If you're one of those people who takes a nice vacation every year to relax and unwind from the everyday routine, then the last couple of years may have been less than ideal. With budgets tighter than ever for handling your bills and day-to-day expenses, you may think that laying out the cash for a vacation is a needless expense. But taking time off is never needless, and taking a vacation needn't be expensive. Some of the most relaxing and invigorating getaways are closer―and cheaper―than you may think.
No matter where you live, there is undoubtedly at least one interesting town not far away that you have never visited. Sometimes you can find renewal and relaxation just an hour from your back door. There are several ways to find local undiscovered vacation spots. First, look at a local map, or use an online map site, and check out the towns within an hour's drive from your house. Look up the ones that sound interesting to you, and see what they have to offer. Most cities and towns have a website that will give you a little information about the history and the local businesses. You can even pull out a local map, close your eyes and point to a spot, then open your eyes to see where you're going to go.
After you've picked a location, then all you have to do is get in the car and drive. You can make it a day trip, or pack a bag and plan to find a local inn there, or somewhere along the way. When you get to the town, spend some time exploring―drive down the main street, park your car, and take a stroll around town visiting the local shops. Have lunch at a café or diner―no fast food or chain restaurants! Familiarize yourself, albeit temporarily, with the local ambiance by spending your time at local establishments.
If the town you're visiting is near the ocean or a river, drive down to the shore, park your car, and go get your feet wet. Take advantage of water-related activities that may be available. Go swimming, boating, sailing, fishing, kayaking, or just lie on an inflatable raft and soak up some sun. Many waterways have free or inexpensive ferries that can give you a pleasant ride, with a perfect view of the waterfront and wildlife. If the town you're visiting is in the mountains or the desert, there are sure to be fantastic walking trails nearby, or maybe even a state park. Taking a free walk to see native plants and wildlife is one of the most relaxing, memorable vacation excursions, and it doesn't cost a penny.
After you've spent most of the day exploring and soaking up the local atmosphere, start asking around to see what local restaurant sounds good. Some of the most memorable meals can be found at unique restaurants off the beaten path. If you're in an area that is known for a particular type of food, find a restaurant that specializes in that food. No matter what restaurant you go to, select something from the menu that you've never had before. After all, this is a vacation―no plain old cheeseburger for you!
If you take a day trip like this and find that it does leave you feeling refreshed and renewed, just think about it―you can take a mini-vacation like this once a month, or even just on a whim when you need a personal day. Outings such as these require no fancy planning, no elaborate packing, no reservations or tickets to purchase in advance, and best of all, they are very affordable. And in an uncertain economy where your budget changes from one day to the next, a mini-vacation can help you relax and unwind without affecting your budget. Be creative, be adventurous, make memories, and empty your mind of stress without emptying your wallet.