Quick, what comes to mind when you think of self-care?
Are you picturing yourself in a plush bathrobe, with a mask on your face and cucumber slices over your eyes? Or maybe you’re practicing yoga on the shores of a tranquil beach? Or watching the rain falling as you meditate?
While those images are beautiful and certainly encompass forms of self-care, true self-care is much simpler—and should be an ongoing practice.
“Self-care” is the phrase used to describe things you do intentionally that make you feel taken care of physically, mentally, and emotionally. It’s a way of nurturing and nourishing yourself.
And it doesn’t have to be expensive. Some of the most relaxing, even healing, self-care activities are highly affordable or free—hiking, meditating, and spending time in nature are all great examples.
Even taking a vacation for self-care can be surprisingly affordable, if you plan it properly.
Let’s take a look at the most effective, enjoyable self-care vacations and activities that will help you take care of your body, mind, and soul—while staying within your budget.
Affordable Self-Care Vacations
Making time for yourself isn’t a luxury, and you can—and should!—make it a priority. Ideally, we all practice some form of self-care regularly, even if it’s just for a few minutes.
But if you’re ready to take it a step further, you can go on a vacation focused on self-care. Whether it’s a self-care weekend retreat or a full week, self-care vacations are a wonderful way to relax, reset, and recharge.
Even better, you don’t have to go to an expensive spa or luxury resort.
Here are some of our favorite budget-friendly self-care vacation ideas, but feel free to come up with your own. There’s no right or wrong; it’s all about what feels best for you.
Ah, the sand, sun, and surf! Simply thinking about it feels good. But research shows “surf therapy” has actual health benefits, too. Time at the beach can lower your anxiety and relax your nervous system, reducing stress levels. It also lifts your mood and can help with feelings of depression.
Plus, walking or running on the beach is terrific exercise, as are swimming and other water sports. Alongside its physical benefits, exercise releases endorphins, “the mood hormone,” which improves your mental and emotional health.
On the other side of the landscape spectrum, a mountain getaway also makes for a wonderful self-care vacation. The gorgeous views will soothe your soul and the fresh air will cleanse your lungs.
Depending on the time of year, self-care mountain activities can include hiking, canoeing, skiing, and more. If you want to explore your creativity, the mountains are a great place to sketch or paint, especially if you go in the fall for the beautiful explosion of changing colors.
Or simply spend your time in nature reading, meditating, or listening to music—whatever leaves you feeling better.
For many people, a spa vacation is the ultimate self-care getaway. The quiet atmosphere and relaxing treatments will help your mind and body unwind from your daily stresses. And who doesn’t love being taken care of at a spa?
But spa treatments can also have lasting health benefits.
Take one of the most common spa treatments, massage. Most people know that a massage can release tension, soothe muscle pain, and help with relaxation. However, studies also show it can also lower your blood pressure, improve circulation, and even boost your immune system.
On top of that, spa treatments often incorporate essential oils and aromatherapy, both of which can help you on your self-care journey. Depending on your goal, the spa might recommend using an uplifting scent such as bergamot or neroli, or a relaxing scent such as lavender, clary sage, or ylang-ylang.
Your mind will feel as refreshed and rejuvenated as your body does.
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Say good-bye to travel expenses with this option! The most affordable vacation is a stay-cation, a vacation in your current city.
You don’t actually have to stay at home, although you can. Since you’ve eliminated the need for plane tickets and gas tank refills, you can put that money towards a local hotel and enjoy amenities such as a pool, gym, rooftop dining, etc.
Or, you can stay at home, preferably by yourself so you can focus on your self-care. Then, take some time to enjoy your favorite nourishing activities, visit your favorite places, or simply stay in and catch up on your reading.
If you want to play tourist, you can use a coupon site such as Groupon to help you save money on local happenings or attractions.
Vacation With Friends
Spending time with people who make you feel calm and happy can be a great way to recharge your spirit and practice some social self-care.
Research shows that time spent with friends can positively impact your mental health, increase your happiness, and decrease your stress levels. And an active social life can even boost your immune system.
