offer practical ways to save some cash in these uncertain times. Today, it's the family vacation. Gas and food prices are stubbornly high, the stock markets in the dumps. For many, that makes the usual summer vacation more of a luxury, but there are ways to make it affordable. Maybe you could be a tourist in your own hometown. There's even a term for it, "staycations." Here to tell us more is Nancy Lewis, she is a family and consumer science educator at the University of Maryland. Welcome, thanks for stopping in.

Dr. NANCY LEWIS (Educator, Family and Consumer Science, University of Maryland): Thank you, Michel. It's a pleasure being here. Thank you for inviting me.

MARTIN: Where did this term come from? Do you know?

Ms. LEWIS: One source I read about said that staycation might have come from a Canadian TV series.

MARTIN: Oh, that's interesting.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: I wonder. Well, we're happy about that. You recently taught a class about staycations. How did you get the idea for this class?

Ms. LEWIS: I had seen a new show and heard about staycations, and I was planning summer presentations at the Frederick County extension office, and I thought that this would be a fun thing to bring.

MARTIN: Well, get us started. How do you plan one? How do you get us started?

Ms. LEWIS: Well, you first have to get out of the mindset that a vacation is something that you have to - where you have to travel outside of your area, travel out of state, or wherever. And once you get situated there, you use the whole family, include the whole family, in planning this activity. And if you stay at home, you use your home as a home base. You can go out and take day trips some place, and each member has an input into what is going to happen during that time off. You also want to treat it like a vacation, and that means getting prepared ahead of time, doing your bills and the heavy chores, so that even if you are home, you're not vacuuming and you're not paying bills or anything that has...

MARTIN: You know, I was going to ask you about that, because one of the reasons I like to go away is that if I stay home, I'm looking at all the dust bunnies under my dresser, and I'm getting irritated.

Ms. LEWIS: Right.

MARTIN: You know, I'm out there, I'm like cleaning up all the things that I don't do.

Ms. LEWIS: Right.

MARTIN: Kind of when I'm at work, and I'm annoyed. So I think - you're saying the first thing to do is you act like you're on vacation.

Ms. LEWIS: Right. Do all those things ahead of time. Also, prepare a budget, figure out how much you want to spend, and try to stick to that budget, you know, if things are flexible. Also let people know that you're going away on a staycation. You're - even though you're going to be in a local area, tell them not to call. Nobody from work bothers you.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. LEWIS: And to put your cell phones and computers away, unless you build in some downtime - during the vacation, everybody should have something, some downtime to relax and do what he or she wants to do.

MARTIN: Do you recommend creating an itinerary? I know a lot of times when you are - when you travel, you create an itinerary for yourself because you want to be sure you're really taking advantage of all the attractions that your destination has to offer. Do you recommend doing the same, even if you're staying at home?

Ms. LEWIS: Yes, it is important to create an agenda, because - and stick to it, because you are on vacation and you have to remember that, you know, because it's so easily - easy to get distracted.

MARTIN: You were mentioning to me earlier, when we were speaking a little earlier, that you recently moved to this area.

Ms. LEWIS: Ahah.

MARTIN: And you've been exploring lots of activities and attractions here, and you find out that people who've been here a long time have never been to and have never seen - I bet you there are lots of things are kind of hiding in plain sight. How do you avoid overlooking the obvious in a place that you've lived a long time?

Ms. LEWIS: Well, I - you can start out and get information at your local visitors bureau in the area. I visited the Parks and Recreation. I read the newspapers, they always have an itinerary and a calendar of events. I've contacted the Maryland Tourism Bureau. I've checked out websites for the area. I enjoy Civil War history and American history, so this area is rich in that. And I also love Washington D.C., so that would be included in my staycation, is taking day trips and using mass transportation to get into the city, which cuts down on the fuel that we use, so.

MARTIN: And Washington D.C., is a great place for a...

Ms. LEWIS: Ahah.

MARTIN: Staycation if you live in the area, because there's obviously a lot of things you can go to, like the Smithsonian Museum's for...

Ms. LEWIS: Right.

MARTIN: Example, they don't charge an admission.

Ms. LEWIS: Ahah.

MARTIN: Fee. But what if you live in a city that's normally kind of pricey, where some of the things that you might want to do - you might say to yourself, OK, if I'm going to visit X city, I'll pay that 20 dollars to go see such and such because who knows when I will be here again.

Ms. LEWIS: Ahah.

MARTIN: You know what I mean? How do you account for it if you live in a city that's already expensive?

Ms. LEWIS: Well, I think that that is put into your budget, and then - and if you really want to do something like that, you might spend that money towards that special activity, and then just cut down on the other activities you do.

Some people even stay at home. If they have a pool in their yard, they have - they do activities in the yard, or they can get together with neighbors to have different activities - fashion shows, movie nights - things like that and to do that kind of thing.

MARTIN: What do you think about the idea of checking into a hotel in your own city? Do you - what do you think about that?

Ms. LEWIS: A lot of hotels in your local area are offering special packages, because they want to keep the dollars in the local area. And so, you can go into a motel for a night, you know, swim in the pool, and that would be like you're going away.

I heard about one woman who took her family camping in the next town. The kids didn't mind, they had a great time camping, but they just went one town over. So there are so many opportunities in your local area to explore and a lot of them are free. Your local libraries offer activities. The co-operative extension offers, like, 4H camps for the kids, and sometimes maybe you want to send the kids to camp for the week, and you and your significant other go off and do something fun in the area.

MARTIN: So what I hear you say is, really the key to it is attitude. If you're going to be on vacation, be on vacation.

Ms. LEWIS: Exactly.

MARTIN: No matter where you go, or stay. The final question, Nancy, how do you address those postcards?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. LEWIS: Well, most people are going to know that you are still in the area, but you address the postcards and say hi, having fun. Maybe you take a picture of your house, or have a picture of your whole family on a postcard, and you forget to add the part where it says, wish you were here.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: OK. Nancy Lewis is a family and consumer science educator at the University of Maryland, co-operative extension program. She was kind enough to drop by our Washington studio. Thank you so much.

Ms. LEWIS: Thank you, Michel.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.