By Ellen Margulies

“The Hulk” twisted and turned above us, soaring into a blue dusky sky. The tracks were as green as my face would have been had my significant other insisted I ride the coaster with him. But he’d learned his lesson early into our visit to Universal Studios theme park when he took me on the Spiderman ride.

For that experience — 3D? Enhanced reality? — well, it was a little too much reality for me. Regardless, we had a blast while he went on thrill rides with teenagers and I geeked out over the amazing Harry Potter worlds built inside the parks.

All told, we spent nearly $2,000 on our little vacation, by the time we tallied up plane tickets, hotels, meals and assorted expenses. Good times, great memories, yes — but honestly, I am just as happy when we stay at my Nashville home. There’s a lot of lolling around and watching TV shows — his choices are all horrible, by the way — but there’s just as much laughing and bonding as we cook meals together (he’s really great at this) or tackle home repairs (I sometimes have to call a real repairman after the fact).

So when it comes to a vacation vs. a staycation, which should you choose?


The former can make a definite dent in your pocketbook, no matter how careful you are. Theme parks like Disney and Universal are really great about letting cost-cutters take advantage: They give you free cups of ice, so you can bring your own drinks. They let you bring in your own snacks (although I couldn’t resist a Butterbeer in Diagon Alley, and my S.O. couldn’t resist a real beer in between roller coasters). But even with that, and coupons, and great hotel and rental car deals from the internet, you’re looking at several thousand dollars when you start adding in kids and the like.

A staycation, on the other hand, can be a fun way to justify spending money on local haunts that you’d normally shy away from. Eating out at pricey restaurants, going to concerts and visiting some of the touristy spots will still cost you significantly less than some show on the road. And for the truly broke, which I frequently am, a staycation can be as relaxing as it is humble.

How often, for instance, do you get to relax on your own front porch on a Tuesday afternoon? When are you ever going to get the chance to finally, finally, finally organize all your photos? You could even hire a cleaning service at the beginning of the week to do a deep clean and enjoy your sparkling-clean home as much as a four-star hotel room.

Destination vacations are awesome, and I highly recommend them. Particularly if you have the means. But being a homebody has its perks, too. Personally, I vote for a combination of both, as often as possible.

We found out a week after we left Orlando, by the way, that a dozen or so people had to be rescued from “The Hulk” after the ride malfunctioned and got stuck mid-way through. Luckily, no one was hurt — but I felt pretty validated about my decision to skip the ride.