Budget Friendly Staycations in Arizona

Summer is prime vacation time, but not everyone has the cash to swing one. You don’t have to venture far from home to enjoy some much-needed R & R, though, and with a low-rate personal loan, you don’t have to break the bank to enjoy the summer. Take advantage of Arizona’s hot hangouts or cooler counties to escape the southern sizzle.

Ah, summer. It’s a time of sunshine, good vibes with friends, and Vitamin D coursing through our bodies, making us stronger and happier. Well…in theory. For many Arizonans it’s also the time where you step out your door to be immediately assaulted by the heat breathing its broiler breath in your face. Skip the mascara – even waterproof isn’t enough to stand up to the massive sweat beads rolling down your face. That’s not to say that there aren’t some upsides to the heat. Nearly 33% of homes in Phoenix, and most apartment complexes, have pools which is a great way to avoid turning to ash faster than a vamp being staked.

Stakecation? Sorry.

That’s a decent number of pools per capita, but it still leaves the majority of the Arizona population without easy access to lounge poolside for a cheap staycation. That majority is left to find other affordable ways to enjoy the summer months. With inflation going absolutely insane at 8.6%, the highest rate America has seen since 1981, Arizonans need other options to make summer a season to love.

Not to sound like a short-running, off-Broadway flop, that’s 14,785 days since we’ve seen numbers like that. When we combine that with the fact that inflation-adjusted hourly wages have fallen by 1.7% in the past year (Jan. 2021 – Jan. 2022), it’s not hard to see why people aren’t able to afford the vacations of their dreams and are instead opting for budget friendly staycations. Luckily, Arizona is incredibly diverse in its outdoor adventures, masterful culinary kitchens, and copious cultures. There really is something for everyone in this state, whether you’re the type that likes to motor around the lake or fall asleep beneath a blanket of stars to the soothing sounds of mountain lions sniffing around your tent.

Things to Do in (Or Near) Phoenix

For those sticking it out in the hotter parts of Arizona, the safest options are to stay inside or stay somewhere you can easily cool down, with plenty of access to water to avoid heat exhaustion.

Stay at a Local Resort

Okay, Arizona has a lot of resorts. Even just within the metro area, you'll find some of the best the state has to offer. Arizona Grand Resort, Spa Royal Palms Resort, Omni Scottsdale Resort, Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale, and far too many more to list. Check out TripAdvisor to compare resorts around the Valley and find the one that fits your budget while making you feel like you’re living the luxurious lifestyle.

Our Pick: Hilton Phoenix Tapatio Cliffs Resort

With beautiful views of the Phoenix North Mountain Preserve, this inclusive resort is centrally located in Phoenix. With seven pools, private cabanas, scenic waterfalls, a dreamy golf course, soothing spa, on-site restaurant, and more, this resort will make amenities your new favorite word for an affordable price. If your dates are flexible, you can find deals for just under $100/night in July and August!

Take in the Scenery

People who’ve lived in the hotter parts of Arizona for a while have essentially evolved to be lizard-people who know the best spots where they can enjoy the sun without perishing. Check out all of our Arizona State Parks to find the right adventure for you.

Our Pick: Lake Havasu

Lake Havasu has no shortage of fun. Swim, boat, kayak, fish, eat, cause chaos! There’s so much to do here that it’s great for a weekend getaway or a chill daytrip to dip your toes in the water and catch a tan. Park entrance fees range from $15 – $20 per vehicle, up to 4 adults.

Visit a Museum or Art Exhibit

Art and history go together like bread and butter. Art is a feast for the eyes, and learning about history enriches our mind. If a resort spa or hotel fees aren't your thing, we're also lucky to have The Arizona Science Center and an array of local museums that know immersion is the best way to really experience art and history. Check out Lonely Planet’s top 12 museums in Phoenix, the very Instagrammable Wonderspaces in Scottsdale or an immersive art exhibits tour like Artopia, Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience, or Immersive Monet & the Impressionists.

Our Pick: Phoenix Art Museum

Phoenix Art Museum offers so many different exhibits ranging in styles from Monet’s painting on canvas, Les Arceaux Flueris, Giverny, to Kusama’s infinity mirror room, You Who are Getting Obliterated in the Dancing Swarm of Fireflies.

Ticket prices depend on the day you go and the exhibits you want to visit, so check out their calendar and events to see what suits you. Need a free day out of the house? Look at visiting Wednesday from 3 – 7 PM or First Fridays from 3 – 9 PM. Admission is by voluntary donation, so technically free.

Things to do in Northern Arizona

Not a fan of heatstroke and the desert? To those outside the state lines who really only know it from the movies, Arizona is thought of as desert, desert, and more desert. Locals know, however, that there’s so much more to this state than meets the cinematically-influenced eye.

Watch the Stars Dance

Did you know? In 2001, Flagstaff was designated the world’s first Dark Sky Place for its leading efforts in preserving the night sky and reducing light pollution. Since then, many Arizona communities have joined the Dark Skies Movement, such as Sedona, Camp Verde, Cottonwood, and more. These aren’t the only places to get some great stargazing in, but they are just about the best.  

Our Pick: Wupatki National Monument Parking Lot

The unfortunate naming to include “Parking Lot” doesn’t cheapen the romanticism of the views. For $25 per vehicle, you can be dazzled by the bright lights above with nearly no light pollution and an open horizon.

Get Ghosted in Jerome

There are too many “haunted” places in Arizona to count, but a favorite for many is Jerome. Once a copper mining town, it lost its steam when the deposits dwindled and the mines closed down, and most of its residents taking off. Now it’s known for being a haunted attraction with some pretty cool scenery.

Our Pick: Jerome Ghost Tours

Walk through the Holy Family Church, Jerome’s 1st Hospital Grounds, United Verde Copper Company Smelter and Haskins House for $45 to take in all the creep factor you can handle. If you’re looking to spend some cash and get scared out of your wits, you can also stay at the Jerome Grand Hotel which brings out all the paranormal enthusiasts.

Go Off the Beaten Path

Arizona has a lot going on. From haunted hotels to dinosaurs to bat caves, there’s always something interesting and unusual to find here if you look hard enough. If you’re exploring the wilderness, whether in the heat of the south or the warm to cool temps of the north, make sure to pack extra water and food to be safe.

Need a little more?

Check out Atlas Obscura for 219 things to do in Arizona.

Even low-budget options are often more than we can afford up front. Apply for a low-rate personal loan with SunWest Credit Union, and explore Arizona on your timeline, on your terms.

December 1, 2023

Published by SunWest Credit Union

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