No place like home: Staycation good option for chilling out on a budget
By Linda Braden Albert | (email@example.com)
If your travel plans have been derailed by economic concerns, try a staycation instead.
A staycation is just as it sounds: taking a vacation by staying home or close to home rather than having a traditional break and traveling farther afield. A number of people are doing just that, finding as Dorothy did in “The Wizard of Oz” that there really is no place like home.
Lynn Turner, of Maryville, said she and her children enjoyed a staycation a few years ago.
“We called it our magic summer,” Turner said. “We camped at Elkmont when the fireflies were in sync, we camped at Cumberland Falls and saw the moonbow at night. We explored local caves, hit all the local museums and used a hiking book to find trails with our names and hiked them. All mostly natural things that make the Smokies and our homes so beautiful!”
Linda K. Baker and her husband, Kenneth, both retired, are planning some staycations as well as a traditional vacation this year. She said, “My husband and I have some day trips planned — Knoxville River Boat, John Sevier Home, Norris museum (Museum of Appalachia), and the (Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center) Museum in Townsend are on the top of our list. We are planning a trip to Wilderness in the Smokies with all the family — our son and our daughter and their families. We also plan to take the entire family to Santa’s Land in North Carolina.”
Baker said they will probably take additional day trips both with and without the family.
Sara Smith, of North Carolina, said she and her husband, Barry, rarely take vacations because they spend their time visiting their children. “But this year we plan to take a vaca within about 200 miles of home, to celebrate the anniversary and to get away. Our staycations include visiting the North Carolina Zoo which is 25 miles away.”
Shane S. Rhyne, account executive/digital strategies manager with Ackermann PR based in Knoxville, said, “One of the things we do here at Ackermann PR is look at how tourism works in the entire Smoky Mountain region, which includes Asheville, Knoxville and the communities around the National Park in Sevier, Blount and Cocke counties. Whether guests are from out-of-town or locals on a ‘staycation’ we know the Smoky Mountains have a lot to offer from the nation’s largest home at Biltmore Estate to the only home of a signer of the US Constitution outside of the 13 original states at Blount Mansion in Knoxville.
“Local residents may think they know what the region has to offer, but until they plan a staycation of their own, they may not realize the full range of activities. You can explore the history of the world’s most famous shipwreck in one moment and find yourself hiking a peaceful trail the next. Ziplining in the afternoon gives way to a spa treatment with your girlfriends after lunch. You can learn to surf in the Smokies, ride a Segway at Biltmore, or take a walk through two centuries of history at Blount Mansion — all within only a few hours drive of each other in the Smoky Mountains region.”
Why do staycations?
Rhyne said, “Staycations are having a direct benefit on local attractions. We are seeing consistent reports that the number of local visitors to attractions is up, providing attractions with a steady stream of local visitors to complement the continuing growth of visitors from outside the region.”
He said a combination of factors comes into play, including concerns about fuel prices, less disposable income for longer trips outside of the region, increasing difficulty in coordinating family schedules between parent/guardian jobs, teen jobs, youth activities, school schedules, etc., which makes a shorter day trip or overnight trip a more realistic option for some families. Renewed interest in recent expansions at area attractions and special events hosted by these attractions also play a part.
Staycation activity spans all demographics. Rhyne said families with children find the shorter trips to be more manageable, affordable and less stressful, and couples like the flexibility that short road trips give them in making last minute plans.
“We are seeing activity as well in the form of trips that function as ‘girlfriend getaways,’ where a group of women who are friends at work, church, in the neighborhood, etc., will plan a getaway weekend together to have fun, relax and break out of their normal routine. Staycations are proving to be an excellent way to organize these getaways as the proximity of the destination makes the logistics of planning easier and allows the group to get a feeling of ‘getting away from it all’ while still being reasonably close to home.”
Visiting these Smoky Mountain region attractions has many benefits for the visitor and the attraction.
“Obviously, there’s an economic benefit for the traveler as some of the expenses associated with longer trips are reduced or eliminated,” Rhyne said. “Staying in the region also helps keep the local economy flowing as staycation guests go out and experience attractions, restaurants and shops they might not otherwise visit during their daily routine.
“There is a novelty factor, too. All of us get in a routine over time. We dine at the same restaurants regularly. We go to the same places and attractions to entertain ourselves because they are familiar to us. A staycation can challenge us to look at our community and region through a tourist’s eyes and to try out new experiences for ourselves. This gives us an opportunity to learn new things about our region and to find potential new favorite activities when it’s our turn to host and entertain out-of-town guests again.
“At the same time, a staycation provides a great opportunity to find out about places we think we already know but haven’t visited in a while. Many of the Smoky Mountain region’s attractions are expanding, adding new exhibits and working constantly to provide new and improved amenities to guests. It’s a safe bet that if you haven’t been to these attractions in the Smoky Mountain region recently, you’ve missed some exciting new features and activities.”
At http://www.tnvacation.com , a number of travel destinations and tips are given for East, Middle and West Tennessee. For example, click on “Tennessee Trails and Byways” for a tour across the state. Each of these motor trails has points of interest to enjoy along the way and a wealth of information is given, including attractions, lodging, food and wine, the great outdoors and agritourism — living history farms, rural bed and breakfasts, craft communities as well as experiencing delicious farm-raised meats and produce. The site has a downloadable map so you can plan your destination or just go with the flow as you feel it. An events listing tells you of special times to plan a visit, as well.
A sampling of the trails:
• The White Lightning Trail in East Tennessee leads staycationers and vacationers through 163 sites, from moonshine exhibits to Victorian homes, Civil War sites, scenic overlooks, famous factories and post-prohibition stock car speedways.
• The Promised Land Trail in Middle Tennessee takes you through big cities — Nashville, in particular — and small towns, courthouse squares and state parks. With 113 stops recommended, there will be something to appeal to all ages.
• The Great River Road travels the route of the Mississippi River, Tennessee’s western border, originating in Memphis in the southwestern point and ending at Reelfoot Lake at the northwestern border of the state.
• For the history-minded, the Tennessee Sesquicentennial Committee has prepared a Civil War Trails guide and is planning a number of activities to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. Check http://www.tnvacation.com -war for more information.