Money + Fun Part II: Saving for a Staycation

About the Episode

Did you know that 65 percent of Americans actually get their staycation inspiration from family and friends? On this episode of Making it Count, we’ve got you covered with all sorts of tips and tricks for planning a great staycation, all while staying within budget. With the help of Lauren Holloway, a content creator and local travel expert, Cristina and Randy dive into all sorts of staycation inspiration all while staying budget-friendly!


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All About Staycation Inspiration


Randy asks Question 1: “So, Lauren, let's get some ground rules just by stating what types of vacations we're talking about. So what is a staycation? How would you help us define that?”

Lauren responds: “For me, a staycation is a destination that's no farther than an hour or two from home. So living in Orlando, that can mean anything here locally, right in Orlando, or venturing out to cities like Saint Pete, Daytona or Saint Augustine.”


Randy asks Question 2: “So in terms of their popularity, has anything happened recently? Like I know we just went through that pandemic. Has that caused an increase in people wanting to spend time closer to home?”

Lauren responds: “I would imagine so. I mean, I've personally noticed that when it comes to flying, flying just seems a lot more expensive than it was previously before the pandemic. I know when I've traveled, I went to Denver last year and I think the flights were like $600 bucks round trip. So that definitely adds up if you're not paying attention. So I think it's because of the fact that airfare is going up and staycations are just a lot easier overall to maintain and to plan. I think that's why people are doing more staycations over vacations.”


Cristina asks Question 3: “We just learned in my research that we mostly get our inspiration for staycations from family or friends. Lauren What are some of the best ways to discover staycation destinations? I mean, it sounds like family and friends are a great resource, but where else can we look to find inspiration?”

Lauren responds: “For me, I actually find a lot of my inspiration through social media. Aside from talking from family and friends, most of the unique spots I've found have been either through Instagram or TikTok — but I do find a lot of things, actually, by having those conversations too. On Instagram, I do have a folder. You know how you can save posts and you can name the different folders that is in for different categories. So I've literally have so many different folders for different cities In Florida. I have one for Tampa, I have one for Orlando, Saint Augustine, you name it, just with locations that I want to visit. Or, if it's a conversation I had with someone that I haven't found a video on, I just write it on my phone.”


Cristina asks Question 4: “When you're searching for stuff, Lauren on Instagram and TikTok, what hashtags do you like? How do you find stuff on your search?”

Lauren responds: “I think because I engage with a lot of the things to do. My algorithm for the explore and everything, just populates that type of content for me — so for me it helps with that. But I also follow the hashtags #StuffToDoOInOrlando, #ThingsToDoInOrlando, #ThingsToDoInFlorida, #VisitFloridam, because you can also save hashtags as well and follow them. Whenever someone posts something with that hashtag, it will suggest it to you when you're scrolling through.”


Randy asks Question 5: “Lauren, for anyone short of inspiration, what are some of the most popular types of staycations or activities that you've been a part of or have seen on Instagram?”

Lauren responds: “I'm a huge outdoor girl, especially, you know, I work a 9 to 5 where I'm inside all the time. I'm on the computer. So for me, I like getting outdoors and away from the computer screen. So I love anything outdoors, whether it's a spring, whether it's a state park, whether it's a trail. And then I also like museums because I just love learning new things all the time. And those are also the cheapest experiences you can do ‚— especially if you're on a budget. So trails and state parks, state parks are typically about $6 a car. And, you know, walking is free. So once you're in the park, you're not spending any additional funds. And museums don't typically cost more than $14 a person, It's typically less than ten, but it really varies by the museum. So if you're doing these experiences and you're on a strict budget, you can do these experiences to save some money and then you can spend your budget elsewhere — let's say on a meal or a dinner show or something along those lines." 

