Need a vacation but can’t afford it? Check out these ‘staycation’ ideas

Musicians' Assistance Program

Volume CX, No. 7/8July, 2010

Cindy Green, LCSW

Summertime and the living is…well, maybe not so easy. Times are still tough and planning a low-budget summer vacation can be a real challenge.

Finding time to relax and recharge is important but how do you plan time off without feeling like you’re digging into a hole of debt? Consider a stay at home vacation – a staycation!

There are countless affordable activities and events to take advantage of in and around New York City and summer is the perfect time to explore, slow down and let go of some stress.

Pack your towel, sunscreen and beach book and hop a train to one of the beautiful nearby beaches with easy-to-plan day trips.

Taking the train is relaxing and allows you to avoid all the traffic.

Try heading west to the popular Jersey Shore on New Jersey Transit.

For just $15, you can take the train to Manasquan Station where you will find beautiful beaches and outdoor cafés.

The Long Island Railroad can get you to Jones Beach for about $10.

The beaches are beautiful. And after the sun sets, stick around for some great Jones Beach concert. This year’s roster features some great classic bands including Rush, Chicago and Sting.

For the spiritually minded, consider going to the beach on an overcast day – it’s less crowded and a quiet beach is the perfect place for some meditation.

Museums are great for a stay-at-home vacation and New York City has lots of them.

If you’re like most New Yorkers, you probably talk about going to a museum but never walk through the door.

The summer is the perfect time to break that habit and explore what’s right in your backyard.

Check out the dinosaurs at the Museum of Natural History.

The admission is a suggested donation of $15, but here’s an open secret: you can gain admission by donating whatever contribution you can afford.

The same is true for the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Keep in mind that some of the lesser-known museums all offer free admission – like the Forbes Magazine Galleries, the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, or the National Museum of the American Indian.

(For a true staycation attitude, during any museum visit, try to slow your pace and consciously take some extra time to really observe each work of art or exhibition.)

Other NYC attractions offer free admission one day per week, like the Brooklyn Botanical Garden and the Bronx Zoo.

The Internet is an amazing resource for all kinds of free or low cost activities around the city.

Two good sites are and

This latter offers a great list of free entertainment throughout Manhattan and, for a small fee, you can be a member, which entitles you to discounts and access to concerts and performances and other exclusive events.

A sampling of events for the weekend of July 10 includes free walking tours, kayaking on the Hudson, a Music Memorabilia show and Shakespeare in the Park.

Also, is a site designed to help you stay inspired and active during the recession.

It features free and extremely low-cost events in categories that include museums, lessons/classes, food/drink and even services.

Both of these sites also offer relaxation events like yoga and meditation.

Some other ways to enjoy your staycation include:

  • Buy a New York City guidebook, mark the sights you’ve never seen and be a tourist
  • Eat in restaurants you’ve always wanted to try.
  • Explore new neighborhoods
  • Cook food in your own kitchen – a gourmet meal perhaps – and then dine by candlelight
  • Rent all the films in your queue on Netflix
  • Find a public space to cool off.
  • Bring a book or magazine or just spend some time people watching
  • Get in touch with friends you never see anymore and arrange a reunion
  • Read those classic novels that you’ve been putting off since college
  • Leave your bed unmade and the mail unopened for a few days

Finally, if you need help managing your stress or if it’s not just your vacation budget that needs adjusting, please contact the MAP office.

We can help you look at your income and expenses and help you make the changes and plans to suit your needs.

Call (212) 397-4802 or e-mail

P.S. For those days when you find yourself at home, staying cool is essential. If you’re over 60, you can qualify for assistance in getting an air conditioner through the NYC Department of Aging. Call my office for the info.

The office of the Musicians’ Assistance Program is your one-stop shop for musicians’ health. We offer counseling – both one-on-one and in groups – as well as information on all kinds of social services, including health insurance, food stamps and more. All services are free to Local 802 members. Contact us at (212) 245-4802, ext. 180 or