Frugal Vacations: 5 Ways to Take Your Staycation Up a Notch

Erin OsterhausMarch 24, 2023


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Just because you’re on a budget doesn’t mean that your next vacation can’t be an amazing break from the everyday. If finances—or a lack of generous PTO—are preventing you from jetting off to the other side of the world to find adventure or complete relaxation, now might be a great time to consider a staycation. And if you’re local to the Austin area there’s good news: there are some amazing staycation options in the central Texas area.

With a little planning, staycations in and around Austin can be as enjoyable and relaxing as pricier vacations—without the stress of travel and navigating unfamiliar territory. And with a break from your normal routine, you may just find a new perspective on life and where you call home!

Here are a few of our best staycation tips so that you can take full advantage of your next respite from work and everyday worries.

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1. Enjoy the Great Outdoors

If you time it right, the weather in the Austin area can be very welcoming to outdoor explorers. If you plan your staycation during the spring or fall months, a day trip to a nearby state or national park can be filled with scenic views and some challenging hikes. On the other hand, if relaxing near water is your thing, a visit to a local watering hole in the summer months might be just what you needed to reduce those stress levels. Here are a few of the most popular staycation destinations in the Austin area.

For Outdoor Explorers

  • McKinney Falls State Park: Located within Austin city limits, this state park is like Austin’s backyard. The park offers a variety of activities, including camping, hiking, mountain or road biking, geocaching, bouldering, and the opportunity for a casual picnic. The park also offers a few swimming holes, and areas where you can fish.
  • Enchanted Rock: Home to a massive pink granite dome that rises impressively into the central Texas skyline, the Enchanted Rock State Natural Area is about a two-hour drive from Austin. The park is a wonderful staycation destination for lovers of the outdoors, with opportunities to hike, backpack, camp, rock climb, picnic, bird, study nature, geocache, and stargaze.
  • Lost Pines: If you’re after an adrenaline rush, Zip Lost Pines is perfect for adventurers who want to stay local. Located about 25 miles east of downtown Austin, the park is home to six zip lines that are sure to shake up your daily routine.
  • Spider Mountain: Mountain biking your thing? You’re in luck. The Spider Mountain Bike Park opened in Burnet in 2019, offering 10 different downhill bike trails that are only about an hour’s drive from Austin. The park also offers accommodations for overnight stays, or you can camp if you prefer.

For Lakeside Adventurers

  • Barton Springs: An iconic Austin destination, Barton Springs Pool is the perfect staycation destination for the summer months. With water that stays at a constant 68-70 degrees Fahrenheit, you’ll definitely feel refreshed after taking a dip.
  • Hamilton Pool: The Hamilton Pool Preserve is a great place for a day trip. Located west of Austin in Dripping Springs, the gorgeous emerald green water of the pool flows into a stunning grotto via a waterfall. Go swimming, take a hike, and relax in one of Central Texas’ hidden gems.
  • Town Lake: Town Lake, also known as Lady Bird Lake, is a stone’s throw from downtown Austin. You can enjoy standup paddle boarding or canoe on the waters of the Colorado River or explore the ten-mile trail that surrounds this scenic reservoir in the heart of the city.

2. Book a Spa Day

There are plenty of active staycation options in the Austin area, but if you prefer pampering to physical activity, Austin also has plenty of options for a spa day. A few of the most popular include Milk + Honey Spa and Viva Day Spa in Austin itself, while the Lakeway Resort and Spa is a great option if you want to completely get away from the city and feel like you’re far away.

3. Absorb Some Culture

Prefer to explore new ideas in your free time? Austin is home to multiple museums that are sure to expand your mind without emptying your wallet. The Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas features rotating exhibitions on the arts and humanities—and is completely free. If you love art, the Elisabet Ney MuseumBlanton Museum of Art, or The Contemporary Austin are great options. Meanwhile, the LBJ Presidential LibraryBullock Texas State History Museum, and the Texas Military Forces Museum offer insight into historical and military events.

4. Get an Adrenaline Rush

If you have kids or are a kid at heart, there are several amusement parks where you can have a great time within driving distance of Austin. Spend the day at the Typhoon Texas Waterpark in Pflugerville, Kalahari Resorts in Round Rock, or take a drive to New Braunfels to enjoy Schlitterbahn—a Texas favorite. In San Antonio you can enjoy rollercoasters at Six Flags Fiesta Texas, or learn about marine life at SeaWorld San Antonio.

5. Vacation at Home

Finally, if you’re really on a budget, you can simply enjoy a vacation at your very own home. Disconnect from your daily routine by putting your phone away completely for the duration of your staycation and commit to doing no chores. To make your home feel more festive, you can play vacation music, fill pitchers with water and cut fruit for a spa-like atmosphere, and lounge in your robe while reading a light-hearted vacation book. For some extra luxury, order in your favorite treats and simply allow yourself to relax. No matter what you do, take time to make specific plans, even if that just means sleeping in every day, sitting around watching movies, or reading through an entire book series. The point is to make conscious, personalized decisions about how you’ll spend your time, so the staycation feels special.

Relax and Refresh

As you can see, there are plenty of ways to enjoy time away from the daily grind without breaking the bank. Staycations are all about stepping back to refresh yourself, which you can easily achieve on a budget without leaving central Texas.

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Erin Osterhaus

Erin is a personal finance writer based in Austin, Texas. Her work has been featured on TechRepublic, Yahoo Small Business, and She’s been passionate about helping others manage their money since she successfully paid off $60,000 in student loans in four years. When she’s not writing, Erin loves reading, studying languages, and spending time with her family.