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Have a Happy Staycation

by Ginger

When planning a family vacation, everyone wants to maximize their fun and minimize their cash outlay. Many family vacations involve long road trips, hotels, plane fair, and other expenses. The expenses and time commitment add up and soon the family vacation turns into a strain for Mom and Dad, which can ruin everyone’s fun. Couple this with a long trip to the chorus of, “Are We There Yet?” or “99 Glasses of Milk on the Wall,” and a long trip grows even longer. Everyone is already frazzled and the “vacation” has only just started.

This problem used to plague our family until we discovered a different way to vacation. We discovered the beautiful poetry of simplicity and practicality by looking at the fun that is right in our own back yard. This is a particularly effective way to introduce younger children to the idea of vacationing without the trial by fire approach of a cross-country trip. The staycation can be the answer to all of these traveling woes.

Staycation does not mean staying at home all of the time, it means seeking out the flavor and charm of the city or part of the country where you live. Last year, we decided to do just that. I live in Amish Country Ohio in an area that has a rich tourist industry. However, we lived here for ten years without ever seeing many of the attractions in the area that drew others from across the country. Local tourists would stop by the produce stand to ask directions to these places, such as Malabar Farm, Great Mohican Forest, Mid-Ohio Sports, and other local attractions on a regular basis. They would stop by to purchase organic vegetables on their way home from these places, but we had never been to them. All of these places are within 15 minutes of our home.

I call this the “local effect.” It is easy to ignore the obvious. Many of the tourist attractions in the area where you live may be just as exciting as those that are far away, at least all of those people who travel long distances think so, right? For those who live near them, the trip is just too easy, one could go anytime they wanted to, but don’t. Last year, we decided that this was ludicrous and decided to see just what others saw in our local area.

The first thing that we did was to set aside our official vacation week, take off work, don’t stock the refrigerator, stop the mail, etc. We did everything that you would do on a regular vacation. There were rules about using the phone, email, etc, No working, it is vacation week. The next thing we did was to decide a radius and travel distance that we wanted to stick to. After that, we made our travel itinerary and plans. When the week started, the laundry was packed and everything was ready for adventure. You could even pack a suitcase if you wish.

The Internet is an excellent source for places to go in your area. Just type in your state or city and lots of things will come up to do, many of which you may not have known existed. The Division of Natural Resources is another excellent source for programs and things to do in your area. The local area Chamber of Commerce or Tourism and Visitors Bureau will be more than willing to assist. Check with travel agencies, they are full of ideas.

These sources are the more obvious ones, but there are other ideas that may prove more fruitful for ferreting out those quaint little out of the way places. For instance, hotel lobbies often have racks of pamphlets and brochures that highlight area attractions. Local libraries are another great source. Another suggestion is to talk to people. Ask where they have been and what they have done in the area. Older persons can often guide you to wonderful things, such as historical buildings in the area, great trails and fishing holes. You can meet some colorful and interesting people this way. Most are happy to share their adventures with you. I have found covered bridges, one-room schoolhouses, and some very interesting restaurants this way, all in the area that we lived.

To make it a real vacation experience, why not stay at a local campground or local hotel in the area? Try sleeping in the back yard for a change. There are so many ideas if you just put a little effort into finding them. Take some friends along, make it a date. Planning a staycation can be just as much fun, without the hassle of a long trip. The main obstacle is that you have to be willing to break old habits in order to make it a real vacation.

Aside from convenience and expense, there are many other reasons for planning a staycation too. For one, small children can learn to take the small trips much easier than longer trips. It builds them up that vacationing is fun, not stressful. The entire family will gain a new appreciation for the resources and attractions in their area. They can see their area with the eyes of a tourist, making it seem new and fresh. You may even hear your children telling others about their community in a very positive manner. Taking a staycation instills a sense of community pride that cannot be gained by any other way than to get out there and appreciate it. If you take a staycation, at least you will know what all of those other tourists in your area are talking about.

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