This year, your big summer travel plans may be canceled. But you don't need a beach and a drink with a little umbrella in it to renew your vigor. Take a staycation, instead!
For the past year, every time I looked at May on my calendar, I became giddy with excitement. Not only is this my birthday month, but we were also planning on taking a much-needed vacation to Bermuda. We'd made exciting plans for lounging on the soft, pink sand of our private beach, splashing in the refreshing turquoise water, and snorkeling with a rainbow of tropical fish. But then something happened we would've never planned on—a pandemic.
Though disappointed that Bermuda couldn't be our destination of choice this year, I knew we needed to find a way to spend this scheduled time relaxing and chilling out. If we couldn't travel to our vacation, our vacation would come to us—hello staycation!
What the heck is a staycation?
You've probably heard the term, but in case you haven't, "staycation" is the trendy term for taking a vacation without traveling far from home. There are hundreds of definitions, but my favorite comes from financial guru Dave Ramsey:
An increasingly popular way to get away from it all is to go nowhere. Believe it or not, you can have plenty of fun by staying in your neck of the woods. It's called a 'staycation,' where you pack zero bags, never fight traffic, and don't have to pay an arm and a leg to fill up the gas tank. For those who just want time with their families or a break from the office, the staycation is a great way to relax without busting the budget.
Time away from your usual routines, including limited contact with smartphones, social media, and other distractions that cloud your mind and prevent you from unwinding, are essential when planning your staycation.
Create a staycation mindset
The first element of a fantastic staycation is creating the right frame of mind. Palm trees and cruise ships certainly add a magical feel to a getaway, but if you gear up for fun and relaxation, you can still achieve those vacation vibes minus the tropical atmosphere.
Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, Ph.D., author of Rest and The Distraction Addiction, says that a vacation can help you tap into a mindset that allows you to relax. But you don't have to go on an extended trip away from home to accomplish that. In How to Reap the Mental Benefits of a Vacation Without Actually Going on One, Pang explains:
The psychological benefits of vacation wear off after about two months. So if you aim to maximize your happiness, shorter vacations are the way to go.
If staycationing is your plan this summer, rally the troops (and yourself!) by building some exciting momentum before it begins. A few ways to do this are:
- Create a staycation countdown on your calendar. Woo-hoo!
- Clean and straighten up your home a day or two before so you can ease into staycation mode without being distracted by unfinished chores.
- Make a staycation playlist with fun tunes. Think beach hits and anything with a Calypso beat and a steel drum!
- Purchase some items to put you into a relaxing mood—refreshing candles or incense, cheerful windchimes, funky beach towels, cozy throws in vibrant colors to snuggle under when you're roasting marshmallows, fun plastic drinkware for delicious cocktails and mocktails.
- Stock your fridge with fresh and nutritious ingredients and foods. Purchase vacation food—things you wouldn't normally indulge in unless you were on vacation. Don't forget an assortment of thirst-quenching beverages like fruity sparkling water, a variety of herbal teas, mixers for tropical drinks, and, of course, beer and wine.
- Shop for a few new outfits or accessories that will freshen up your wardrobe for day trips. A new piece of loungewear will put you in a relaxed mood.
- Put together some staycation grab bags for the kids. It's fun to have surprises such as new crafts, toys, flip flops, gift cards, and sweet treats, etc. that they weren't expecting.
Five amazing reasons to take a staycation
1. Staycations mean bonus time
Do you always wish your vacation could be just a few days longer? When you don't have to spend a day traveling to and from your destination, you free up a couple of extra days.
When you're enjoying time off without traveling, there's no long wait at the airport, no delays or changing flights, and no worries about checking in to hotels, unpacking, and easing into vacation mode.
When you're enjoying time off without traveling, there's no long wait at the airport, no delays or changing flights, and no worries about checking in to hotels, unpacking, and easing into vacation mode. You're already here and ready to go!
Use one of those bonus days for a little "me" time. I planned a massage and facial for the first day of our staycation. It was pure heaven, and I unwound instantly.
