Last night, Blogger wasn't available, and because of finals, I didn't have a completed post queued. So you're getting a stream-of-consciousness kind of post for today...
It's the time of year most people think about vacations. With gas prices so high, the kind of vacations I remember as a kid where we drove half-way across the country with a tent isn't nearly as attractive as a budget vacation.
Actually, a better question is: what is a vacation? In almost every form, it means something of a break from ordinary work and some relaxation. It takes a lot of different forms to different people, but I honestly prefer an "at home" vacation most of the time. Yes, if I had unlimited funds, I'd travel a LOT (I have a dream of traveling slowly around Europe, for instance). But a couple of nights in a cheap motel while going to an amusement park or two is about what my budget would cover, and I'd rather put that money to other uses.
If your vacation budget is also fairly limited, consider a stay-at-home alternative. If you would have spent $500 for motel, amusement parks, and meals out, look around to see what's local that you haven't done or would really like to do again. If you like the outdoors, look for parks and hiking trails and swimming pools. If you like culture or history, what museums and historic sites are in your area?
Be creative in how you think too. If you like to read, how about a reading vacation? Start out with a trip to the best library in your area and then to a good bookstore. Take one of the books to a good coffee shop (or something similar) and relax with a good book and gourmet coffee. The idea is to RELAX. Pick a different bookstore or library as your "destination" for each day.
If movies are your thing, plan a movie vacation. This one has a lot more potential for socializing. During the day, go see one of the new releases at the theaters. Then visit the library or store to get videos around a different genre or theme, then plan a party for that evening around it. Pick up food that fits the theme. Invite friends for some nights that you know will enjoy the movies.
You can indulge yourself quite a bit like this, and have a lot of fun. Even better, you can probably do it for much less than traditional vacation travel, then take some of that extra to take care of something that will make your life easier. How about paying someone to come in and do a really thorough cleaning for you? Build a really organized entertainment center. Really child-proof your home. Replace that dreadful carpet that shows every footprint with something that is easier to care for. Get all those small home repair jobs done that you've been putting off (it's amazing how much stress those little things cause).
Don't give up traditional vacations entirely if you like them, but make that travel something special, not routine. This summer, we're traveling on vacation, but only about 2 hours, to stay with my daughter for a few days. No motels and my favorite people all in one place. And the rest of my week will be used to relax and catch up.