I have a confession to make: the word “staycation” annoys me. In fact, I think it’s fair to say that I hate the term with the fiery, burning passion of one thousand suns. I’ve even been known to recoil a bit when I read it in travel publications or hear it mentioned on a television program. Frankly, the entire concept is just plain wrong.
Hear me out. I do understand that the economy is in bad shape and that we’re all trying to save pennies wherever and whenever we can. I understand that our busy, hectic lives mean that everyone in the family needs a break. But staying at home for a few days, probably parked in front of the television and eating prepackaged food is not the answer. When you think about it, that kind of set-up isn’t all that different from your average weekend. Even when times are tight, you can do better.
So forget the staycation. Travel local instead.
What do I mean by travel local? Well, exactly that. Get out and play tourist in your own town. Check out sites and attractions nearby—saving money on airfare and hotel costs. You may be shocked to discover just how much fun you can have.
What’s New in Town?
Visit your town (or nearest city’s) website. There may new attractions or restaurants for you to check out. Maybe there was a cool change to an old favorite. And, often, there are coupons or other deals for you to use, too! Here’s your chance to finally get around to all those places you haven’t bothered to visit yet because, well, you live so close by. Case in point: when I lived in Atlanta, I never visited sites like World of Coca-Cola or Margaret Mitchell’s house on my own. It took an out-of-town houseguest to get me there. Don’t wait for guests—get out and see what great stuff is right around the corner.
See Where the Road Takes You
Everyone loves a good, old-fashioned road trip—but you don’t have to tax yourself to get the excitement of being on the road. Just a day in the car can be great fun (in fact, your family may thank you for the lesser version—less whining and bathroom stops). Get in the car and see where the road takes you. Today, most U.S. interstates have attraction signs at the exits. Drive for a while and see if anything catches your fancy. Chances are, you’ve thought, “I should check that out,” when you’ve passed it before. Here’s your chance to finally do it.
Summertime means there is no end to great outdoor activities that the whole family can enjoy. Head to your nearest state or national park for some hiking. Go canoeing on a local river or canal. Take your bikes beyond your cul-de-sac. Pick strawberries or corn at your local farm. Just get out and do something together as a family and enjoy the sunshine.
Arrange An Adventure
There’s something about travel that makes most of us a little more adventurous than we’d be at home. This goes beyond what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas—I’ve known some of the most buttoned-up folks let loose with zip lining, surfing or something equally as surprising with nothing more than a change of venue. So, instead of saving up this spirit for a trip to the Caribbean or Prague, embrace it at home. Take the kids for a day at your local rock climbing gym. Do a tasting dinner at a nice restaurant. Skydive. Go for a ride on an ultra-lite. There’s no end to the possibilities—just open yourself up to adventure.
Just because you can’t get away this summer for some fancy resort vacation in Hawaii doesn’t mean you can’t experience some truly great stuff. So travel local and see what you and your family might uncover in your own backyard. You’ll be glad you did.
Kayt Sukel is an accomplished author, penning pieces about both neuroscience and travel—two seemingly different realms—for such publications as Atlantic Monthly, New Scientist, Washington Post, National Geographic Traveler and American Baby. She is also a partner at Travel Savvy Mom, a Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Award-winning family travel website. Her first book, DIRTY MINDS, an exploration of love and the brain, will be published in early 2012 by the Free Press. She frequently overshares on Twitter as @kaytsukel