Johnny Cash once covered an old song called “I’ve Been Everywhere” about a traveler who asked him “if he’d ever seen such a road”, to which he replied with all of the countries, states, and cities he’d visited — about 90 total by my count. I definitely don’t recall everywhere he “went”, but I do remember, “Pasadena, Catalina, see what I mean-a!”
This time of year feels made for going everywhere. But, with the current inflation, giving into that wanderlust can be daunting. According to Forbes, the average cost for a three-day, traditional vacation in 2023 costs over $3,600 for a family of four. That only includes round-trip flights, a mid-range hotel, car rental and restaurant meals, and could scale up or down depending on the destination and activities you plan. That is a real burden for many families today, when the cost of living is also incredibly high.
The good news for us Utahns is that with all the spectacular things to see and do right here in Utah, we could easily create our own version of the song, something like:
We have Canyonlands, Arches, the Great Salt Lake, Bryce Canyon,
Alpine Loop, Capitol Reef, Goblin Valley, the cliffs at Zion,
Thanksgiving Point, Spiral Jetty, Newspaper Rock, Logan,
Park City, Bears Ears, Dinosaurs, Snow Canyon,
Salt Flats, Timpanogos Cave, Snowbird, 25th Street in Ogden
Hale Centre Theatre, Antelope Island, Hogle Zoo, Cedar Breaks — not to mention the lakes …
Well, it doesn’t flow as beautifully as the original, but, again, as Cash sang, “You see what I mean-a!” You can just pick a direction, go, and find something incredible within a day’s drive. This makes Utah the perfect place for locals to have a fun getaway.
If rising prices have affected your summer plans, I have some tips on how to plan an adventure without breaking the bank. Plus, I’ll share a list of my favorite Utah spots to visit.
Steps to Planning a Budget-Friendly Staycation
1. Examine your finances and plan around your current budget.
Let your current finances and financial goals guide the getaway that’s best for you.
Look at your checking and savings accounts closely — your balances, debts, spending activity and trends. Viewing your full financial picture will help you determine what you can realistically put toward your staycation. A good place to do this is in online banking. The digital tools you’ll find there can help you better examine your finances and make responsible plans.
For example, if you're working on paying off significant debt, you might choose to stay home and fill your days with free or low-cost activities, such as hiking, exploring or visiting a local museum — there are endless possibilities for those in Utah!
Or, maybe you notice a trend in your spending during the summer months — that June, July and August are typically a little more expensive for you, for any number of reasons. So, maybe you simply book a $30 dollar campsite an hour or so away, just for a short adventure. Remember, you don’t have to go far in Utah to find fun!
Or, maybe your budget allows for a little more, so you travel a little further across the state, maybe to one of Utah’s “Mighty 5” national parks.
Again, work within your current budget, and be sure you don’t use money you’ve earmarked for other financial goals.
2. Flesh it out and look for ways to save.
A true staycation should require as much research as a traditional vacation, to make it exciting for you and your family and to stay on track financially. This goes for any type of getaway, whether you’re planning on hitting the trails or other activities close to home, or traveling more of a distance.
If you’re going on a day hike, for example, plan which day you’ll go. If you’re heading out on a popular trail, pick a weekday over a weekend so it won’t be as crowded. Be sure to bring snacks or a picnic lunch from home, so you won’t be tempted to spend money eating out afterward.
Or, if you decide to go to a movie, research the showings. Many theaters offer discounted weekday morning showings or matinees.
Or, if you’re traveling elsewhere in Utah and need lodging, search for discounted hotel rates midweek, rent an RV or try renting a vacation home. Those sometimes offer more amenities and cost less per person. Some even come with a kitchen, which can save you the cost of eating out every day.
Again, plan ahead to make it special. You don’t have to structure your days down to the minute, but if you don’t plan something to do, you might resort to doing chores!
3. Take advantage of being a local!
As Utahns, we have so many options. You probably already know about the big, popular places to go — the five national parks, of course! — but what about the smaller ones. They can be less expensive and just as stunning and fun.
For example, the Beehive State boasts over 40 state parks, offering a variety of landscapes and activities, from swimming and boating, to hiking and mountain biking, to tent, trailer and cabin camping. With so many choices, you’re bound to have one close to you. Day use passes typically cost around $15 per vehicle at state parks, making them very affordable for families.
Or, if you enjoy history, science and art, museums and art centers abound. Some are free to explore or offer discounts at certain times and days of the week. Googling “free Utah museums” is a great way to start, but be sure to call the venue you choose ahead of time, just to be sure they’re open and the discount is still available.
Or, check out your local city’s website. Often during the summer, cities host free or inexpensive concerts and other events that can make for perfect staycation activities. Heber, for example, has free “Market on Main” concerts weekly through mid-August, and Layton has both free and ticketed concerts, as well as a free film series in the summer. The fair and rodeo circuit will be coming up soon, too, so be sure to look for those dates. You can check with the tourism office for more happenings in your area.
Again, have fun with it, and enjoy everything Utah has to offer — even on a budget!
5 of My Favorite Utah Adventures to Consider
Utah is so beautiful that it can make it hard to decide where to go. That’s why it’s always fun to get recommendations from others. I am an outdoor enthusiast, and am happy to share a few of my favorite spots.
1. Any of the parks (national and state!)
Each park is incredible, but I particularly love the Windows section of Arches and the Kolob Canyons area of Zion. My husband and I enjoy hiking and rappelling there.
2. Grandstaff Canyon Trail to Morning Glory Arch
Located east of Moab, this hike has amazing views. If you’re lucky, you can watch people enjoying 100-foot free hang rappels over the arch.
3. Kanarraville Falls
Also in Southern Utah, east of the town of Kanarraville, this slot canyon is perfect for people who love waterfalls. It’s a moderately challenging route, but well worth it. Keep in mind, permits are now required for this hike, so plan accordingly!
4. Donut Falls
Close to Salt Lake City, this trail also has a stunning waterfall and is fairly easy for all ages. It’s a great summer trail to beat the heat! The trailhead is located about nine miles up Big Cottonwood Canyon. Go early to beat the crowds.
5. Adam’s Canyon
Located near Layton, this trail is shaded (once you get past the switchbacks), and it follows a creek that ends in a 40-foot waterfall. Again, go early to get through the switchbacks while it’s cooler!
A Final Thought
Traveling in Utah doesn’t have to be expensive, and there truly is something for everyone (be sure to check out our annual photo contest to see what I mean). Set your budget, try the money-saving tips I mentioned and keep saving for future travel. And, don’t forget to keep track of all the places you go — you might come up with even more than Johnny Cash.
If you need an account to help toward your goal, Bank of Utah offers the “I Save”, which gives you our best savings rate on all its tiers, so the more you save, the more you earn.
Laura Mitchell is branch manager at Bank of Utah’s Salt Lake City-Redwood Road branch. Originally from the East Coast, she moved to Utah to attend Utah State University, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in 2000. Mitchell enjoys hiking, rappelling and scuba diving.