2. You can turn your routines upside-down
One of the highlights of taking time off is breaking out of your daily schedule and routines. You may not be jet-setting around the world, but even on a staycation, staying away from everyday stressors is essential. Turn off email notifications on your phone, as well as your regular work-week alarms. Nix errands or using this much-needed break to clean and play catch-up. This time should be dedicated to all things soothing and enjoyable.
Forget about setting the alarm each morning. Once your family rolls out of bed, treat them to a gourmet breakfast at a local diner or pancake house. Feel like having ice cream sundaes for a late lunch after you investigate the quaint shops in a nearby town—do it! One of the benefits to your staycation is leaving the same old grind behind and living in the moment doing things you don't typically make time to do.
Nix errands or using this much-needed break to clean and play catch-up. This time should be dedicated to all things soothing and enjoyable.
I made sure our staycation was also a "playcation," meaning the emphasis is on all things fun. Let your kids control part of your plans. One day I turned over the reigns to my 14-year-old daughter, and she planned a fantastic day, including horseback riding, a Mama Mia! movie marathon, and a delicious meal of sushi from one of our favorite takeout restaurants.
3. You'll get a fresh perspective when you see things with a tourist's eyes
Staycations are the perfect opportunity to be a tourist in your own backyard. There are dozens of neat places to explore in your town and nearby cities that you probably have never made time for because you're too busy with your hectic, day-to-day life. Remember to make these outings leisurely and carefree, just as you would if you were strolling through an unknown port during a cruise.
Saunter through historic downtown, museums, art galleries, and public gardens. Enjoy being able to relax and take in the scenery around you. Sip frozen lemonade or graze on local tastes.
Friends of ours took a staycation and rented a convertible to liven up their exploration. They downloaded the Round - Scenic Route GPS Navigation app, which helps you discover local, picturesque driving and walking routes. If hiking is your thing, try a resource like AllTrails.com to find the nearest hiking or walking trails. Connecting with nature is always a great way to unwind and reenergize. Take plenty of photos—staycation moments are worthy of capturing and posting for friends and family.
Taking a staycation doesn't mean you can't travel at all. If you're near a beach, a local amusement park, the mountains, or a city with museums, consider taking advantage of the short distance and do some day tripping. Dine at nearby fancy restaurants that might typically not fit your budget—it's a staycation after all!
Go geocaching. This is the perfect treasure hunting game for the entire family that requires little more than a GPS-enabled device, some gas in your tank, and a sense of adventure. Download an app or hop on one of the many geocaching sites to receive instructions on where "buried treasure" is located in your area. Have fun tracking down as many items as you can. This video gives an excellent overview of what you can expect when your geocaching hunt begins.
4. Spontaneity is the rule, not the exception!
When vacationing away from home, many people find the courage to be a bit daring and try something completely new. Why not bring that sense of adventure to your staycation?
Leave time open for spontaneous adventures. Find a salon and have a family makeover. Dine at ethnic restaurants you've never tried before. Shop for a new piece of furniture for your family room. Hire a babysitter to stay one night with your kids while you and your honey book a night at a luxury hotel. You can sip umbrella cocktails by the pool, read a stack of your favorite magazines, and order room service. Don't overthink it—stay focused on throwing all caution to the wind and let loose!
5. Re-entry is a breeze
My family's recent staycation was one of the best weeks we've spent together as a family in years. Everyone was able to pick at least one activity or restaurant they wanted to try, and we all participated. We unfollowed schedules, disconnected (mostly!) from phones and social media, tried dozens of new restaurants, chilled out with movies and books, and even stayed in a pricey seaside hotel for one night. There was no pressure to keep up with a travel itinerary, and we also exercised together quite often. And because we were home and not traveling, the last day of our staycation, our family fell in love with a rescue puppy that had no home and adopted him! (Now that's spontaneous!)
Adopting a pet is a serious commitment. You may make a spontaneous decision to fulfill the family dream of bringing home a new pet, but make sure you're dedicated to giving your pet the best care possible for the rest of its life before you take the leap.
Best of all, because we didn't have to fly. We spent our final staycation day napping and then preparing a 5-star homecooked meal to celebrate our fabulous week. That last down day gave us the chance to settle in and prepare a few things for the following week of school and work, so when we did resume our routines, re-entry was a breeze!