“So for example, one thing I recently did was I did a day trip to Daytona, so I went to the Museum of Arts and Sciences, which I didn't previously know existed — I only learned it was a thing like two-three weeks ago. I was pleasantly surprised by the exhibits that they had. So they have a new James Space Telescope exhibit that's going on, I think, until October 1st. So I specifically went there for that. But they had so many other exhibits there. They had a lot of vintage Coca-Cola merch. They talked about where their glass Coca-Cola bottle originated from, the inspirations for its shape and what it got its shape from. And it was only 12.95 a person. Then it also had a mastodon fossil that apparently was discovered in Daytona — which I had no clue that a fossil was ever discovered in Florida, or in Daytona at least. And then a free activity that I did a few months ago was the Apopka Wildlife Drive, which is open on weekends. You just drive through and you see so many species of birds. You see a bunch of gators in their natural habitat. And it was something that I really enjoyed. The only thing you're spending is, you know, the gas to go through. You're not actually spending any money.”

Saving on a Staycation


Cristina asks Question 1: “Lauren, once we get that destination or activity locked down, what are your tips for saving while you're doing your staycation?”

Lauren responds: “If I'm driving somewhere that's a couple of hours away, I always leave first thing in the morning, that way I can make the most of my day and fit in as many activities as possible. If I'm staying at an Airbnb with friends, we will all chip in on food and drinks and snacks and make some meals there. So that way we're not spending all of our funds on eating out because, quite frankly, eating out adds up very fast. So what we'll do is we'll research spots that we absolutely want to dine at. We'll pick 1 or 2 spots that we want to visit over the course of the weekend. I'll find a coffee shop because I'm a huge coffee drinker, especially if it's a unique spot. I'm definitely down to visit that and those typically aren't too pricey. And if you're traveling with friends and all carpooling together, everyone pitching in on gas can also help reduce costs as well. Then I’ll definitely take advantage of the free and low-cost attractions. And then I will sprinkle in 1 or 2 more things that are a little bit more expensive, just so I can get that experience in there. So I do a variation. I have the cheap or the free things, and then I have a couple of things where I'm spending a little bit more money. It really makes the whole experience.”


Randy asks Question 2: “Lauren, what about booking your staycation accommodations? Because you mentioned pulling together money for gas and pulling together money for snacks — what's your go-to strategy to save without accidentally booking somewhere less than savory?”

Lauren responds: “When I typically travel with friends, we'll book Airbnbs just because it fits more people and for the most part it ends up being more cost-effective. The most recent Airbnb I booked was in Tampa back in April and we were in a house and I think we had about eight girls with us and it was only $93 bucks per night per person. It was a completely renovated house — It was really cute. So it ended up being a really cost-effective option for us. But I also look at all the websites too. I look at Kayak Booking and Expedia, but in recent years, the best deals I've gotten have seemed to be from”

“In recent years it seems like has been like the good one. Wow. But look at everything. I also look at Google like I look at all of it and booking has just been what I've booked on recently. I do also have an AARP membership. I haven't used it yet."

Cristina and Randy respond: "Isn't AARP for how do I say this nicely, Christine? A more mature audience?"

Lauren responds: "So because that's what all their marketing is for, right? It's always geared toward older people. But I was actually influenced by a travel influencer on TikTok. I cannot remember his name for the life of me, but it was like a video that he posted like a year or two ago, and he was just basically talking about all the savings and everything and how you actually don't have to be in that more mature audience to have the membership. So the little-known fact is that they actually accept members as low as 18 years old!"

“And you can save 10% off major hotel brands with the membership, major restaurant brands. There's just so many benefits! You just have to go through the website — It's kind of overwhelming how many benefits there are. So it happens that the recent trips I've done, I've either stayed with family or I've been in Airbnbs, so I haven't had the chance to utilize it yet. But yeah, you can do an AARP membership. They have five-year terms, which is like the best cost-effective membership that they have and it's only $63 bucks for five years."


Cristina asks Question 3: “As I shared with you, one of my three folders in Instagram would be about Disney. I'm a Disney pass holder and our family loves Disney — actually, that's where we were this weekend for our staycation. So do you have any tips with the theme parks being right in our backyard about saving money and doing a staycation here with the theme parks?”

