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How to have a great staycation

Many of us are cutting back on travel plans this summer in an effort to conserve cash. Instead of flying to some exotic location (expensive), staying in a fancy hotel (expensive) and eating in nice restaurants (expensive), we are choosing to stay home for a week. It’s called a staycation.

The cool thing about a staycation is that, besides being inexpensive, it can be a lot of fun. If done right, it might even be more fun than a traditional vacation because you don’t have to deal with all the travel hassles. Here are several great staycation ideas to get your imagination going.

How many times have you met a New Yorker who has never been to the Statue of Liberty? It happens all the time. People tend to ignore all the great places to visit in their home cities. It’s incredibly common. So here’s an idea for your staycation. Drive to a local hotel, walk into the lobby and pick up one of the free sightseeing or tourism magazines and a bunch of the brochures that they have for visiting tourists.

Then act like a tourist in your own city. Ferret out all the cool places to visit, but that have been ignored because they are so nearby. Then go visit them. In your town there are all sorts of museums, historic sites, state parks, amusement parks, shopping destinations, nature trails, public beaches, and yes, tourist traps. Create a plan and go visit them all. Chances are you will discover one or two places that you have never heard of, and they can be surprisingly interesting.

Then broaden your circle just a little. If you were to drive an hour or two from home on a day trip, what could you find and what could you do? Google can be your friend in this situation, since there are hundreds of travel sites on the Web filled with destinations.

Here’s another idea: an educational staycation. In many cities, the parks and recreation department or the community center offers classes all summer long. The community college or local university might do the same thing. Libraries offer classes, and so do many businesses. If you poke around, you may be able to find dozens of day classes or week-long classes in your area on everything from cooking to photography, sailing to dancing. Put together a schedule and spend the week learning some new skills.

Another possibility: what if you used the week to change your physique? During a week-long staycation you could totally upgrade your exercise habits. What if you went for a 15-mile walk each day? Or rode 30 miles every day on your bicycle? Could you get a weeklong membership at a local fitness club and blow out the weight training?

On the opposite end of the scale, you could eat your way through your staycation. On a regular vacation you would dine in a fancy restaurant every day. What if you got yourself a new cookbook or two and made your own fancy meals at home? You could try elaborate French or Italian dishes that you would never have time for normally, or go exotic with new Indian or Chinese recipes you have never tried before. Learn how to make your own sushi or baklava. Have you ever thought about going vegetarian? This might be a good week to try it out. Or if you want to make your life easy, go explore the frozen food section at your local discount warehouse club or mega grocery store. There is some amazing stuff available these days.

What about romance? If you and your spouse are looking to rekindle the fire, a staycation could be the perfect time. Spend just a little of the money you are saving by staying a night or two at the best hotel in town. Dine at the city’s finest restaurant. Wear your gown and your dinner jacket like you would on a cruise. Or buy a bouquet, light some candles and have an elegant meal at home. Would a day at the local spa set the mood? Could you arrive at the hotel in a limo? Have fun with it.

Some other ideas: Go to the local airport and rent an exotic sports car for the week. Do something you have never done before, like a helicopter lesson or a flight over the city in a hot air balloon. Plan some huge DIY project (e.g. a kitchen remodel or a yard makeover) and then get it done in a week. Find a daycare center for the kids and spend your vacation days together like a young couple in love. Or go the other way and center the whole week around fun kid activities.

If you get creative, your staycation could be better than a vacation. Have fun!

Looking for more? For extra info on this or the scoop on other fascinating topics, go to HowStuffWorks.com. Contact Marshall Brain, founder of HowStuffWorks, at marshall.brainhowstuffworks.com.

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