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Staycations a frugal vacation alternative

With gas and food prices across the country soaring, many Canadians may be having second thoughts about travelling out of town for their vacation this summer.

With gas and food prices across the country soaring, many Canadians may be having second thoughts about travelling out of town for their vacation this summer.

Staycations — stay-at-home vacations — are a great alternative to spending money to travel across the country, to the United States or even overseas.

If you’ve decided to take your vacation at home this year, there are some things you can do to ensure that you get into that vacation mode — even though you are really at home — and enjoy activities right in your own backyard and in your town or city.

The first thing to do is to act like you’re on vacation by turning off your cellphone or Blackberry.

Lay down some rules for the children about when and where the use of electronic devices will be allowed and do some formal planning.

If you were away on vacation you’d have things planned, so plan some outings and activities right at home.

If your kids are young, get them on your side about staying at home this summer.

Explain why you are doing this but emphasize that you’re going to try something new.

Ask them for any ideas they might have and then tell them you’re going to be seeing your town or city as outside tourists would see it. Try to create some excitement.

Visit your own town or city as if you were a tourist. Go to the museums, theme parks and all those places that tourists would visit. Visit some new places in another part of your community. If you’re short of ideas, consult your local newspapers or websites to find out what is happening and local points of interest.

If you want to feel like you’re getting away, book a night or two in a local hotel and enjoy the local sights, shopping and restaurants the community has to offer. Eat out every night. Good food in restaurants can make you feel like you’re enjoying an exotic vacation.

If you live near a large city that has suburban areas and populations, it’s easy to get in the car or public transit and hike it into the city for a weekend of fun and relaxation.

Theme parks and golf and beach resorts do exist and easily can be found on the internet or by talking to your local travel agent.

Some other ideas are to visit your local zoo or theme park and sign up for a season membership if they offer one.

You easily can take a day trip to a local beach or provincial park or extend that to a camping trip for a few days or a week. If you already have the gear available, this can be an extremely frugal vacation option that also provides some excellent family bonding time and opportunities.

Check out local cultural events and fairs. Local sporting events such as minor league baseball and football games offer excellent, inexpensive family outings. You can join your local community tennis club, if there is one near you, and spend the afternoons at your local community swimming pool.

Of course, if you really feel you must get away, discount summer vacations do exist, but you’ve got to do a little research to find them. Warm weather destinations like Mexico and the Caribbean, which are usually more popular spots during the Canadian winter, often offer low rates and special deals during the summer.

In addition to price reductions, many popular vacation destinations offer special packages geared to families. You may be able to receive a discount for your children at vacation resorts, hotels and theme parks.

But if you do decide to stay at home this summer for whatever reason, don’t treat it like a second-rate vacation. Make it a special time for you and the family. Enjoy what is right around you, and have fun.

Talbot Boggs is a Toronto-based business communications professional who has worked with national news organizations, magazines and corporations in the finance, retail, manufacturing and other industrial sectors.