As the summer season kicks off, everyone’s schedules go into high gear, because what is summer without summer vacation? Yet we all still have lots of other responsibilities and commitments that require our attention and our dollars. And despite what Mr. Bush and Mr. Greenspan say, the recovering economy still hasn’t been s­potted in most of our n­eighborhoods. So with that in mind, in this issue we’re debuting a series on “cheap retreats.”

We asked three of our favorite writers to embark on weekend trips with a limited amount of spending cash — consider it our own form of reality TV — and to share with us the secrets of their successes.

First up is Kevin Raub, who gives us the lowdown on taking a solo trip to Memphis with just $299 in his pocket. He definitely made the most of his stash, and even had some change to spare. Whether you follow his itinerary exactly or just pick and choose from the great spots he discovered, you can count on this being a fun and inexpensive getaway.

Coming up in future issues, we have Ken McAlpine’s family of four touring Boston on $999, and Elaine Glusac and her husband are heading out to St. Louis with $499.

These are all great cities in their own right, but we think you’ll enjoy them even more knowing you can stretch your dollar just a little bit farther. So read about Kevin’s trip, and keep an eye out for the others. If you happen to miss them, don’t worry; you’ll be able to find them all at after they’ve appeared in the magazine.

If you’re looking for something to do in your own backyard, concerts are another summer staple. And there are so many great groups touring this year that it’s hard to keep up. To help you out, Chuck Thompson, one of our resident music experts, has compiled everything you need to know about who will be where, who’s rumored to be somewhere, and who won’t be anywhere at all. You’ll want to keep this with you so as not to miss a single great show.

Something else you won’t want to miss is our Third Annual Road Warrior Search. We’re accepting entries now. The grand prize is a vacation of a lifetime — two million Hilton HHonors Bonus Points, which can be used at any participating Hilton Family hotel in the world, and one million American Airlines AAdvantage Miles. The second place winner will receive a Bose Lifestyle 28 Home Entertainment System and a Panasonic Toughbook 73 Laptop, and three third-prize Road Warriors will receive two years of T-Mobile Hotspot Wi-Fi Internet service and a Panasonic laptop. Click here for more details.

With these and all of the other super ideas in this issue (check out our stories on Toronto, St. Croix, some must-see TV, and the big business behind some interesting reading material), your summer calendar is going to be crowded. Make the most of it!

Picture of Sheri Burns