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No money for a vacation? Stay home and play!

Are you vacation starved? Ready for (and in need of) some relaxation, but struggling with a dehydrated budget?

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Consider this: A new experience can be as refreshing as visiting a new place. Satiate your vacation wants this summer by sticking close to home and checking out the attractions and beauty in your own corner of the world.

It's easy to overlook the relaxation spots or cultural happenings in your hometown. All year long you work hard and are busy with family and work responsibilities. If you are like so many of us, you don't take the time to play locally. You may not even know where to find the fun.

Picture someone wistfully looking at travel brochures of your city. Where could they go to explore the charm of your region or experience the local culture?

Check out these sources of inspiration for plenty of fun on a slim summer vacation budget.

Sources

Visitors centers. Don the tourist garb! Go to your local visitors center and pick up a state map. Find all the cities and towns within a 100 to 200 mile distance from your home and start planning.

At the visitors center, you'll hit on valuable coupons for area attractions and ideas for inexpensive activities. Plus, often you'll find discount coupons to local restaurants.

Local newspapers. Check out the weekend editions of the local newspapers for listings of summer fairs, festivals and sporting events.

Keep your eyes open for new restaurants in town. They typically offer grand opening specials. Plus you can discover lunch specials and early bird specials when the regular menu prices are reduced.

State departments of travel and tourism. Visit your state's department of travel and tourism online to plan out a summer's worth of fun activities. Our clickable map will direct you to your own state's department of travel and tourism.

While every state's Web site is unique, each offers a wealth of ideas and tips for enjoying weekend excursions or longer vacations.

For instance, how many Floridians know that their tourism department offers interactive road tours, called "Tours on a Tankful," that allow you to select a starting point and discover a number of one-tank-of-gas day trips exploring some of Florida's major cities and surrounding areas?

Live in Ohio? Take advantage of free membership with the nifty Discover Ohio Travel Club. You'll receive e-newsletters describing great places to visit and fun things to do. But the best feature is the travel organizer that allows you to plan multiple travel itineraries and save your information, e-mail it to a friend, or download it to your PDA.

Like to camp out, but don't want to invest in camping gear? In Colorado, there's no need. Colorado State Parks offer affordable accommodations for everyone, from the backcountry enthusiast to the camping newcomer. They have over 3,900 campsites and 50 cabins and yurts. You know -- those circular canvas tents reminiscent of tents used by nomads on the steppes of Mongolia and Siberia.

Washington, D.C., has put together a fantastic online visitors guide. This online guide is your ticket to savings on restaurants, fairs, festivals, rooms, museums, sporting events and more. Plus you'll find an online agenda for this summer's All-American Summer event. Running from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day, Washington, D.C. will be hosting free weekly festivals, concerts, exhibitions, performances, walking tours and hotel packages.

If you didn't see your state highlighted, don't worry. These special features aren't exclusively theirs. Here's a quick list of 10 ideas to search for on your own state's Web site.

10 ideas to search for:
 
 
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