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Originally published July 22, 2010 at 11:07 AM | Page modified July 23, 2010 at 9:21 AM

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Travel Troubleshooter

How to take a summer 'daycation'

Travel columnist Christopher Elliott gives tips for taking a really-close to home and frugal "daycation" this summer.

Tribune Media Services

If you don't have the time or the money for vacation this summer, maybe you can spare a few hours for a "daycation."

Somewhere between the staycations of 2008 and the naycations of last year there's the daycation trend of 2010.

Sure, it's another silly neologism. But the slowly improving economy means many travelers will take their first real vacation in more than a year this summer — minus the long flight or drive and the hotel overnight. More Americans will opt for short day trips, instead.

After two consecutive years of decline, the number of domestic leisure trips is expected to edge up just over 1 percent in 2010, according to a study by Euromonitor, a market research company. "People are expected to get back on the road, although they will remain extremely cost-conscious," says Michelle Grant, the company's travel and tourism research manager.

How do you have a successful "daycation" this summer? Here are a few tips:

1. Not too far

Christine Louise Hohlbaum, author of "The Power of Slow: 101 Ways to Save Time in Our 24/7 World," says a vacation isn't her top priority this summer. "We prefer to pay off some of our mortgage, invest in a new porch and enjoy the summer program that our town offers the kids," she adds. "We might venture off to the mountains or some such, but we are staying put."

I hear that a lot — if you feel trapped in the city or suburbs, then get out of town, but not so far that you have to spend the night.

2. Think like a tourist

Lara Clayton lives in Miami, and she's planning a series of daycations with her boyfriend this summer. What's there to do in Miami? If you live there, you might not think there's a whole lot (I know, I used to live in the area, and after diving, boating and food, the list ended).

You have to think like a visitor, instead. Clayton plans to attend wine tastings, take a salsa dancing class, go jet skiing, visit a museum and go to a spa. 3. Check out your local visitor bureau

Your local Convention and Visitors Bureau has a wealth of information about daycationing in your area. (For Seattle, see www.visitseattle.com.)

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4. Visit a park

Big-name national parks tend to get all the attention from the vacationing masses, but thanks to the daycation trend, state parks have found themselves in the spotlight this summer. State parks across the country are pushing the concept of daycations with a new advocacy group called America's State Parks. The organization is promoting state parks as the "smart vacation" because close-to-home getaways cut down vehicle emissions and save you money. (For Washington state parks, see www.parks.wa.gov.)

5. Crank up the culture

Scott McKain is taking his family to Indianapolis this summer. He lives in Indianapolis. What's there to do in town? Plenty. "When we realized here in Indianapolis we could visit the NCAA Hall of Champions, the largest children's museum in the nation, a great zoo, a brand-new State Historical Museum, and more ... well, there's no beach, but there is plenty to do," he says.

6. Don't blow your budget

Just because you're staying home doesn't mean you have to forsake the fun. Heather Sokol, a mother of three and a blogger based in Westfield, Ind., is planning to spend her vacation at a local arcade, amusement park and a Dave & Buster's. The kids will "have a blast," she says, "but I won't have to spend a fortune." That's the general idea behind a daycation.

Not just the economy

I'd like to think the economy is to blame for the daycation trend, but as a consumer advocate, I'm not convinced it's the only reason. The travel industry has dished out substandard service to us for so many years it's little wonder we are reluctant to get out there again. Maybe the service needs to improve before we hit the road.

Looks like we'll have to wait until 2011 for a real vacation. But you might as well have a little fun in the meantime.

Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine. His column runs weekly at seattletimes.com/travel. Contact him at celliott@ngs.org.

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