Don't have the money for that big, fancy vacation? No worries. Plan a fun staycation and take in the gems that are just a drive away from home. Whether it's visiting an amusement park, going to a museum, checking out the zoo or camping and hiking at a national park, there's lots of fun things to plan for that well-deserved time off. It has everything to do with planning and having an open mind.
When you or the kids want to get away, why not pitch a tent in the backyard? Depending on the size of the yard, that getaway can be away, but not too far away, from the comforts of home. Plus, Dad's barbecue pit can double nicely for a campfire.
Regardless of where you live, there's always a nearby gem that hasn't been explored. Depending on the season, riding in the car or SUV for a day trip can give you the feeling of being far away from home when you really aren't. Check out the fall foliage, or go for a hike. But don't forget lunch.
A remote getaway can just be a drive away. Depending on how far you want to drive, plan a simple trip to a nearby state park where you can put up your tents, gather kindling and firewood and have a chance to roast some franks or make s'mores. It is a good way to show the kids that old Boy or Girl Scout inside.
Close to Nature
Every state in the nation has cities that maintain nature centers or a statewide parks and wildlife agency that can direct you to the nearest area to go commune with nature. Take in a tour with a guide who can explain plants and animals that are native to the areas.
Aquariums and Planetariums
When it is hot outside, a trip to the city aquarium offers a respite to not only the heat, but a way to see ocean beauties without a trip to the coast. Most museums in big cities have IMAX theaters, where you can "travel" without leaving a comfortable chair.
Cycling With the Family
Get out those bikes and helmets and head out to a safe place and ride. Many well-planned cities have parks designed especially for hiking and biking, and some cities even offer designated lanes specifically for cyclists. Be careful, and have fun!
Fun During the Workweek
Do you live close to an amusement or water park? Both can offer a full day of fun and adventure for the whole family. Live dangerously and take on the big roller coaster or ride peacefully on the carousel. Many parks offer special online discounts so families don't have to break the bank for some fun.
Try New Places
Remember that cool restaurant you pass every day on your commute to and from work? Now may be just the right time to try it. Play dress up and imagine being in a faraway place -- and because you really aren't, splurge a little and have dessert.
Adventure doesn't have to be halfway around the world. Go to the mall or an upscale sports store and challenge yourself by scaling an indoor climbing wall. Lines are likely short midweek, but if you do have to wait, it will be worth it if you're the first to get to the top without slipping.
Shop Without Spending
Don't forget to take in a bit of retail therapy during your staycation. Window shopping doesn't cost anything, and it can be inspiring for the imagination or that mental list you've made of things you want when you have the cash.