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12 Easy Ways To Have A Festive Summer Even If You Can’t Afford A Vacation

Though my own personal disdain for hot weather has been well documented, even I have to admit that there are still some really wonderful things about the season. My favorite summers during college were spent taking living on my nearly-empty college campus, working and enjoying the truly beautiful place that northern Vermont becomes when it’s warm out. Summer still feels like a break from regular life — even if the hours I work aren’t any shorter — as everyone talks about their big summer vacation plans and festive cocktails and nights in bars on rooftops.

Growing up, I was very fortunate that my family took a vacation nearly every summer. We even stayed in nice hotels most of the time, thanks to my dad’s many credit card points from traveling often for work. It didn’t hit me that family vacations weren’t a normal part of so many people’s lives until I was probably in college. I had friends from Vermont who’d never been farther than to visit family in Rhode Island, some of whom never went on an airplane until venturing on one of our (interestingly very affordable) study abroad programs.

Being able to go on vacation is a privilege that so many people can’t afford. When you’re one of those people, watching others post photo after photo of beautiful beaches can get to be emotionally draining. For my first few years out of college, the only trips I could afford were to visit friends and family in other cities — but even that is a stretch for some people. All of us deserve to make summer a festive time and take time to relax in some way, even by a string of small, semi-planned activities to make the season a little more exciting. Here are some simple ways to make the most of this summer, without having to shell out for an entire vacation.

1. Head out for a day full of air-conditioning. On especially hot days, one of the best things you can do for yourself is plan a bunch of activities that let you escape the heat. Many movie theaters offer matinee pricing before noon; head to a 10 or 11 AM showing first, then grab your favorite cheap meal from a chilly foodcourt somewhere, then find a great book in the library and camp out for the rest of the day.

2. Play tourist in your hometown. A common expectation of New Yorkers is that none of us go to the museums — we live here. So sometimes, the most fun thing to do on a weekend is play tourist and visit the museums I’ve been meaning to get to for years (my personal favorites are the Museum of the City and the Cloisters, for what it’s worth). Even if you don’t live in a huge city, chances are there’s some attraction in your town or someplace nearby you’ve never actually checked out. For example, my hometown in suburban Atlanta used to be a big train hub, so now it has a little railroad museum.

3. Take a day trip with your best friend. Pick a nearby destination you’ve been wanting to check out, but simply haven’t yet. If you live near a body of water, even better. Even driving just an hour or two away feels like a much-need escape when you need to take a break. If you don’t own a car, consider renting one through a ride-share service like ZipCar (which will currently give you $25 of free driving just for signing up). Sharing the cost with a friend makes it that much more affordable, and gives you a little more room to splurge on a fun meal or car snacks on your day out.

4. Go get lost — literally. Heading to a different part of town and simply wandering around is one of my favorite ways to simply spend some time with myself. If you love walking, load up your phone with a podcast or audiobook, head to a part of town or nearby park you haven’t explored yet, and just start walking. Put your phone on airplane mode, even. Don’t worry about where you’re going — you’ll find your way home with your maps app when you’re ready.

5. Offer to pet sit/house sit for a friend while they are away. A truly wonderful thing about working with Chelsea is getting to see lil Mona on a regular basis. As someone who grew up with dogs, I miss being around them constantly, but I know it’s not the right time in my life to get one. If you have a friend with a pet who needs a pet sitter, offer to do it for free while staying in their house (if they’re cool with that idea, of course). I have several friends who prefer having someone stay overnight with their dog or cat, so that they aren’t starved for attention. As the pet/house sitter, it’s a great chance for you to get some time away from your usual surroundings, without really going anywhere.

6. Throw a themed potluck. The best parties, in my opinion, are always themed. Pick a far-away location and decide that’s going to be your theme. Have everyone bring a dish from the same region — you’ll learn a little bit about someplace new, and bonus: there are usually leftovers.

7. Start volunteering somewhere. Another great option for animal lovers is to hit up your local adoption center to see if they need help. There are plenty of other volunteer opportunities, too, many of which are quite under-staffed during the summer months. If you have some time on your hands, check out Volunteer Match to find an organization near you.

8. Do an intense deep clean and re-arrange an entire room. Summer is a great time to give yourself a project. Deep cleaning your home will make it all the more exciting to spend time in. If you have the space, try out a new furniture arrangement in your bedroom or living room; even just switching around the couch and chairs or swapping out a few prints for more summery images will make it feel fresh and new.

9. Indulge yourself in an evening of frothy magazines. One of the best parts of airplane travel is buying those women’s interest and celebrity gossip magazines that I never let myself get in my “real life.” Spend a night in and indulge yourself in some extremely light reading. Bonus points if you do so in a bubble bath, surrounded by candles.

10. Raid the freezer aisle. I’ll admit it: one of the best parts of a vacation is not having to cook. So don’t. Give yourself a break, load up on some fresh fruit and snacks and your favorite frozen meals from childhood, and let those sustain you for an entire weekend. This is one of the highest luxuries I can think of, and you’ll probably be more than ready to get back to your regular healthy cooking during the week.

11. Turn your apartment into a spa. That means make your bed super-neatly every morning, so you have a beautiful space to crawl into every night. Leave out an infuser to make your home smell great, always. Put sliced fruit and cucumbers in your water pitcher so that even staying hydrated feels like you’re pampering yourself.

12. Grow your brain. We don’t think of summer break as a time for learning, but with potentially some extra time on your hands, start learning something you’ve always wanted to. Take an online class to learn an illustration technique, or maybe start using Duolingo to improve your rusty high school Spanish. Spend a little time each day learning a little more — you’ll probably start to love it. And who knows — you may build a skill that can help you start a side hustle.

Holly is the Managing Editor of The Financial Diet. Follow her on Twitter here, or send her your ideas at holly@thefinancialdiet.com!

Image via Unsplash

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  • Tnt

    Lovely list! I would add taking a book and going somewhere nice, like a park. Enjoy a full day of reading, this will absolutely take you places without leaving your hometown 🙂 Pack yourself enough water and maybe some lovely snacks as well. I