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Staycations vs. vacations

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With summer almost upon us, many people are starting to think about taking a much-needed break.

The question remains, though, whether to travel afar on a vacation or remain close to home enjoying a staycation?

While the debate continues as to which offers more bang for the buck, one thing is definite, say travel agents: More families are on the go after the last day of school, now that the Great Recession is in society’s collective rearview mirror.

“As the economy got better, we did notice a significant uptick in our business,” said Sandra Llewellyn, owner of AJ Travel Inc. “Spring Break is now more popular than ever. Summer is always going to be busy, though. Even in the lean years, people would save up for summer vacation.”

In the past decade, numerous factors – including the economic downturn and political unrest in certain global hot spots – took a significant toll on the standard getaway; thus, fewer vacationers hit the road and airways.

Out of the need to fill this void, the concept of staycations was born, which means vacationing close to home to see local attractions.

In recent times, the idea seems to be, well, staying. In 2014, Google Trends reported a 10 percent increase in online searches for “staycations.” Frequenting nearby venues is appealing for those looking to avoid the common stresses of travel such as cost, airport security, traffic and navigating an unfamiliar setting.

“Our family has a genuine love of travel, so we have always taken vacations and staycations,” said retired San Antonio schoolteacher Eugenia Hebert. “We love to learn about the history of places, so we’ve traveled all over the country, New York, Boston, Chicago, and been on several trips overseas, but San Antonio is such a great city. When the kids were younger, we would be happy to spend a weekend here in town seeing the sights.”

Alamo City residents are blessed with numerous stay-at-home vacation spots, say travel experts.

Recently designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, San Antonio boasts the Shrine of Texas Liberty — the Alamo (arguably the Lone Star State’s top tourist locale) — plus four other historical Spanish missions. Museums abound, catering to everyone from art lovers to inquisitive children — the Briscoe Western Art Museum, the Witte Museum, the McNay Art Museum and The DoSeum, to name a few.

Want a bird’s-eye view of South Texas? The observation deck of Hemisfair’s Tower of the Americas beckons.

Return to street level, or below, and meander the River Walk for dining and shopping. During your sojourn, stop and wade in the waters of the newly opened San Pedro Creek Culture Park downtown. Not too far away, Brackenridge Park also offers tons of local activities, ranging from the zoo to golf and a miniature train.

If you like theme parks, visit Fiesta Texas or SeaWorld San Antonio.

Plus, there are several all-inclusive hotel resorts on the far North Side, such as the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa, which has nearly everything a visitor could want or need.

“There have been some lean years for our industry, of course, but people love traveling and I think personally our business is as busy as ever,” Llewellyn said. “Summertime is always busy for us … For locals, though, San Antonio is almost the perfect place for staycationers.”

The same can be said for nearby sites.

Just a short drive from Military City, USA, is Austin’s live music and libations, the rustic paradise of the Hill Country, and the suntans and sport fishing of the Gulf Coast.

Everything tourists covet about San Antonio – Travel & Leisure magazine ranked the Alamo City No. 18 on a list of the top 50 world destinations in 2016 – also makes the metropolis desirable for staycationers.

“There is definitely a lot to see and a lot to do right here in our own backyard,” Hebert said. “If you go to the missions or all of our beautiful parks or down to the River Walk, it’s enough to make you feel like you are in another city. It is nice to (vacation locally) because sometimes you forget the beauty of our city and what it has to offer. There’s always something new to discover.”

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