Attention, budget-conscious travelers: when wanderlust and a low bank account intersect, cabin fever isn't the only option. Instead of going global, just go local.
Shawn Donley of Portland, Ore., became acquainted with the concept in 2000. Having returned to the States after seven years abroad, Donley found himself low on funds but missing the high of adventure travel. Then he realized that exotic destinations weren't the only alternatives for the intrepid. Plenty of possibilities loomed a car ride away.
He explored such close-by but world-class natural wonders as Mount Rainier, Mount Hood, and North Cascades National Park. "Instead of going on two-week safaris to Africa, I went on three-day weekend camping and climbing trips in the Pacific Northwest at minimal cost," says the 39-year-old travel writer. "Staycation" is the buzzword du jour for close-to-home trips, but cutting back on the distance traveled as a way to stretch the value of vacation dollars is not a new idea—nor is it the same as staying put. Beyond saving money, the real key to getting the most out of a local vacation is to make a real break from routine. "Otherwise, it doesn't feel like a vacation," notes Travelocity Senior Editor Genevieve Shaw Brown. The itinerary could be anything from hiking a trail at a nearby national park to checking out a local winery to enjoying a romantic evening at a historic bed-and-breakfast. Whether a day trip or an overnight stay or longer, says Brown, "it's time to get out of the mind-set that every vacation has to include a flight."
In addition to looking for discounts offered by your local tourism board, surf the Web's travel sites—tripadviser.com and IgoUgo.com are just two—for ideas. "At the height of the summer staycation trend, we collected some of our members' favorite spots in the Northeast, and among the most popular local secrets there are Cape Ann, Mass.; the Quiet Corner in Connecticut; New Paltz, N.Y.; and Milton, Del.," says IgoUgo's content manager, Michelle Doucette. "But the beauty is that there are special locales just like those in every corner of every state."