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Skip the Airfare and Hotel Bills: Plan a ‘Stay-cation’

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july7homespunweb.jpgBy Robert Philpot

RISMEDIA, July 7, 2008-(MCT)-Vacation this spring presented a challenge. With gas prices hovering around $3.50 a gallon, we-my longtime sweetie Marilyn and I-didn’t think it would be prudent to take a road trip. Recent airline problems made us skittish about flying, and we’ve grown weary of airport hassles anyway. We did consider a discount fare to New York, but scratched that idea after discovering hotels at this time of year were at least $200 a night if you wanted little luxuries such as working plumbing and locking doors.

So we decided to stay home. But we didn’t just sleep late and veg out to TV all day. Instead, we decided to treat Dallas-Fort Worth as a destination, much as if we’d traveled here from someplace else, even though we’ve both lived here for at least 10 years.

Turns out it’s possible to vacation at home and feel like you’ve made a getaway. Sort of.

If you and your struggling bank account are thinking about just staying home this year, here are some things to consider:

Break the Routine

Of course, merely not working is a break in the routine. But sometimes work comes home with you-in your brain, and you have to shake it off. So from the beginning, we set some ground rules.

No work talk, or doing anything that reminds us of work. This is practically impossible for two journalists, but we largely succeeded in this, although it took changing our computer’s home page to get away from journalism websites. But if a couple who works at the same place can pull this off, you can, too.

No cooking at home (and especially no cost-saving microwavable frozen lunches). We ate all our meals out, the way we would on vacation, because a big part of travel for us is exploring restaurants in other cities. Because we didn’t splurge on airfare or hotels, we felt more comfortable plunking down money for relatively pricey lunches.

Corollaries to this rule: (1) Don’t eat at regular hangouts. Every place we ate was, if not new, someplace we’ve only been once or twice. (2) Wine or beer at lunch isn’t essential, but at least it’s an option, unlike on a workday. (3) Don’t worry about slow service, and in fact luxuriate in places known for food that’s too good to rush. If there’s a fancy or out-of-the-way place you’ve been wanting to try, a stay-at-home vacation is just the time to do it.

Do things you’ve never done before. But if there’s a place you’ve been meaning to go, cross it off your list.

Be spontaneous. One Tuesday morning, Marilyn was on the Internet, looking for thing to do, when she saw that alt-country artists Steve Earle and Allison Moorer (Earle’s wife) were playing in Dallas. Ordinarily, we wouldn’t buy day-of tickets, especially on a “school night,” but the freedom of being off allowed us to quickly decide we wanted to go. And the fact that we weren’t working the next day made things less stressful when the concert ended at midnight and we still had an hour’s drive home.

Tips for Turning a Hometown into a Tourist Destination

While sticking close to home, we thought of some things that might have made this feel like even more of a vacation experience.

Go to a convention and visitor’s bureau or hotel to pick up brochures on local points of interest.

Try to get along without a car, at least part of the time. We’re experienced travelers, and we’ve navigated London, Paris, San Francisco and Washington using public transportation (to be honest, Marilyn is the one who’s good at this; if it weren’t for her, I’d probably have spent the past few years on the same bus in the Bay Area).

© 2008, Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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