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[EDITOR's NOTE: With the summer vacation season upon us and with Raleigh recently being named one of the Top 20 cities for "staycations," it seemed appropriate to repost the article below. According to WalletHub, vacationers will spend an average of $1,246 per person this summer – a 9% increase from 2013 – due in part to a rise in hotel and airfare costs in popular destinations. Although the economy has improved considerably since this article was first posted, Americans still face considerable economic challenges for instance, according to WalletHub, the average household still has roughly $7,000 in credit card debt hanging over their head so the need to keep vacation expenses down is still very much with us.

The rankings considered such factors as the price and availability of entertainment and recreation, the availability of "rest and relaxation" amenities and the weather. The top three cities were Buffalo, NY, Minneapolis and Cincinnati. Raleigh ranked only No. 20 but it's good to know that, if you choose not to travel, you still can vacation at one of the best places in the nation to remain at home.

And if another reason is needed to repost this article, this was my very first article for the Examiner and it was just about five years ago, so this is also a way to mark my five-year anniversary. Enjoy!]

Last summer, “staycations” was the trend with the cost of gasoline topping $4 a gallon. Now the cost of gasoline is down, but so is the economy.

If you’ve already done the staycation thing and are looking for something cheap but a little different this summer, the Falls Lake Recreation Area is the perfect – hmm, shall we call it a “laycation” since it’s a great option for those who were laid off?

As vacation bargains go, the Falls Lake State Recreation Area rocks. Just 10 miles outside of Raleigh, Sherwin Constable only had to put $15 in his gas tank to travel from his North Raleigh home to the Rolling View camping area last weekend. He and a friend came with their kids and a few of their kids’ friends – a total of seven people – for an overnight stay.

Constable, 43, who in February was laid off from his job as a computer analyst at GlaxoSmithKline, reeled off the costs for the outing: besides the gas, $20 for the campsite and $40 for the food. Even if you include the tent in the cost – which he got at Goodwill for $20 a long time ago for another camping trip – the entire trip costs less than $100, he said.

And the camp sites at Rolling View come with water and electricity hook-ups and nearby bathrooms, so the camping is tame enough even for young children.

“If you think how much it would cost to take them out for just one meal,” Constable said as he cooked breakfast over a wood grill, gesturing with a spatula toward the five kids sitting at the picnic table. He broke into laughter without completing the sentence.

Rolling View is one of seven parks surrounding the 12,000-acre Falls Lake. The 26,000 acres of woodlands offer fishing, boating, swimming, walking, mountain biking and camping.

The parks are well used. According to Eric Dousharm of the N.C. Department of Natural Resources, which oversees The Falls Lake Recreation Area, the number of group site campers totalled 2,940 in May, and the number of family site campers totalled 6,844.

Last weekend at Rolling View, victims of the economy were well represented.

Joe and Evelyn Anderson have been to Falls Lake before but his job usually prevented him from going in the summer, Mr. Anderson said. But he lost his job in May when the company he worked for, Fowler Contracting, went out of business. So there they were Saturday relaxing in folding chairs outside of their trailer, which they hauled to the campground behind a pick-up truck.

Traveling from the town of Mebane in Alamance County, the couple spent only $25 for gas for their truck. Add in the $42 for camping fees and between $40 and $50 for food, and the entire cost for the three-day trip was about the same as one night in a semi-nice hotel.

They did a whole lot of nothing and that seemed to be fine with them. “We caught a few fish but we threw them back,” Mrs. Anderson said.

Constable had a slightly more ambitious agenda. He brought a telescope and at night pointed out constellations to the kids. He also brought along fishing poles and, on Saturday morning, the kids all learned to fish.

“We all got an opportunity to bond,” he said. “And the kids learned a little about astronomy and biology.”

The kids woke up early and no one was grumpy, Constable said.

“When you get back to nature, your body has a chance to restore its natural equilibrium,” he said.

For more info:

Falls Lake Recreation Area web site.