Long distance travel does not suit everyone’s fancy. A lot of us, including myself, prefer to have fun by becoming a local explorer. Why not entertain a few ideas for saving money by focusing on local travel?
When I want to know what’s going on around town, I like to pick up my local newspaper for event listings. Another resource to consider is the website for your state’s tourism department. The Twitter feed for your city might lead you to exciting yet low cost events as well. Stretch your definition of local travel to the city next door if you want to venture away from your zip code.
You’re lucky if your area provides a lot of cultural or entertainment stops (cities and coasts have a lot going on!). See if you have any of these places close by:
Local Travel Stops For A “Staycation”
For our first stop, let’s see if any museums are open. Note that some places give discounts on certain days. Others may offer a family pass that gives you discounted admission all year long. Zoos, botanical gardens and public parks are other areas to explore. Get a group of relatives and friends together if a group discount is offered. Allow time for the gift shop, because you can find anything from T-shirts to fascinating jewelry there.
I can’t go out the door without a member of my crew asking what we’re going to eat next. To escape our usual routine, we consult Yelp, local food blogs or the newspaper’s restaurant reviews. Asking coworkers and friends for recommendations can bring you to eating spots you wouldn’t think to visit on your own. I got one charming idea from a recent issue of Bon Appetit: encourage your children to tour the world by visiting a local restaurant with a different world cuisine. The young girls in the article tried out Swedish, Spanish and Brazilian meals without their parents having to break out their passports.
Another way to check the food scene is to drive around to see which eateries are busy, a week or a month before you want to go out. Avoid the places with the help wanted signs and nearly empty parking lots. Make sure you scope out restaurant discounts before you go.
3. Overnight Stays
There are certain days I’d be happy to check into a hotel for a change of scene. Other people I know have rented hotel rooms for a crack at the swimming pool. If you’re looking for a break from your home, arrange a visit to a local hotel or bed and breakfast. When you’re booking the reservation, ask if you’re eligible for a local resident’s discount. Travel sites like Kayak or Hotwire can compare rates for you.
4. Regional or Seasonal Festivals & Celebrations
Our next stop on our virtual tour takes us to food festivals, cultural festivals and celebrations like Oktoberfest, Renaissance Faires or even Burning Man (in California). Sampling cuisine from different regions and dancing like a chicken can be welcome breaks from your daily routine.
5. Your Own Star Tour
Tourists in Los Angeles have the ability to jump on a tour bus to drive by the homes of the stars. If you do some research, you might be able to find out where figures of historical interest lived or where various famous people were born in your city. Thanks to Wikipedia, I learned I went to the same school as a famous former football player, so you may end up surprising yourself.
While some conventions are trade shows that only industry professionals can appreciate, there are other conventions that are devoted to TV shows, video games, science fiction, and comic books like the San Diego Comic-Con. So if one of these events is in your own background, then give it a whirl. Some conventions feature loads of free entertainment, vendors and talks given by experts in the field. Admission costs can vary, though. You might be able to get discounted or free admission by volunteering.
7. Universities & Colleges
Our next stop takes us back to school. If you live near a college or university, you can typically find a lot going on throughout the week. Seek out plays, opera performances, concerts, lectures, films and sporting events at low or no cost. For example, the University of Michigan has a news and events section that features a new art collection.
Sure, casinos put the spotlight on games, but they usually offer other types of entertainment such as restaurants, concerts and comedians on tour. If you’d like to gamble, set a firm limit before you leave home.
9. Wine Tastings & Art Gallery Openings
See if vineyards or galleries in your area are hosting events. You can learn more about local producers and maybe take home a new treasure.
10. Events at Arenas or Stadiums
These can range from concerts and games to health fairs and expos for children. Ask about group discounts if you have a crowd.
11. Bookstores & Libraries
Take advantage of signings, readings and story hours for these stops. You could meet anyone from famous romance writers to the folks at the top of the bestseller lists at signings. Call ahead for details in case of schedule changes, though.
Get dressed up, hear interesting speakers and meet like-minded givers.
13. The Unusual Suspects
You’ve probably heard that New Yorkers hardly get around to seeing the Empire State Building or other popular tourist destinations. Are there monuments, historical homes or cathedrals within driving distance? For our penultimate stop, let’s find out the top three tourist spots for our town and stick them on the calendar for the next few months.
14. Farm & Factory Tours
This may seem unusual, but it can prove interesting (especially for the kids). Our last stop can show us where our food is grown or where our furniture is designed. I’d like to fit in a visit to an ice cream factory at the very least.
More Ways To Cut Travel Costs
By the way, you should check out those entertainment coupon books for your city or a nearby location. You can find discounts for dining out, local attractions and shops. Amazon or another bookseller may have a variety of coupon books on sale. Groupon or Social Living might be able to yield discounts, too.
It’s also worth a reminder that your rewards credit cards can yield helpful perks for your local travel adventure. American Express has a Premier Rewards Gold Card with an events feature that puts members first in line for different concerts, sporting events and shows. The Membership Rewards program includes offers for dining out, too. Make sure to consult your credit card if it has benefits of this sort just waiting to be used.
Need more ideas for things to do in your city? See what Budget Travel, Lonely Planet or other guides recommend to visitors. A travel blogger might have unearthed an attraction you haven’t heard about yet. And if you’re a retiree or AARP member, you may want to see if you can dig up any special discounts for venues you’d like to visit.
By using some of the ideas here, you can have a great time even without a large vacation budget.
Created September 7, 2008. Updated November 16, 2011. Copyright © 2011 The Digerati Life. All Rights Reserved.