While hopping on a jet to some far off tourist destination is always on our minds, but what happens when you just don’t have the extra time or money for a week long retreat? An alternative many overlook is planning a local vacation. Set aside a few days and stick close to home. You’ll be surprised at how many activities and unique experiences are available within a short drive.

I’m not fond of the term ‘staycation.’ It takes the wind out of the sails and all too often articles I see about staycations involve nothing more than doing the same things you would resort to stuck in the house on a rainy day. Treat this as a vacation, a new adventure, or it’ll fall flat.

For starters, consider about the types of activities you enjoy on a typical vacation, then think about how many of those things you can enjoy right in your own town and not far beyond. Once you realize just how much fun you can have without the time and expense of a traditional vacation, it’s time to start planning your own local travel adventure.


Meijer Gardens – Japanese Garden Waterfall ©Rich Christensen

Set a Budget and Time for Your Local Vacation

Just as you would do for a regular vacation, decide how many days you can set aside and a budget. The beauty of a local vacation is that even a long weekend can be fun and affordable. Once you have your budget and timing worked out, those factors will help determine just what to do with your time. The next decision is deciding where to stay.


Stopping to pan for gems and minerals in Frankenmuth, Michigan ©Rich Christensen

Choose a Location for Your Local Vacation

Booking a hotel near your own home may seem odd, but for some it is the best way to sever the bonds of responsibility we seek to escape from in our daily lives. Scout properties the same way you would for a traditional vacation. Amenities, style, activities, location, and price. Something as simple as a comfy motel with a great pool for the kids and spa for the adults might be all you need for a fun weekend.

You may want to even go a little further and find an all inclusive resort or town nearby to explore. We often take the hour drive to the quaint town of Frankenmuth, MI for a quick 1 or 2 night getaway. It’s a wonderful little town with a water park hotel for my daughter to enjoy, world famous chicken dinners, and fun shops. Look at what is a short drive from your neighborhood, while still keeping it local.

If you’re budget doesn’t have room for a hotel, remember to avoid all sense of routine and responsibility at home. Treat home as you would your hotel and not the place for your activities.


Choose a Theme for Your Local Vacation

Take a look around your area and come up with some possible themes for your local vacation. Do you want to focus on the kids or fun for the whole family? Or how about an adults only retreat, something that is exceedingly rare for us. Themes ideas could include exploring local history, a festival weekend, foodie adventures, or a romantic getaway.



Columbus Zoo ©Rich Christensen

Choose Activities for Your Local Vacation

While planning road trips for this year, it occurred to me just how much I was missing in my own town. I had become so focused on playgrounds and other places suited for my daughter when she was young that I tuned out everything else. Now that she is older, we can appreciate the historic buildings on Main street, hiking at the parks, and maybe even take up fishing.

Some useful planning tools include the local library, tourism offices, and blogs. Libraries typically have several brochures about local events and activities. Many small towns have tourism offices that can point you to hotels, a bed and breakfast, or new restaurants. Look for local bloggers who may have a calendar of events and reviews of local businesses. One of my favorite tools is Google Maps. Just zoom in and scroll around your area to see what places pop up. I’ve discovered many small parks and new businesses this way.

  • Choose some activities for your local vacation based on the theme. Here are some ideas:
  • Adults Weekend – Resort stay, spa, golf outing, hiking, foodie adventure, wine tasting, festivals.
  • Whole Family Adventure – Hiking at local nature preserves, exploring local history, museums and zoos, water parks or outdoor sports, festivals.
  • Fun for the Kids – Water park hotel, find new playgrounds or parks, sports centers, local scavenger hunt, hands-on museums, kid-centric events.


Glen Haven General Store ©R. Christensen

As you can see, staying local for a short and affordable vacation can be just as exciting as jetting off to a tourist destination. Take the time to look around next time you’re running an errand you’ll be surprised at what you notice. For example, I recently discovered the corner store I’ve been going to for years is actually an old train depot. Use some creativity to plan a fun themed vacation for the whole family, or just an adults escape. You may find that local vacations will become part of your new routine.

Ever wonder where all of those metal historical markers come from? Probably not, but I had a chance to tour the Sewah Studios facility and watch as the craftspeople there created some new signs. Read more about my adventure here.