"Staycation" is banished from the vocabulary, hopefully for good

Lake Superior State University has released its annual List of Banished Words, a compendium of overused, idiotic, and otherwise grating words that we're all completely sick of hearing. Most of them, culled by submissions from the public, are words that have had deep meaning wrung out of them after being flogged to death as shorthand, either by lazy journalists or shallow politicians.

Among the vocab pariahs: "Bailout," the pairing of "Wall Street" and "Main Street," and "maverick." But there's one word on the list that irks me more than any other: "staycation."

The word was bandied about the media in the early summer as a quick way of illustrating a malaise about gas prices. People weren't interested in seeing the world this year, we were told. They're taking staycations instead. Staycations, apparently, are like vacations, except you don't travel far from home, or away from home at all. Which still makes them vacations, but whatever.

When I was growing up, we just called that "budgeting." When we couldn't afford to go skiing one winter, my mom didn't give the decision a snazzy name to make it seem cool or trendy. We just did something else. What irks me most about staycations is that by giving a sensible economic solution a catchy name, we legitimized the fears that kept some people home. It was like agreeing that travel was too expensive to be done now.

Money is indeed tighter for lots of us, but that doesn't make exploring and learning impossible. There's a whole industry of travel magazines, websites, and package tour companies, and airlines designed to tell you how to haul yourself around the world for peanuts, including Budget Travel (where I was once an editor), SmarterTravel.com (piled with deals), and guide book series like Lonely Planet,Rough Guides, and Pauline Frommer's (I write for that, too). The fear that you have to stay home instead of seeing Paris is why they were created to begin with, and as bad as the economy has gotten, it's still not so bad that you can't attain your dream trips without a little saving and a little smart planning.

Here's the kind of stuff you can find if you just switch where you're getting your information. Would you believe that right now you can get round-trip airfare to Ireland, plus six nights in a B&B and a rental car, for $499 per person from the East Coast, and $615 from the West Coast? You can get round-trip airfare to Paris plus six nights in a hotel there for $699 from the East Coast, or the same package to London for $599. And right now, the major U.S. airlines are throwing fare sales that can fly you clear across the country for as little as $99 each way.

Some of us spend that amount in a few months on our cable TV bills as we staycation. Except if you go to Paris, you'll remember what you saw there for the rest of your life.

Or here's another idea: Instead of taking six trips a year, how about one good one? I know people who go to Breckenridge for a few days for a ski blowout, then the next month hit Vegas for a few days to gamble, and so on, until the middle of the year, when they're out of money and complaining that they guess they'll never see Paris. In fact, they could have.

You don't have to say no to traveling. You just may have to say no to traveling the way you used to, or to say no to luxury for now. Start by saying goodbye to "staycationing" forever.
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