Be a Tourist in Your Own City

RelayRides blogger Amanda L. Grossman is a pro when it comes to saving on vacations, and one of her best tips is being a tourist in your own city. Here’s how.

Who says you have to take a big vacation this year?

If you’re like me though, then you will probably get the itch to explore a bit (especially when spring and summer hit). Not only that, but vacations offer a concentrated amount of time together with family and friends that is more difficult to find in a regular routine. You don’t want to miss out on that.

Instead of spending the big bucks this travel season, I’m going to show you ways to be a tourist in your own city and surrounding areas so that you can still create wonderful moments in time for you and your loved ones. Did I mention that it will be quite affordable to do so?

Take a Placard Tour

Are there placards and historical monuments that you drive past on your commute but have never stopped to see? Now is the time to do so. Locate the historic district near you, or grab a map from the local tourist place and take an afternoon to read the placards, stand by the monuments, and find out what went down in history around your home. If you have children, then give everyone a turn reading the information out loud. You will learn the historical significance of buildings, walkways, and moments in time that you normally would just drive past.

This will add an appreciation and some context to your future commutes!

Taste, Sip, and Savor

Almost every place in the United States is known for some type of food or drink. I’m originally from Lancaster, PA, so we have the Philly cheesesteak just 40 minutes away (Geno’s is better than Pat’s, IMHO), and the pumpkin whoopie pie in Amish country. Here in Texas we delight in various types of barbecue and we even found a local vineyard to tour and taste. When I lived in southern Florida, I enjoyed key lime pie and fresh guacamole.

Sample the locally made cheeses, sauces, fruits, or anything else that people are always talking about in your area. Score bonus points if you pick up some ingredients to add some local flair to your own cooking at home!

Take a Movie Tour

Do some research online and find out if any movies have been filmed around your area (or within a few hours). You might be surprised with what you find. For example, a quick google search for “movies filmed in PA” shows that Marley & Me, The Village, and My Girl were all filmed within driving distance from where I grew up!

Once you find a movie and location, rent the movie and watch it as a prelude to your day out. Then take you, your friends, and family on a walk/bike/car trip of the filming location. Take turns taking pictures of one another as you act out the various scenes. Eat where a favorite actor/actress ate during the scene, or find out some behind-the-scenes information to see where the cast and crew stayed and what they did while in town.

Change Your Mode of Transportation for a New Angle

It’s fun to change up your mode of transportation. Don’t own a car, or want to use some of the money you are saving by going on a staycation to upgrade your ride? You can find a cheap car rental through RelayRides (with local pickup and drop-off!). If you usually drive, then take a tour of your area by bike (I’ve found some real gems this way). Hike a few trails, go down a path you never have before, or take a horse ride. A new mode of transportation will bring newness to any location, as well as give you an angle you haven’t seen before.

Find a National Park within Driving Distance

Are you within several hours of a National Park, or other nature-bound area? Even spending just one night camping a few hours away from your normal surroundings will feel like a mini-vacation. Overnight camping fees are generally very affordable, and you can pack up most of your food from your cupboards and fridge. If you rarely camp, then try to borrow some of the supplies from others. For example, we borrowed an ice cooler for our camping trip a few years ago, and this past year, we lent our tent and lantern to a family member so that they could go camping. It’s a win-win situation!

This post originally appeared in the Houston Chronicle.