Vacation. The word evokes images of fruity drinks on tropical beaches, European cathedrals and art galleries, and crossing yet another National Park off your bucket list. But what if—because of time, money, or illness—you’re not able to hop a transcontinental flight or collect another stamp in your passport?
Enter the staycation.
What’s a staycation?
Staycations, of course, refer to vacations taken in and around your city—or in and around your own house. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, people weary of canceled flights, pricey resorts, and highway traffic jams opted to unplug from their devices and plan a week doing everything they’d always wanted to do at home, or happily doing nothing at all.
The upsides abound. You’ll spend little to no time in transit, leaving you more time to enjoy the activities you love most. And you’ll save money—depending on how simple or luxurious you want to skew your time off. You can incorporate family or create an individual experience. Either way, you’ll reap many of the benefits of a traditional vacation and return to your regular life with renewed energy and a sense of well-being.
How to plan a staycation
Resist the temptation to take a week off from work without preparation. While you want to build in hours for pure relaxation, too much unstructured time may cause anxiety and even depression. Instead, follow these guidelines to boost anticipation and guarantee amazing memories wherever you go or stay.
Block off a particular amount of time.
Just like the traditional vacation, a staycation can last a day or a few weeks. Decide on your dates and write them on your calendar. Arrange for time off from work and consider whether or not to tell friends and extended family about your plan. In some cases, it may be more relaxing to vacation without divulging your days off so you can spend them as you wish, without obligation to others.
Write down your top ten preferred activities.
Don’t plan to paint the house or overhaul the garage, unless you really, really enjoy these types of chores. Rather, fill your staycation days with fun, pleasurable activities that offer a sense of relaxation and indulgence, such as sunbathing in your backyard or mountain biking on a local trail. And don’t forget to go to bed early and/or sleep late, just as you would if you were vacationing far away from home.
Make a budget
As you would before a traditional vacation, consider the costs of activities—renting stand-up paddleboards or bicycles, permits for county parks or admission to virtual films, staying overnight in a local boutique hotel or taking an online class. Don’t forget to budget for food, whether you’re opting for takeout or splurging on ingredients to create that four-course Italian meal you’ve always wanted to cook from scratch.
Finally, make a plan to disconnect. Craft an email autoreply explaining that you’re out of the office and will return correspondence upon your return. Remove your work email from your phone, and let co-workers know you won’t respond to calls during your time away from the office. Consider putting newspapers and mail on hold, just as you would during a traditional vacation. And save your other favorite news sources for when you return to regular life as well.
What to do on a staycation
A staycation doesn’t have to be boring. Rather, it provides opportunities to look at your familiar surroundings with new eyes and build your appreciation for your corner of the world. Try these staycation ideas for exciting activities to do in your backyard and beyond.
- Pitch a tent in your backyard or on your back porch. Build an outdoor fire and roast hot dogs and marshmallows for s’mores. Tell ghost stories and sing camp songs by the light of the flames. Then fall asleep listening to night sounds you may never have noticed from inside your house.
- Play outside games such as cornhole, croquet, lawn darts, badminton, and ping pong, and follow with a movie projected on a wall or bedsheet. Make sure to set a picnic table with a jug of homemade lemonade and your favorite pre- and post-game snacks.
- Buy or borrow books that help you identify birds, plants, and animals in and around your yard, or use a smartphone app. Bring along magnifying glasses, sketchbooks, and colored pencils, and learn the names and descriptions of the flora and fauna around you.
- Enjoy a water day with an inflatable or tank pool, a Slip ‘n’ Slide, squirt guns, water balloons, and fluffy beach towels. End the day with fair food such as corn dogs, elephant ears, and snow cones. (Search online for “fair food to go” to see if concessionaires are set up for takeout near your home or make it yourself.)
- Collaborate on a woodworking project such as a tree house, a chicken coop made from a retired play structure, or a Little Free Library to mount outside your house or (with permission) at a local school.
- Build a compost pile, and—separately—garden beds full of flowers to attract pollinators such as butterflies and bees. Or plant a pumpkin patch so you can harvest your own jack ‘o’ lanterns in October.
- Hire a housecleaner to scour your home from top to bottom. Then swap houses with a local friend or family member and take long walks or bike rides, and talk with neighbors for a fresh look at a new area of your city or town.
- Plan a meal you’ve always wanted to cook. And pair it with a related film offered virtually through your local indie cinema or online museum exhibition. Make grocery shopping a gourmet excursion, allowing yourself to peruse the sections you usually pass by on your way to buy milk and broccoli. Treat yourself to delicacies and try unfamiliar foods.
- Redecorate a room in your house from top to bottom. Rearrange, repaint, sew window treatments, and do whatever else helps you feel creative and excited about a new-to-you space.
- Do a family cooking challenge. Present teams with a basket of ingredients that they have to use to concoct a meal. Or choose a recipe for a seven-layer-cake or Baked Alaska, pick teams, and host your version of The Great British Baking Show with photos and video for posterity.
- Plan a board game event and/or play some new videogames such as Walden, a game that allows players to explore Henry David Thoreau’s life in the Walden woods, or Shipwreck, a game that asks you to explore dungeons and battle monsters to escape an island.
- Take a class online and learn to paint a landscape, sing an opera aria, groom a pet, or sew a quilt from beloved outgrown clothes.
- Visit a U-Pick farm to harvest berries, apples, grapes, and pears. Alternatively, locate a local gleaners’ organization and glean fields and orchards to help community members in need of food.
- Plan to hike, bike, or paddle an extended network of trails in or around your location. Geocache in your neighborhood during the day and find a dark area for stargazing at night.
- Choose several new restaurants over a week from which to order takeout. Set your table inside or out with placemats and cloth napkins, candles, and fresh flowers. Consider pairing meals from around the world with related travel documentaries or feature films.
- Stay at a local boutique hotel or Airbnb for the night. Order room service, go for long walks, and take advantage of amenities such as on-site massage and bicycle rentals.
- Rent a convertible and tour your city and surrounding areas. Take a gourmet picnic and explore the historical landmarks you’ve always meant to visit. Stop at a state or county park, and finish with a movie at a local drive-in theater.
- Work in a community garden plot, planting vegetables and flowers, pulling weeds, and mulching. Meet other gardeners and trade tips and seedlings. Alternatively, visit your local farmer’s market to chat up local growers and sample everything from heirloom tomatoes to quince paste and homemade salsa.
- Design a spa day with either a DIY or schedule a massage, facial, manicure, and pedicure. Don’t forget a pitcher full of ice water and sliced citrus as an elegant and refreshing amenity.
- Schedule a reading retreat. Hang a hammock and surround yourself with a stack of your favorite magazines or paperbacks and spend one day or several days reading for pleasure. Don’t forget snacks and a blended cocktail or mocktail with one of those adorable paper umbrellas.
- If you have children, arrange for an outdoor babysitting exchange with another friend and schedule a date night with your partner. Order takeout or cook together and drink wine by candlelight or in the glow of a backyard firepit.
- Trade breakfast in bed with other family members. When it’s your turn to prepare the meal, set up a beautiful tray with a cloth placemat and napkin, and flower. Make homemade scrambled eggs and waffles, or buy pastries from the local patisserie.
- Hire a professional photographer to take family or individual photos in your hometown. Spend a day posing in front of your favorite haunts and landmarks, and arrange the printed pictures in a scrapbook or photo album.
Relax and enjoy!
However you choose to spend your time off, know that play and relaxation time will counteract the stress and anxiety of day-to-day life. Commemorate your adventures with photos and reprint them on personalized T-shirts, mugs, or on a calendar where you can pencil in the dates of your next staycation.