Monthly Vacay Days: Fun Things to Do on a Day Off

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Stuck for things to do on a day off? Monthly vacation days are a wonderful habit to develop. Learn how to plan budget-friendly vacay days so you can enjoy your free time a little bit more.

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Bryan and I love to travel. I think it was a test of our relationship very early on. We met in the spring of 1992. That August I left for a year’s study in France. He came for six weeks at Christmas.

In retrospect, that visit could have been a total disaster. I never really thought about that before, but what if we hadn’t still liked each other so early in the relationship and so far apart?

As God would have it, we not only still liked each other when he got there and when he left six weeks later after an epic French road trip, but we were also convinced we’d be spending life together, too.

Here’s the mileage we covered back in 1992 in an itty-bitty Renault he leased for the six weeks. We covered a similar route in 2014 when we took all six kids to France.:

map of france marked with a road trip path through the west and south.

That’s a lot of road-tripping, hangriness, and “travel tongue,” the language you speak when you get snippy with each other while traveling. We lived to tell the tale, and still love traveling together, 30+ years later. 

But, the kind of travel we like, overseas and paid in cash, takes a while to save and plan for. Add in a worldwide pandemic, and our passports were longing for use.

A few years ago, we found a lovely alternative while we waited for the pandemonium to subside and the funds to accrue in the travel bucket: vacay days.

Vacay days are the days we purposely take off from work. We love finding things to do on a day off together that are like being on vacation, but cheaper and we get to sleep in our own bed at night.

Why Plan Fun Things to Do on a Day Off

It’s a great way to reconnect with your spouse. We’ve raised six kids and faced all kinds of challenges together. To have an entire day free to ourselves in the thick of it would have been one of the best things we could have done for our mental health. We didn’t see that at the time, but the perfect time to start is now if you don’t already have a way to reconnect on a regular basis.

It helps you make good use of free time. Whether you have PTO to burn or simply have light work days, making a plan to use it for quality time will help make it happen. We’ve found scheduling a day every month the best way to make it happen.

It’s a great chance to relax. When there’s no agenda but doing what you want in the moment, you have a better chance to relax.

It’s a great time to do new things. While we typically plan to have few plans on vacay days and just wander till we find something interesting, some people might feel better with a loose to-do list. This post will help you do either or both!

bryan and jessica with baseball hats in front of the sunset.

Our Monthly Vacay Days

At first, we took vacay days for our birthdays in January and May as well as our anniversary (also in May), but during the pandemic years, we moved them to be more regular and on a monthly basis.

Obviously, not during lockdown proper, but once things opened up enough, we started taking one day off a month to play tourists. To take a vacation day. To do whatever we wanted. Together. There are so many fun things to do on a day off, you’ll probably never run out of ideas.

I’m not sure how many times we’ve done it, but it’s still just as fun to have a full day off with my other half as it was the first time we did “a day date”.

Probably more so now because we know we’ll get to do it again in another month. That way we don’t worry about doing all the things in one day. We just make a note to do it some time in the future.

a road between trees in san diego county.

We live in north San Diego County, so our outings have largely been concentrated within SD and Orange Counties. Some things we’ve done include:

Since we bought a used Miata a year and a half ago, vacay days have taken a different feel. It’s amazing how a convertible can change your experience! It feels like we’re a part of the streets that we drive along, more like a pedestrian despite our elevated speed, than a car. We have discovered more quaint nooks and crannies that we might not otherwise have noticed.

Unsolicited Advice

I highly recommend that you plan vacay days as time and budget allow. We’ve been doing them monthly for the past two years and it’s been chock full of great memories.

I hope you know that vacay days can be a couple thing or not. You know what YOU need most to rest, relax, and reboot your system. This is simply one practice that we enjoy and that grows our marriage. 

While vacay days can be a spontaneous thing, planning for them makes them more likely to happen. That’s when a system plays a great part. 

table at a shopping mall with cups of coffee and scones.

