I was inspired to write about backyard travel by Mrs. Micah, who prefers local getaways which allow her and her family to return to their own home at night. Her post highlights many of the frugal benefits of nearby excursions vs. far-flung vacations. If you’re a traveler at heart but can’t pull yourself away from work or family for any number of reasons, consider planning a few days out to feed your travel bug. Some thoughts on how to do this after the jump.
+ Draw a circle. Mrs. Micah set her daytrip boundary at a three-hour drive’s distance. For some, this may simply be too far for a relaxing day. It’s all right to be arbitrary: pick a distance (100 miles or 150 km) or a time period (1-hour, 2-hour drive). Then get out your map and protractor (if you haven’t held on to your protractor from geometry class, a pen with a length of string on it fastened to the center point will work just as well), and draw a circle. Figure out exactly what is included in your potential travel area.
+ Look and list. Now that you’ve got an idea of what your boundaries are, look at the map closely for points of interest, parks, stadiums, shopping centers, museums, nature preserves, rivers, lakes, campgrounds, funny-sounding locations, whatever. At this point, don’t be picky. Write it all down.
+ Brainstorm. Think of all the things you’ve wanted to do in your area, but have been putting off for this or that reason. Think of places you’ve been but haven’t been in awhile: science museums, monuments, neighborhoods, water parks, restaurants, bowling lanes, skating rinks, the theater, a basketball game. Again, let your mind run free and write it all down.
+ Research for the lazy. These days, every area of the globe has a tourism office that will happily supply brochures on local activities. Contact yours and have them mail you information. When it arrives, compare this to your list. If there’s already something on your list you’re certain you’d like to know more about, ask when you request information.
+ Research for the less lazy. Maybe you live near the tourism office and can pick up the brochures yourself. There will likely be stands of fliers and brochures advertising other activities. Same goes for anywhere tourists gather: for example, hotels usually provide these materials in the lobby as a “service” to their guests. Often these brochures have coupons or specials not available anywhere else. So, make like a tourist and gather information.
+ Narrow the list. Now that you’re armed with ideas and information, you should be able to narrow your list to, say, 20 different activities you’re sincerely interested in. (I keep the number large at 20 because, this being your backyard, it is not unimaginable that you could actually visit all of these things over a year or two.)
+ Let your fingers do the walking. You, as a web savvy individual, should already know that the additional information you need is often at your fingertips. With the materials you have, you will already have their contact information and web address. Check out the website of each site/activity and look over the following three items:
1) Opening times and admission prices. Note if there are any free or reduced days or reductions for certain groups (children, students, seniors). Sometimes there are additional coupons or discounts online, so look for these as well!
2) Check for special events, themes, openings, exhibitions, performances, festivals — write down the dates, times and any additional cost. Anything that seems an immediate “must do” even if six months from now should be written on the family calendar or in the daily planner so it won’t be forgotten.
3) How to get there, where to park, etc. The ambitious could produce an online map with directions. If you’re really organized, you could print and file these things for easy reference. Less organized, keep the pages bookmarked in a special file in your browser.
+ Get traveling! You are armed, ready and hopefully motivated to get out and explore your own backyard again. Don’t forget to pack a lunch and have fun!