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Staycation Sensation

By Alicia Rockmore and Sarah Welch

Why spend a fortune traveling to an exotic locale this summer when you could have a perfectly delightful 'staycation' at home? The concept of a staycation, or a vacation taken at home, first surfaced in 2008 when the markets started to sour and the economy began significantly contracting.

It's an intriguing idea, but one that emerged too late for the many who had already booked plane tickets, plunked down deposits on hotels, or otherwise set vacation travel plans in motion. This year, though, with summer still a fair way off, you do have the time to plan for a sensational, low-cost staycation. The trick to making a stay-at-home vacation truly feel like a relaxing break is to plan ahead. A little bit of organizing now will ensure you step out of your regular routine and make the most of your time off.

Sarah on "Home, but Not"

"The very last thing you want your staycation to be is a week like any other, minus work. It's all too easy to stay stuck in everyday routines if you stay put in the same physical location. That's why it's critical to plan to be home...but not in the usual sense. Imagine that you have 'rented' out your house just like you would a vacation property for the entire time you have off. Consider how your normal behavior would be different at a vacation property and plan to adjust your regular routines accordingly. Most likely that means limiting (or eliminating) chores like doing laundry or cleaning bathrooms, cutting soccer or practices, and making one large grocery run at the start of the week so you don't have to bother with it during your week off - and don't forget to include fun 'vacation' food items in your cart like pancake mix, watermelon, and ice cream! Consider putting blankets over TVs, at least in individual bedrooms, and encourage interactive entertainment by putting out board games and cards in common areas. Whatever you do, make sure you truly switch gears and get into vacation mode."

Alicia on "Swap"

"A really fun way to feel like you're really on vacation without having to travel far or pay for lodging is to swap houses or apartments with a friend. This works especially well if you live in or near a big city. Swaps between city dwellers and suburbanites enable city folks to get a dose of fresh air and stretch out, and suburbanites to immerse themselves in the hustle, bustle and culture of a city."

Here are a few ideas for getting a jump start on your staycation planning.

1. Consider Giving Your Staycation a Theme

Themes are great ways to transform any old week into something special. It only takes about five to ten minutes to brainstorm a list of potential themes - so grab a pad of paper when you have a few minutes this week to daydream - in the carpool lane, at work, or after dinner - and jot down your ideas. Whether you choose a theme, such as Frontier Days, Beach Living, Spa Tranquility, or even Space Adventure, you'll be amazed at how easy it is to plan activities, meals, and day trips around a big idea. If you have a family, be sure to let them in on the thematic brainstorming and give everybody an opportunity to vote on the winning theme.

2. Book Activities in Advance

If you don't schedule at least a few fun vacation-specific activities in advance, you might look up at the end of a 'nothing special' kind of week off and wonder where the time went. Create a staycation schedule at least a few weeks in advance. You'll want to have some sort of 'kick-off' event, at least one fun and different activity for each day of vacation, and just in case, a few ideas for rainy days.

3. Look for Free

There are typically a lot of incredible, and incredibly fun, free events and activities put on by local community organizations in the summer. Check out the websites for your local visitors and conventions bureaus and find free outdoor movie nights, museum tickets, and other activities that don't cost much money but will keep you, and anyone else you vacation with, entertained.

We are the co-founders of Buttoned Up, inc., a company dedicated to helping stretched and stressed women get themselves organized (along with everybody else they're responsible for too!).

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