Staycations:  A Wise Choice for Tough Times

By John B. Landers


Try telling your family and friends that you will be choosing from a list of “staycations” this year, instead of taking the perennial family get-away; you’ll probably get a few blank stares, maybe even some snickers. Over the past 12 months, this word has become firmly embedded into the vocabulary of the travel sector. It refers to the increasingly popular choice made by Americans, and people around the globe, to spend their annual vacations close to home, rather than taking trips across the country or abroad.

Staycations are not new, but the recent economic climate has caused many families to re-think the allocation of dollars they would normally spend on long-distance trips. Outrageous gas prices, and the increased annoyance of air travel, especially out of the country, have more people searching for inexpensive travel options without all the hassles. 

Anyone who has planned a traditional vacation, knows how frustrating and nerve-racking a process it can be, even for the most experienced traveler. What should be a stress-free event can seem like anything but a vacation.

Staycations may eliminate the need to make reservations, buy new outfits (for the wife), pack, fly, drive to far-away destinations, or the possibility of canceled and delayed flights. Think about it; imagine having no concerns regarding jet-lag, exchange rates, quality lodging, finding good places to eat, and the risk of spending thousands of dollars in anticipation of sunshine and loads of fun, only to be greeted by lousy weather upon arriving at your destination.


And, there is the inevitable hiatus you’ll need to take after your vacation. Personally, it usually takes me a few days to recuperate from the entire hullabaloo.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll be the first one to admit that the allure of visiting exciting locations in the Caribbean, Europe, or some other interesting destination, is always a thrill. I really look forward to meeting people from different cultures or sipping on a Mai Tai while taking in the sights on a white-sand beach in Negril. These types of voyages do have their privileges. They will make you quickly forget the long lines at the airport, discourteous passengers, and long-winded taxi drivers.

There are some that would have you believe that vacations are an annual rite that should not be forsaken for the “let-down” of staycations.  Susan Session Rugh, the author of, Are We There Yet? The Golden Age of American Family Vacations, argues that forgoing a family vacation is to do away with an important opportunity for a family bonding experience. Some psychologists state that economizing on vacations has psychological and physical consequences. A study conducted by State University of New York, (Oswego), associate professor Brooks B. Gump, and his associate, Karen A. Mathews, revealed that men who avoid taking vacations for five consecutive years had a 30 percent risk factor of a heart attack compared to those who took time off from work to enjoy annual trips.  

Unquestionably, trips to unfamiliar lands and exotic locations offer a measure of excitement, and a host of memorable experiences for the entire family. However, with the right approach, the same feeling of exhilaration and closeness can be felt by family members on staycations too.  It is all about attitude.  And, when money is tight, staycations offers viable get-away options that won’t strain the family’s budget.


One of the keys to successful staycations is to approach local excursions like a visitor. Here are some suggestions for making staycations enjoyable events for the entire family:


1.      1) Formulate a plan: Staycations should be planned just like out-of-town vacations. You can research local attractions, museums, fairs, and other special events.  Visit the websites of popular travel sites, like Yahoo and MSN for ideas. Also, check with local hotels to find out what they recommend to their guests, or stop by and pick up some brochures. Use this information to create an itinerary and plan daily activities to create exhilaration and anticipation that is typically at the core of any vacation. Also, establish a budget and determine what a week of staycation would cost versus a long-distance journey for the same period.


2.      2) Festivals and attractions: In my hometown of Chicago, there are a series of city-sponsored summer festivals, such as Gospel Fest, Blues Fest and The Taste of Chicago (food festival.)  The events attract millions of visitors locally and from around the world. There are also many local museums, art institutes, and a host of smaller galleries to be experienced.  In addition, many towns and cities offer concerts, cinema night and any number of other activities for free.


3.      3) Meals: Opt for something different. There are restaurants outside your neighborhood you may have been intending to try, including ethnic restaurants and delicatessensSome places have wine and beer tasting establishments, or food factories that accommodate   patrons.  In addition, take advantage of day-time specials offered at many restaurants.


4.      4) Transportation: Why not park the family car and avail yourself to other types of transportation. Many areas have bike paths, trolleys, ferries or commuter trains and buses. One of my favorite activities when visiting a destination is to ride buses up and down various routes to get a fresh perspective on the neighborhood and people.


5.      5) Accommodations: Call hotels or motels and inquire about their “staycation” rates, go to their website, or check with AAA for discounts. Many local hotels are jumping on the staycation bandwagon and are offering attractive packages to stay-at home vacationers.


Remember, successful staycations must to be treated like “real” vacations―psychologically and physically. Many people make the mistake of convincing themselves that they are short-changing their family when in fact, staycations can be just as captivating and fulfilling an experience as any vacation. Many people are often pleasantly surprised at the number of enjoyable and entertaining pleasure trips that are available within a short distance from their homes.

Rather than looking at the issue from a perspective of staycations versus vacations, I rather approach it as a matter of making the best choice at a particular point in time. If you are prioritizing your spending, and choose not to splurge on a long-distance get-away, then by all means, plan a staycation and prepare to have a good time. After all spending a lot of money to fly off to a distant destination doesn’t guarantee that you will enjoy it.


Staycations, like so many fads, may be a fleeting trend that fades away with an improved economy. Regardless of what you decide, the idea is to be a responsible and aware consumer, and make a decision based on what is right for your family and your budget.

Landers is a contributing writer for Regal Black Men’s Magazine.

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