Yes, You Need a Momcation: Here’s How to Do It on the Cheap

Forget your domestic duties for awhile.

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Last spring, I flew to Maine to visit a friend for a long weekend. It was the first time I’d been away from my two kids, then 5 and 2, for more than a day. I felt guilty about spending money on myself for travel, and I worried about leaving my husband and kids to fend for themselves (my husband is very capable, it should be noted, but I’m a mom, so I worry).

In the end everything was fine, of course. I got to catch up with an old friend, but I was also able to read for hours uninterrupted, peruse used bookstores and explore coastal cities. And don’t even get me started on all of the amazing sleep I was able to pack into the weekend.

So when this New York Times article introduced me to the concept of Momcations, my immediate reaction was YASSSSSSS. But not for the thousands of dollars the vacation packages listed in the article cost.

The mom friends in my life are teachers, nurses, administrative assistants and freelancers. And we’re spending much of our paychecks on childcare and other necessities. We need to get away now more than ever, but we need to do it on the cheap.

If this sounds familiar to you, we’ve got you covered. Grab your mom friends and take a look at these ideas to plan your own affordable Momcation.

The Mom Staycation

Let’s start simple. Arrange for someone to have their house free for the weekend. This could be a friend with a joint custody arrangement or someone whose husband can take the kids to visit his parents. Now that you’ve saved on lodging, you can splurge on other things.

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  • Car Service: I live in the Philly suburbs, so a great Mom staycation experience for me would involve a night out in the city without worrying about parking (or a designated driver). New Uber or Lyft accounts are eligible to save $5 off their first few rides with coupon codes found here: Uber or Lyft. From my house, a regular fare to Center City is about $20 to $25 plus tip. So a round trip ride with $10 off (the codes are good for $5 off your first three rides) would be about $30 to $40 plus tip. Split that three or four ways, and it’s very inexpensive.
  • Dining Out: When you’re out without your kids, you definitely want to go to a kid-unfriendly restaurant. For me, that might look like a Momcation planned during Philly’s bi-annual Restaurant Week (most cities have an equivalent), where you can get a three-course meal at a nice restaurant for $20 to $35, plus tip. You could also look for discounted gift cards for your favorite upscale chain restaurant to save a few bucks. To avoid overspending on alcohol, I’d do a little pre-gaming before we leave with a box of Franzia Merlot, which retails for $16.99 plus tax. After all, one purpose of the Momcation is to recapture your lost youth, and nothing quite says “young and carefree” like this classic twenty-something house party wine.
  • Entertainment: When you have a date night with a sitter, there’s always a sense of the meter running, so multi-part dates are rare. But on Momcation, you’re not paying anyone. That means you can go out without worrying about being “on” when your toddler wakes you at 6 a.m. the morning after. Therefore, I’d expand the evening with a deal from the Slickdeals Entertainment Deals page (think movie tickets or a coupon for the concession stand). I might also use this opportunity to try something I’ve never done before, like go to a comedy club. Domestic routines can suck the novelty out of life, so this is your chance to activate the parts of the brain that crave novel experience. For example, on Groupon’s Things to Do page for Philly, my mom friends and I could take a wine and cheese pairing class for $22 each, take in an Incubus (talk about throwing it back to the ’90s) concert for $25 each, or rent a two-hour private karaoke room for $59.
  • Pampering: End the night with a little self-care, a la the cheap single-use face masks you can buy at your local drugstore and a mani-pedi with the Wet ‘n Wild nail polish we all knew and loved, and that miraculously still only costs a dollar.

Total Cost: Less than $100 per person.

The Momcation Overnight

Staycations are fun, but sometimes you want to get further away from your life and stay in a space that someone else is responsible for. This, of course, means a higher price tag, but there are still plenty of ways to keep the price of lodging and transportation within budget.

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  • Split an Airbnb. This is an affordable way to get a bigger space, especially in a city where decent hotels don’t come cheap. Airbnbs are also great if you really just want to laze around and bond with your friends. If you opt to stay in, you can often get $10 off your first GrubHub order and other food delivery services for opening a new account. Login to someone’s Netflix or Amazon Prime video account, and you’re all set for a relaxing night in. Sometimes, laziness is the greatest indulgence a mom could ask for.
  • Hotels: There are a variety of travel booking sites where you can find a last-minute deal on a hotel room. Compare prices from sites like Expedia, Priceline and Hotels.com, as each may offer exclusive deals depending on the hotel. Increasingly, however, some hotels promise to give the best rate if you book on their own site. I would always call first to see if they will beat the travel booking site price over the phone.
  • Train, plane or automobile: Call me sentimental, but I love a long train ride. If I were planning a Momcation overnight right now, I’d take advantage of this Amtrak BOGO to go to NYC with my best mom friends. Looking for somewhere a little sunnier? Flight deals to beach towns in Florida can be easy to find, depending on where you live. Be sure to check our Travel Deals page for the latest offers. And if trains or planes are just not in the budget, look into exploring your own backyard. There are likely plenty of underrated and affordable destinations within driving distance that are worth checking out.
  • Groupon Getaways: Consider taking advantage of one the thousands of Groupon Getaway options to find a destination that works for you and your mom pals. This Groupon deal on a resort near Orlando caught my eye.  If you can split the room and daily resort fee four ways, and find a cheap flight, you’ve got yourself an affordable Momcation in Florida.

Start Planning Your Momcation Today

Text your best mom friends, set a budget everyone can afford, and set up a travel Deal Alert so you don’t miss a great opportunity to get away.

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Elizabeth Spencer

Elizabeth Helen Spencer is a personal finance and travel writer based in the Philadelphia area. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing and still nurses a secret fiction writing habit on the side. When not writing for work or pleasure, she loves to sweat it out in a hot yoga class and find new books to read. Elizabeth lives with her husband and two children and has reached the conclusion that "having it all" is a myth.

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