How to Plan Your Vacay Days

It’s easy, but takes intention to plan things to do on a day off:

  1. Block out the days in advance. Bryan and I share a Google calendar where I add the dates at the beginning of the year. There are some months that are full of family activities so it takes a little maneuvering to make sure our vacay day or “date day” happens. We tend to target the last Friday of each month but wiggle things around as needed so that we can have a whole day off.
  2. Go alone if you can. I know finding a babysitter can be hard, especially when the budget is tight. However, there really is good fruit that comes from you and your partner spending time alone together without the kids. If you’re a single parent, please adapt these suggestions for yourself to have some alone time or with a friend so you can take care of you and not be on call with the kids when you’re not at work.
  3. Avoid weekends and holidays. Learned this the hard way, ahem. Of course, if you don’t live in a destination location like San Diego, it might not be as big of a deal. Since we hate crowds, it is to us, so we make sure to take our vacay day mid-week.
  4. Pack like it’s a family outing. Once your kids are bigger, you start to relax your hard-core packing routine. Don’t do this on a day trip for yourself and your partner. Packing well does make the fun activities more fun and relaxing. I now have a backpack full of essentials that stays packed with shelf-stable snacks (Rx Bars and Parm Crisps), sunscreen, bug spray, and a change of clothes. We both pack our water bottles and have also started packing a small cooler with ice packs so that we can buy cold drinks and snacks or bring home leftovers. (We learned this packing routine over many occasions of trekking back to the house for something we realized we might want.)
  5. Set a budget. At first, we set a budget of like $100, allowing us to really “do” the tourist thing. We might have spent the full amount the first few times, but the longer we do this, the less it costs. We find free or cheap things to do and by packing snacks and spending stars or gift cards, we usually keep our vacation days to $40 or less. That amounts to pastries and coffee in the morning and tacos or kebabs at lunch. If you’ve got young kids at home, the budget may be for a babysitter. Or depending on your type of work, budgeting may include accruing actual “vacation days” or CTO. Bryan does a really good job with building up his bank of CTO for fun days.
  6. Set some ground rules. We both try to keep off social media and reduce cell phone usage and screen time on vacay days. Pretend you’re on vacation! We might take the one-off phone call, but we reserve the day for spending time together.
  7. Find your groove — together. In the beginning, I thought we’d treat the day like I treat Disneyland: sun-up to sun-down. But over time I have realized that we aren’t both wired that way. Fish likes to avoid the afternoon rush hour which makes sense; he drives in traffic every other day. So, we’re usually home by mid- to late afternoon on vacay days. That doesn’t mean we go back to business as usual just yet. We hang out with the kids who are home and make a fun, easy dinner or let everyone fend for themselves.
bryan and jessica at cabrillo national monument.

Budget Things to Do on a Day Off

Here are some things you might want to do on your next vacay day:

  • Play a game! Scan your card games and board games to find one that you haven’t played in awhile. Video games are always a fun option, provided you understand each others’ gaming temperaments.
  • Practice new skills or a new hobby. Bryan loves videography, so he often brings his camera to film our outings. I might test a new recipe and pack it for a picnic. We’re each doing what we want, but also sharing the time together.
  • Read a good book. There’s no reason you can’t sit at the beach or local park together each with your own proper book. Getting said books from the local library will keep it frugal.
  • Explore a local museum or art gallery. Check to find out their free days or discounted events so you can save money.
  • Take a long walk. We both are intent on getting our steps each day, so walking is a given, full of fresh air and hopefully sunshine, too. It’s good for your physical health and builds good habits together.
  • Explore your own town as a tourist. This might be harder if you don’t live in a tourist destination, but with a little creativity and googling, you can figure out things to do. If your hometown has you coming up empty, visit a nearby town that might have more to do, even if it’s a new restaurant you haven’t tried.
array of tacos from city tacos in paper trays on a wood table.
City Tacos are amazingly good!

More Day Trip Tips

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