You can combine your “friend-cation” with one of the activities above, or come up with something new. Even just exploring a new city can make for self-care, if you’re enjoying yourself and are surrounded by people who make you smile.
To make your vacation as stress-free and relaxing as possible, try to pick friends who enjoy the same places and activities you do. This will make planning much easier for all of you.
And remember, it’s perfectly fine to do your own thing, even when you’re with friends. If no one else wants to go for a walk, you can go by yourself.
Saving Money On a Self-Care Vacation
As you can see, amazing self-care vacations don’t need to be expensive. But what if you need to keep costs down even further?
Here are some ways to make your self-care getaway even more budget-friendly.
- Pick someplace close. This will make your plane tickets less expensive. It may even be possible for you to drive, rather than fly.
- Choose your city wisely. Big cities will be more expensive in just about every category: hotels, food, and activities. A smaller town might offer all the same amenities but at a more reasonable cost.
- Stay for fewer days. What if you really want a spa vacation, but a week is out of your budget? A self-care weekend getaway can be just what you need!
- “Piggyback” onto existing plans. Say you’re already traveling for a wedding, family reunion, work trip, or other event. If you can arrive a few days early or stay a few days later, you can focus your bonus days on self-care, while saving money on transportation.
- Share your vacation. Do you have friends who may want to join you? Sharing a hotel room can be one of the easiest ways to cut down on your costs.
- Get creative with your financing. Do you have other ways to pay for your trip? Airline miles and hotel points can help lower your spending.
Making the Most of Your Self-Care Vacation
Regardless of what you do, where you go, or who you travel with, there are things you can do to maximize the self-care aspects of your trip.
- Eat healthy, nourishing meals. Try to find local farm-to-table restaurants for fresh, organic, deliciously authentic foods that will keep your body fueled and happy.
- Enjoy plenty of natural light. Just stepping outside can help you relax and unwind. What you do is up to you. From a vigorous hike to laying in the grass and watching the clouds, your choices are endless. If you can’t get outside because of the weather or location, spend time by a window. The benefits of natural light include a vitamin D boost, better sleep, and an improved mood.
- Disconnect. A digital detox is a great form of self-care! While you may want to stay in touch with kids or family while you’re away, try to stay away from your screens as much as you can. And since you’re on vacation, avoid working, if possible.
- Get enough sleep. One of the purposes of a self-care vacation is to feel rested, and for that your body needs sleep. Most adults require 7-9 hours of sleep to feel their best, so aim for somewhere in that neighborhood. And don’t forget the joys of napping!
- Schedule downtime. If you book a self-care weekend retreat that keeps you busy with activities from sunrise to sundown, you may end up feeling less rested, even if those activities are intended to relax you. Having time to yourself, whether you nap, go for a walk, or just daydream, is more important than being on the go 24/7.
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Inexpensive Self-Care Ideas
While self-care vacations can be affordable, they aren’t an option for everyone. Maybe you can’t take the time off work, or don’t have anyone to watch your children.
Whatever your reason, if you can’t get away right now, you can still nurture and take care of yourself.
So even if all you have is a free afternoon to yourself, here are some quick and affordable ways to practice self-care:
- Cook or bake one of your favorite treats
- Create something: paint, draw, or write
- Curl up with a good book
- Dance to your favorite tunes
- Disconnect from technology for a few hours
- Go outside and enjoy Mother Nature
- Journal, perhaps in a gratitude journal
- Listen to your favorite music or podcast
- Practice yoga
- Take a bath, using bath salts, oils, or a bath bomb
- Take a nap
Pick one or two of these activities and enjoy your precious self-care time!
And remember, self-care looks different for everyone, but it should be something you enjoy. If cooking leaves you hot and frazzled, listen to a podcast instead. This is your time, so do what feels good to you.
It may be tempting to brush off self-care as being selfish or indulgent. After all, if you’re used to always doing things for others, it may feel odd or awkward to spend time and money on yourself.
But self-care isn’t a luxury. Prioritizing your physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing is a necessity.
And our self-care vacation ideas will give you plenty of opportunities to relax, live in the moment, and take care of yourself.
After enjoying some of the suggestions in this blog, we think you’ll return to your “real” life feeling energized and empowered!
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