You and your kids have been looking forward to summer, and you want to get away. But with the cost of gas and plane so high, and the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, any kind of travel may be just not in the cards this year.
But while you may have to cancel your plans that would’ve taken you across the country, across the border, or across the ocean, before you skip a summer break altogether, consider taking a “staycation,” where you can still enjoy an affordable summer vacation at home.
The idea behind a staycation is to look at your city through the eyes of a tourist. Discover those great hidden places, attractions, and small restaurants you never knew about, and take in the local sights you’ve always wanted to see but keep putting off as “things to do” with your out-of-town guests.
Playing the Tourist: Downtime in Your Hometown
1) Stay in a nearby hotel or resort. Tell the hotel you’re a local, and they might give you a break on a room rate to encourage you to recommend them to visiting friends and family. Hotels and resorts can be pricey, though, so look for summer deals and discount packages.
2) Rediscover the outdoors. Go hiking, biking, boating, camping. If a hotel is too expensive or seems to risky, pack up your car and some camping gear, and get away from it all with a couple nights’ sleep under the stars. Rent a boat, and spend a day out on the lake. Or keep it closer to home, and have a midday picnic in the park. Look up nearby nature trails online, and set out on a daylong hike, or take it a little more easy and just make it a leisurely morning or evening walk; buy a birdwatching book or field guide, and try to pick out the different birds, trees, flowers, and other plant and animal life along the way.
3) Check out local guidebooks. For ideas of places to visit, browse online guidebook sites like Frommer’s, Fodor’s, and Lonely Planet check out the hard-copy versions from your local library.
4) Find hole-in-the-wall restaurants. If you’re going to sightsee like a tourist, you should be eating like one. Steer away from your usual takeout and dine-in standbys, and find out what affordable restaurants food lovers recommend in your area that you’ve never been to. See if Epicurious offers an essential guide for places to eat in your hometown, or check out other foodie websites like Chowhound and Roadfood.com.
5) Look for online events calendars. Many newspapers and alternative weeklies have already done the footwork for you, so take advantage — some of their listings will usually be free. Plan to attend at least one event or activity every couple days or so during your staycation — it’ll help you avoid the temptation to spend your time in front of the TV and slipping back into your usual day-to-day routine or checking your e-mail and getting sucked back into work.