Lauren responds: “I think with the theme parks, especially if you're a Florida resident, I think taking advantage of those Florida resident discounts, I know right now they're having I think it's up to 30% off their resorts, the Disney resorts. But the most affordable and cost-effective resorts they have are their all-star resorts, which even though they're considered the cheaper hotels on Disney property, they're actually still really cute. All the rooms are themed and everything. They have decor around their property that's really cute and themed. So even though it's still on the more affordable side, I think they're just as good as the more expensive hotels."

“One of the big things with Disney and their food is a lot of people love Mickey Waffles, right? When you go and you get the Mickey Waffles, I think you get like two small waffles and it's like $15 bucks for the entree. They have that hotel, the Lake Buena Vista Hotel, I think it's called Boardwalk Inn. They have Mickey Waffle making machine. They have a large mold and a smaller mold which can make smaller Mickeys. And that buffet is 13.95 per adult or 7.95 for kids. So you can give your kids those waffles, but they can make their own and they can have all you can eat and you can still embody the whole Mickey Mouse Disney type thing."

“Or you can go in at Animal Kingdom Lodge. You can see the animals, the giraffes or the zebras or whatever. Animals are out grazing — for free,  instead of, you know, paying to go into Animal Kingdom. So there are a lot of things you could do on Disney property where you get, you know, a fun experience, but you're not actually paying to go into the parks.”

Making It Count Essentials


Randy asks Quick Question 1: “So do you prefer a go, go, go staycation adventure? Or a rest and recharge staycation? What's the vibe? What do you want to go for?”

Lauren responds: “I'm a go, go, go person because I have zero chills.”


Cristina asks Quick Question 2: “What would you say is your number one reason to take a staycation over a vacation?”

Lauren responds: “Staycation is just the easability, compared to having to fly, go to the airport, everything like that. All you have to worry about is spending money on gas. You don't have to worry about flights or anything like that. So with that, I feel like it's a lot easier to plan.”

Randy asks Quick Question 3: "Lauren, what's your go-to planning tip for any staycation prep?"

Lauren responds: "I definitely think coming home to a clean house is great. So that way, when you come home you're refreshed. But I also think, especially if you're doing solo travel, if you're doing a solo staycation, making sure that people are aware of where you're going, especially if you're doing a trail or something outdoors, prior to leaving, I think that's definitely great because you never know, you literally never know. You always want to be safe.”

“The other thing I would suggest to people, which I have been doing for years, is trying home exchanges, and that's where you mutually are staying in someone else's home and they are coming to yours and there's no exchange of money. So that can save a tremendous amount on lodging costs. I've done it for years, both in the States and abroad, and it's a great cultural immersion, too. You know, it's a very different experience than staying in a hotel. You're in someone's neighborhood. You're meeting their neighbors. You're shopping where they shop.”


Cristina asks Quick Question 4: “What is your favorite place to staycation in central Florida??”

Lauren responds: “A staycation I recently took was at the Wyndham I drive. I know a lot of people when they think of I-drive, they think, you know, it's a tourist trap, but it's actually grown so much over the past few years. I feel like I've gone there so many times just as a local, just with Icon Park and Point Orlando. So I really enjoyed Wyndham I-drive just because everything was walkable, all the activities that I did were walkable. I literally didn't drive my car the whole weekend that I was there.”


You can find me on Instagram, TikTok and Facebook at Sunshine and Keylime blog, and my website is


On this episode, Cristina and Randy shared a previous Making it Count episode called Money + Love Part IV: Navigating Finances with Friends. In this episode they’re joined by Richard Barbari from Addition Financial and Erin Papworth, the Founder and CEO of where they covered a whole spectrum of money topics as they relate to friendships – like how to navigate the dreaded bill-splitting conversation at the end of dinner or what to do if a friend asks to borrow money.

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