Budget family travel idea: Create your own city guide

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Staycation may be old as far as buzzwords go, but it's still a great way to maximize travel fun while keeping costs low. Chances are there's an entire summer's worth of adventure within a 50-mile radius of your house.

But if this is the latest of several staycations, you might be looking for a way to freshen it up. Consider this summer-long family project: create your own, personal city guide! There's no reason "major" cities should get all the glory and press. No matter where you live, you no doubt have favorite local sights, experiences and finds — why not record them in a book? By the end of the summer, you'll have a travelogue, photo album, and guidebook all in one.

Look beyond big-ticket attractions and well-worn tourist spots to the places that make your city special to you. No detail is too small. For example, my Portland guide would include listings of my favorite front yard gardens, the best place for croissants, and funky sidestreets to explore. Your kids might decide to chronicle best ice cream parlors, playgrounds and swimming pools. Or best trees for climbing. Anything that makes your town your hometown merits inclusion.

The process is easy — the trick is to remember to write down your notes and upload your photos as you travel. You'll drive yourself crazy trying to remember details if you wait until the end of the summer. The goal is to end up with a big pile of raw — but detailed — material you can winnow down into a finished product.

Your actual guide can be a simple scrapbook, or you can collect your digital photos in iPhoto or Shutterfly and have a custom book printed. Once the book is done, have a special end-of-summer BBQ and present it to your family after the banana spilts. You'll spend the rest of the evening remembering the wonderful summer you had.

If you have your city guide printed…you'll have one final, delicious bonus: it's the perfect gift for the grandparents.

Dodge CaravanHow are you planing to inject some novelty into the family staycation?

This post is part of a series sponsored by Dodge Caravan.