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Take a vacation close to home

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Staycations—that new buzzword for vacationing at or close to home—are hotter than the Texas summer sun. The incentive to keep R&R local may be the slowing economy and growing gas prices, but the end result is a boon for the planet. Cuts in air and car travel, along with less garbage from drinks and snack foods consumed en route, drops in restaurant visits and hotel stays mean reduced environmental impacts. And if planned properly, these nearby getaways can be just as exciting (well, almost) as far-flung, exotic adventures.

How to take a vacation close to home

  • Plan ahead. Sprinkle your time off with some special day trips (or "daycations") to make your break memorable. Investigate your area’s possibilities ahead of time so you can take advantage of any special events. Below are some destinations you may want to consider:
    • Merge with nature. Look into nearby national parks, forests, beaches, and wildlife refuges where you can hike, picnic, canoe or kayak, camp out, or just lie back and take everything in.
    • Become a native tourist. How many New Yorkers have never visited the Statue of Liberty or explored the American Museum of Natural History? Discover the attractions that draw out-of-towners to your city and give them a try yourself. If you don’t already have some places in mind, check with your state’s visitors bureau. An increasing number of visitors bureaus offer special staycation packages if you want to stay over a night or two, including West Michigan, downtown Los Angeles, and Connecticut. You might also be able to find a green package deal like the one offered in Charleston, South Carolina.
    • Pamper yourself. Book a little "me" time at an eco-friendly day spa to rejuvenate your mind and body. These establishments offer the day spa standards—facials, body work, massages, nail care, waxing, and more—but use nontoxic products and often follow sustainable business practices.
  • Sample local fare. Add to that vacation feel by leaving behind your cooking and dish washing routine to eat out every so often. Try restaurants that serve local and organic food. Foodies may want to whip up their own feast after a visit to a farmer’s market or a farm that lets you pick-your-own organic or local fruits and veggies.
  • Break communications. You may be home, but resist the urge to check your cell or computer for messages just as if you were off on a secluded vacation site and not accessible. If you have to turn them off and unplug them to give yourself this mental break, then do it and you'll save some energy, as well.
  • Catch up around the house. Take this opportunity to putter as much as you want. Weed your garden, jazz up your bedroom with a new coat of paint, read that sizzling eco-romance novel you haven't been able to get to, recoup your sleep debt, and just take life at your own pace.

Taking a vacation close to home helps you go green because...

  • Traveling less, whether by car, airplane or boat, reduces fuel consumption and decreases greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming.
  • Decreasing travel miles also cuts our reliance on petroleum, a non-renewable resource.

Vacations rank high on the list of “must haves." But as nearly 900 million worldwide tourists take to the roads, skies, and seas each year in pursuit of some R&R, they leave hefty impacts on local ecosystems, water, air, and wildlife. Staycations—a top travel trend identified by ad agency giant JWT—may help to ameliorate those effects. While the motivation for seeking local and regional attractions likely has more to do with the green of money than the environment (with Americans taking a hit in the wallet from soaring gas prices) the peripheral eco-benefits are real.

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