The Art Of The Staycation

 With a troubled economy and high gas

prices, the annual expectation of a summer getaway can put a damper on what is supposed to be the most relaxed of seasons. For many, expected warm-weather luxuries, like a trip to Disneyland or the Grand Canyon,

are no longer a realistic option. However, being short on funds doesn’t mean you have to

be short on fun. With a little effort and planning, a “staycation” – having

a vacation at home – can often be more rewarding than travel to far-flung

destinations.

Working mother Loralee Leavitt was desperately in need of a vacation when her second

child was two months old. Not relishing the thought of packing up a carload

of baby gear for an overnight, she decided to go the staycation route. “My

husband and I took the kids to nearby Whidbey Island in the Puget Sound for the

day. We rode the ferry, hiked through state park forest to a stony beach,

explored a pre-WWII army fort, ate dinner out and watched the sun set over the

ocean before the scenic drive home to put the baby to bed in his own crib. It

was a perfect getaway, all in one day.”

There is an old saying, “a

change is as good as a rest,” meaning that if you do something different with

your daily life and routine, it will be just as good for your mind as a

concerted effort towards relaxation. Switch up the daily grind, take a

different path than the one you beat every day. You may be surprised to find

that inspiration lies in your own backyard. Imagine all of the

stress that goes into planning a conventional vacation melting away: no expensive

airline tickets to hunt for, no hotel to inspire you to “cross your fingers and hope it’s not a

dump,” no need to beg the neighbors to feed the dog. However, even a staycation does

require a bit of forethought, so here are a few tips.

Change your Mindset

Put as much thought into your staycation as if you were planning a trip

somewhere you haven’t been before. Start by imagining that you are a tourist in

your own town. If there’s a visitor information center nearby, stop in and pick

up some pamphlets. Search online for places of interest in your area – without a doubt, there are some things you never knew about your hometown. Search

the calendar section of your local newspaper online and make a list of upcoming

exhibits and festivals.

Make a Budget

There’s nothing worse than coming home from a vacation to find yourself broke.

This feeling is even worse when you can’t justify it with actual travel

expenses. Think about the money you will spend on gas, admission prices to

points of interest, and meals away. One

of the great things about a staycation is that you can be flexible with meals,

packing your own picnics and snacks. It’s also a good excuse to check out some

of those local restaurants that you’ve always heard people raving about, but

have never made an excuse to go. Imagine yourself as the host of one of those

Food Network shows visiting out-of-the-way eateries and you just might find a

new favorite.

Put Down the Blackberry

Social media has become one of our most constant patterns in everyday life. Give

yourself a break not only from telling everyone what you are doing and thinking

every moment of the day, but also from taking in that information from others.

Even if you don’t consciously realize it, the constant barrage of Facebook and

Twitter can sap your energy, taking focus away from your immediate surroundings

ready to be explored during your staycation. If giving up email entirely makes you

uncomfortable, set up an “out of office” auto-responder at the very least. This

will allow you to get away with only checking messages occasionally, and relish

the opportunity to communicate when you feel like it.

Give Yourself Some Space

Make a short list of places that you’d like to visit each day, mixing it up

just as you would with a regular vacation, with museums, zoos, and new places

to dine. Build in a few contingencies for weather and down time. After all, one

of the beauties of the staycation is that you won’t feel such a pressing

urgency to “get your money’s worth” out of every day. You can just do what

feels right to you in that moment, without thinking about how much you’ve spent on hotels and airfare. The main objective is to have a fun and relaxing time, and

as with any vacation, it’s a delicate balance between planning and flexibility.

By taking a fresh look at

your surroundings and choosing to staycate rather than vacate, this summer

could turn out to be a great bargain for family fun. In the end, it’s not where

you choose to spend your time and money, but what you do with it that counts.

Photo: Adam Solomon, Creative Commons 2.0