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Getting away from it all by staying home

Lain Chroust Ehmann's work has appeared in publications such as Woman's World, Bay Area Baby, Chicago Parent, the San Jose Mercury News and others. She and her family split time between Boston and the San Francisco Bay Area. For more fro...

A perfect budget destination: home

"Vacation" doesn't have to mean planes, beaches, costly hotels and crowds. What it should mean is a fun getaway for you and your family... which is just what you can have -- without even leaving home.
Happy vacation right at home

You have time for this vacation

Though the country is still in its economic boom, normal families can face tight budgets on occasion. Limitations on dollars and time can make you think you don't have the ability to take a trip this year. But there are alternatives to expensive hotels and hundreds of dollars in plane fares. In fact, you can take your family on a great vacation without spending a cent on lodging or transportation. How? By taking a mini-vacation.Mini-vacations are "trips" you and your family can take without leaving home. By acting like tourists in your own home town, you can have a great holiday without incurring the expense of a full-blown getaway.Almost all of us have resources within a short drive of our homes that we can use to plan a terrific vacation, without cleaning out our savings accounts. The goal of a mini-vacation is to leverage these resources by changing your mindset. Follow me while we explore how to take a vacation -- without even leaving home.

Think like a tourist

It may be hard to believe, but if your town has at least one hotel, motel, inn or Bed & Breakfast, people are coming to your town as tourists. You may think you live in the most uninteresting place in the world, but that's only because you are too close to it. So the first step is to change the eyes with which you view your city and the surrounding area.If you were going to visit a new locale, you'd probably do some research. You'd buy a guide book and a few maps, you'd look at a site or two on the web, and maybe contact the Chamber of Commerce or Tourists' Bureau. Not only does all this research help you identify sites you'd like to see, it also begins to build excitement about your trip. So don't skip the research on your hometown.Get a free guidebook from AAA, if you're a member. Check the library for books on local history. Do a search on the Internet for any related sites. You'll find out a lot about your town that you never knew before. Maybe the world's largest manufacturer of tennis balls is located only 20 miles away -- and they give free tours! Or there's a fully-stocked trout pond within city limits, just waiting for your line. Start making lists of these attractions -- and get excited!

"I've always wanted to..."

Remember when you promised your ten-year-old you'd take him to that skateboard park across town? Somehow you never got around to it. Same with the new Italian restaurant you pass on your way to work everyday. We've all got a list of fun things we've put off until we have a free weekend... but when's the last time that happened? Now you will -- on your mini-vacation.One caveat: This is a vacation! It's not the time to do all the chores and yardwork you've put off. Your one and only goal is to have fun with your family, so skip the gardening unless everyone agrees it's loads of fun.

Break outside the box

One of the most exciting things about going on vacation is breaking your normal routine. You do things differently -- eat different foods, get up at a different time, wear different clothes. Include all these things on your mini-vacation.Whether it's just a weekend or a whole week, shake up your normal routine. Wear your vacation clothes, try new restaurants, order different foods. Ride the bus when you're traveling around town, or take a different route if you drive. Have the kids swap bedrooms, or everyone camp out together in the living room. A few small changes can go a long way toward giving you the "vacation" feel.

Really take a vacation

The biggest danger in taking a mini-vacation is the lure of your day-to-day life. The telephone, the television, the yard work, the neighbors -- and yes, even the internet -- are all potential pitfalls, so make some ground rules.Keep the answering machine on and the TV off. Let the laundry go. Shut down the kitchen; if you can't afford to eat out every meal, at least simplify meal preparation. Take advantage of ready-made foods or make cooking a family event. Pick a theme for each evening -- Mexico, finger foods, green foods, for example -- and then have everyone help prepare and clean up. Remember again that the point of this vacation is to spend time together as a family.

Don't forget the details

It's the little things that will make your mini-vacation feel like a real trip. Take photos and videos. Buy souvenirs. Send postcards to friends and relatives. The more you act like you are on vacation, the more you -- and your family -- will feel like you've "gotten away from it all."

Be a tourist in your own town

Vacations don't have to mean big hotel bills and hours on a plane. The key to taking a vacation is attitude. Whether you're in Missoula or Miami, Cincinnati or San Francisco, you can get the benefits of a getaway. Just remember: Treat it like a vacation, and it will be a vacation.

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