Updated July 12, 2020. Staycations! Fun, right?!? Please don’t groan and roll your eyes. Suddenly, staycations have been more or less mandated. And if the public health experts are correct, we may be doing “local travel only” for the next couple of years.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic, you looked forward to getting away from the familiar. A different experience, a different climate, a different view. Even if you went to your favorite cabin every year, it was your chance to unplug.
Never mind we’ve all been stuck at home for months and feel desperate to escape. How can we rethink our situation? Not just survive, but thrive?
What do the experts say?
First, a shining ray of hope. Research shows that there’s no reliable evidence that holiday/vacation travel is more beneficial than a staycation. Jessica de Bloom, a professor at University of Tampere in Finland, has studied travel and tourism upside down and sideways. She’s found that the important thing is to take time from work or routine for relaxation and recovery. She also notes that with over-tourism and the adverse effects on the climate, staycations are environmentally responsible. (See more below.)
Marty Nemko, PhD, thinks vacations are overrated. “Think of all the things you enjoy but perhaps rarely get to do, and to do them without the travel hassle and cost.” He’s a bit grumpy about the cost and hurdles of travel, but he does have a point in mentioning that some people need a vacation after their vacation.
No matter the reason you’re not traveling, I’m here to offer some ideas that will make you glad you didn’t load up your car, stand in a TSA line at the airport, or risk catching or spreading a deadly viral infection.
Why staycations are great!
They’ve gotten a bad rap, but there are good reasons for taking mental breaks at home:
- They’re budget-friendly. This does not mean boring. But without hotels and big-ticket transportation costs, limited funds can be used for fun–not fundamentals.
- They’re eco-responsible. The carbon footprint from travel is a growing concern. In a recent New York Times article, author Andy Newman debates the thrill of travel versus its impact on global warming. By sticking close to home, we’re helping the environment.
- They’re relaxing–and surprising. No suitcases to pack and haul. No complicated travel connections. No adjusting to different mattresses or night noises. Ahhhh…and yet, there are cool discoveries to be made in the area you call “home.”
- They’re adaptable to your comfort level during restrictions. If you want a short stay in a hotel, easy day trips, or dinner outdoors, you’re in control. Determine how much risk you’re willing to take–you can always change your mind.
First, make a mental adjustment
Before we launch into the list of ideas, please raise your hand and solemnly swear that you won’t use your precious time for dull chores. This is vacation! Those tasks can wait another week or two.
If need be, pretend you really have traveled to a new destination. Go to your state, city, or local region tourism website. Order a guidebook for your area and study it as intensely as if you were headed to Paris.
Spread out a map and make a circle to mark a 1-3 hour distance from home. Buy fresh sunscreen, a bawdy book, or a new picnic basket…whatever it takes to wrap your mind around this.
Freshen up the inside of your house while you’re at it. Sheets in a snappy color, different soap and shampoo, maybe “themed” placemats for the table. Invent a clever name for your new B & B. Schedule a daily Happy Hour.
Ready? Let’s start!
These ideas will need to be adapted, of course, depending on circumstances. Everything is topsy-turvy, what with hot spots and social distancing.
- Parks and playgrounds. If you were in another place, you might take your book or journal and head to the local park, find a bench, and enjoy the scenery. Maybe you’d choose a spot by a playground, to watch how parents care for their children. How is the play equipment different from other places you’ve been? Do the parents interact with each other? Try it with a fresh eye.
- Trees and trails. How long has it been since you hiked those trails in the forest preserve or state park? You’d like to, but there are always other obligations, so you postpone. Pack a picnic and spend a day outdoors. There are huge benefits to being outdoors, and it’s safer than choosing an indoor venue.
- Water and amusement parks. One of the benefits of staycations is that you can adapt your schedule to the day’s weather. Depending on the forecast (both weather and safety) head to the water park or to your local version of Six Flags. With the hefty admission prices these places charge, you’ll be glad you don’t also have to pay for a hotel and extra meals.
- Classes and workshops. Check your library, park district, and local college calendars to find interesting workshops and classes. My own community college offers three-hour classes on making sushi, glass art, and 3D printing. During the pandemic, it offered online Zoom workshops for $29 on history and travel. I took one on Route 66!
- Virtual tours for everything. How about this: Go to Finland on Monday, New Zealand on Tuesday, Botswana on Wednesday… Or maybe select a topic: Roman ruins, coral reefs, World War I battlefields. If there is a benefit to the pandemic, it’s that we gained virtual access to so many places: cities, museums, national parks, and archeology.
- Take a “Projation.” Marty Nemko coined a new work that combines tackling a new project during your vacation time. He describes it as “a vacation in which you take on a project you’d find fun and has value…” You decide what that means: writing a short story, redecorating the guest room, learning to cook Peruvian food, or hiking every mile of a nearby trail. (Binge-watching Netflix does not count.)
- Plan your next trip. No one knows when we’ll be free to roam again, or what it will look like. According to a study, the “happiest” part of a trip is planning and anticipating it! So settle in and design your dream vacation. Maybe two or three while you’re at…
Make it exactly what YOU want and need!
Want to sleep late? Or maybe you like to watch the sunrise while everyone else is in bed. Feeling lazy one day? Fine–no pressure to go far. Stay home and invite your “bubble” of friends over for a simple cookout. The whole idea of staycations is to explore your area, and balance it with the comforts of home. I’m willing to bet that yours will be awesome!
What have you done on a staycation? Tell us in the comments below!
More budget travel ideas: