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You owe it to your country to take a break

Be honest. When was the last time you traveled overseas? Eight months ago? Two years? Maybe more. But how often do you travel anywhere within your own country? And, no, the WalMart on the other side of town really doesn't count. Chances are, like many Americans, you're dead keen to set your peepers on Ayers Rock in central Australia but figure Niagra falls isn't really worth it. At least not since you've zoomed right in on Google Earth and your cousin Steve showed you his blurry happy snaps.

But jeez, switch on CNN and you realize that economic times are tough for your country. So why spend your hard earned dollars overseas when you can invest them in your own tourism industry?

In fact, by taking a local holiday you could be helping the economy in more ways than one. The American Institute of Stress has estimated that work related stress results in $200-300 billion in costs to industry per year. So you could say – although perhaps not in the presence of your boss – that you owe it to your country to take a break.

So what does a break inolve? It could be something relaxing like a Great Spa Escape, a trip to space with Virgin Galatic, or a around the world adventure. But what kind of breaks can you take without busting bank, saves the economy, your cash and is still a ton of fun?

Enter the all American road trip. What could be an easier or cheaper escape than a set of wheels and a tank (or two or three) of gas? It's almost the definition of freedom: nothing before you but the great American landscape and nothing behind but the last Burger King pit stop.

The LA times recently listed 124 road trips from SoCal (http://www.latimes.com/travel/la-trw-outofstateroadtrips-pg,0,510944.photogallery) but if you consider taking a rental car your road trip can start and finish anywhere you like. And, now that you're not splashing out in overseas airfares, you can ditch the old Ford Taurus and do it in a roadster.

Americans live in a vast land with much culture and natural beauty just beyond the door step and renting a car gives you the freedom to travel in any style you like, anywhere you like.

A few things to remember though, so as to avoid your trip going all National Lampoon on you.

  • Plan your route and make sure you take a GPS. As irritating as that little voice telling you to ‘bear left' and ‘make a u-turn' may be, on a long trip it can also be a lifesaver. Make sure you have at least one interesting pit stop in driving range each day.

  • Avoid the drive through or you'll end up broke and a contestant on The Biggest Loser. Try sampling local cafes and bars (the bar food that is, not the alcohol if you're the driver) where you'll often find fresh ingredients and bigger portions. Not to mention some interesting locals.

  • Bring a cooler to store drinks and snacks and load it up at a grocery store rather than a 7-11. You'll pay a lot less.

  • Check online for the cheapest gas available and plan out your fuel stops. Gaspricewatch.com and gasbuddy.com are a great start. Check Vroom Vroom Vroom if you don't already have a car.

  • Pack a collection of your favorite DVDs. You can't drive all day and night so you may as well have some entertainment on hand for those nights at Motels.

  • Above all, stock your ipod to capacity. You'll be surprised how soon 400-500 songs will get repetitive.

  • And finally, don't spend your whole holiday driving. Take a day at the beach or go kayaking. Anything to get your numb butt out of that car and into action.