No Place Like Home

You don't have to go away to get away. Here are 20 tips for taking a vacation right where you are


JUST DAYS AGO YOU WERE DREAMING of a vacation in France, strolling through the Louvre and eating croissants outside a cafe on the Champs-Elysees. Now you'd rather be at home watching So You Think You Can Dance.

After all, who wants to be stuck in a long security line at the airport, fighting through the crowds, contending with harassed ticket agents and worrying about what you can or can't take on the plane?

Of course, you could get in the car and drive to the beach or take a trip to the mountains. But then, think of the traffic jams and soaring gas prices.

Who needs it?

What you need is a vacation right where you live. We're not talking about the usual working vacation where you weed the yard and organize the basement. A real by-the-book of Webster vacation: noun meaning "rest, respite and intermission."

With kids at home the intermission part may be a tad difficult, but they can get involved in the "pretend" vacation, too. (If you're lucky, they're still at camp.)

So, take a few days off. But don't bother to pack. You won't need your suitcase, a picture ID or a full tank. After all, you're already there.

Here are 20 ways to take a vacation at home.

1. Set the mood. Tune all televisions in the house to the Travel Channel. No matter what, do not watch CNN or local news. You can't get away from it all if you stay tuned to the crawl.

2. Stop the mail. And don't forget to record a vacation phone message at home -- and at work. Just because you're home doesn't mean you're available. After all, you're on vacation.

3. Sleep in the guest room. It's good enough for your folks and probably has the best linens in the house. After sleeping in the guest room a few nights, you'll be happy to see your old bed. It will be just like coming home after a long trip.

4. Pamper yourself. Arrange for a massage therapist to come to your home for an hourlong aromatic massage. The therapist can also show family members how to give each other great foot massages. You can search the American Massage Therapy Association's Web site at to find a licensed therapist in Maryland.

5. Order out, eat in: Have a week's worth of meals prepared by a personal chef. Request that each night's menu reflect the flavors of a particular region. Most meals should require no more than a touch of the microwave or oven. Or order takeout from a Mexican restaurant one night, Italian the next night, then Thai. Keep changing your perspective for a week of global feasting.

6. Take a tour: A vacation's not complete without a little sightseeing. Take a local guided tour. Either ride the Duck ( or try the new double-decker bus tour of downtown Baltimore (buy tickets at the visitor center at the Inner Harbor). Chances are you'll learn something new about Baltimore.

7. Pitch a tent: Set up a tent in the backyard or in a spare room for the kids. Put out sleeping bags and flashlights. Count the stars in the sky or make S'mores in the microwave.

8. Write postcards. Put down the Blackberry and pick up a pen. Remember when sending a note while on vacation was a great way to catch up with friends? It still is. Better yet, take pictures of your vacation at home, print them on cardstock and mail to friends.

9. Play games. Missing the links in Scotland? Don't just play the usual nine holes. Plan an entire day -- or even a week if you're really a fan -- around your passion for playing golf. Go for 18 and take the cart. If tennis or swimming is your thing, check out some clubs that offer daily passes or short-season rates.

10. Get art smart. Everyone should have a chance to visit the Mona Lisa at the Louvre, but not when the museum is as packed as it's likely to be this summer. Instead, visit a local art spot such as the historic Evergreen House. Not only is the house full of beautiful paintings and trinkets, but an outdoor sculpture exhibit is going on through Sept. 24.

11. Read a good book. A literary escape is definitely in order for any vacationer, and Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen fits the bill perfectly. This romantic tale of a young veterinary student who runs away with a circus during the Depression will transport you to another place and time. No boarding pass needed.

12. Go to a park. Exploring the outdoors is often the highlight of a trip. If you have not enjoyed a local park in a while, summer is a great time to stop and admire the hydrangeas. Federal Hill Park offers a beautiful view of Baltimore, while Soldiers Delight Park in Owings Mills is rustic country. Druid Hill Park has the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, a great diversion for kids, and the Baltimore Conservatory, a cool spot for adults.

13. Make a clean sweep. Hire a cleaning service for a day. Among the companies working in this area are Merry Maids, Clean as a Whistle and Maid to Order. Merry Maids' service starts at about $85 per hour, and the workers will dust, vacuum, clean the kitchen and make the beds, too. Maybe they can leave a mint on your pillow.

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