Who’s ready for a vacation? The arrival of springtime often leaves me yearning to get out and explore, to recharge with a vacation after the long winter. But it’s not always practical or possible to travel to my dream destination for vacation. Vacations can be expensive, take time to get there/back, and can often be difficult with kids, pets, or not-so-mobile family members.
And yet vacations are essential to our overall health and well-being. With the hectic pace of today’s world, a vacation is an important way to rejuvenate, recharge, and take some time away from the stress and tension of everyday life.
This is exactly where the staycation comes into play. A staycation lets you have that much-needed vacation, without the cost and extra travel time of a traditional vacation. It gives you the chance to step away from all the distractions of daily life, and instead gets you into the vacation mindset, doing enjoyable local activities or visiting local attractions, no travel required.
It’s actually been shown that vacations decrease the risk of depression, make you feel more satisfied and purposeful, make you more productive afterwards, make you feel closer and more connected to your family, and even help to keep the romance alive in your relationship with your significant other.
So get after it and start to plan your ultimate staycation!
Steps to a successful staycation
The key to the perfect staycation is to plan and prepare for it like you would for an out-of-town vacation. This means:
- Do some research and plan ahead of time, taking off work, and blocking off your schedule just the way you would if you were leaving town.
- Set up some ground rules for your ultimate staycation, and
- Build excitement leading up to your staycation
Research and Plan your Staycation
Having things done beforehand makes sure that during your staycation you aren’t thinking about everyday chores like doing laundry. And doing your research in advance to make reservations for day trips, dinners, and tours ensures you won’t be just sitting around — which is usually when the ‘traditional’ habits (turning on the TV, doing a load of laundry) would start to creep in.
Here are some ideas for what/how to research and plan ahead:
- Make reservations for tours/tickets/dinners
- Make a list of local restaurants that deliver, are worth visiting, or you’ve been meaning to try.
- Research the must-see locations in your town. Visit your city’s convention and visitors bureau website. You’ll typically find there a calendar of events for local attractions you may not even have thought about visiting.
- Research online your local community center, library, and local museums/attractions to find upcoming festivals and events — this will help you define viable dates for your staycation.
- Load up your DVR or Watchlist queue — is there a series you’ve been wanting to catch up on, a movie marathon of RomComs you’ve had in mind, a cooking series you’ve wanted to watch to master some new skills? Get them teed up in your watch list for easy access.
- Check out books at your local library or add to your Kindle or Nook reader. Your staycation is the perfect time to immerse yourself in a great book, learn about something new, or simply relax with a novel that you otherwise don’t have time to read. Some great sites for free eBooks to get your staycation reading list topped off: manybooks.net (a huge index of public domain books in all sorts of categories, in over 20 digital formats), dailylit.com (you pick out a book, they send you a chunk every day, and you read and enjoy it with a small bit of advertising attached), Feedbooks public domain digital books ( thousands of free downloadable novels, short stories, and poetry collections), HundredZeroes.com (a collection of best-selling eBooks that are currently free on Amazon), Freebooksy.com (posts a free eBook at least once a day, and cover multiple genres)
- Look up recipes you are interested in trying out during your ultimate staycation.
- Unplug and Disconnect. Your staycation is just for you, the two of you, or your family. You’ll need to more consciously ‘disconnect’ since you’ll be in town and near WiFi: set up an out-of-office email response, silence the phones, turn off your computer, let your colleagues know not to bother you unless something is extremely urgent, and then do your part by truly signing off. If you tell everyone that you’re going to be unavailable but then you reply to some emails, you’re sending the message that you are actually available. Truly disconnect.
- Get chores done before you “leave”: laundry, cleaning, gardening, sort through your mail pile, pay your bills, change your linens/towels, stock up on groceries and essentials, etc. Schedule any professional home services (such as hiring a plumber) that you’ve been putting off so you don’t have to deal with it during your staycation.
- Consider picking a theme and decorating your home for ambiance.
- Beach/Tropical theme: Create a music play list of the Beach Boys, Jimmy Buffet and island tunes, along with decorative palm trees, leis, margaritas, summery foods, Hawaiian shirts and a canopy. Party stores are great for theme decorations.
- Mountain theme: Decorate with pine cones, tree logs, a tent in the living room, toasting marshmallows in the fireplace, and barbecue cuisine.
- Pretend you’re in Paris or Spain: Post signs in foreign languages, play trendy foreign music, plan out exotic meals from the regions.
- Set up the bedroom for calm and romance. emove all the clutter, add some candles and incense, and invest in some high thread count Egyptian cotton sheets.
- Turn into a boutique hotel by having anightly turndown service. Buy a delicious box of individually wrapped chocolates. Then each night, fold back the blankets, smooth the sheets, and leave a chocolate treat on each pillow.
- Outfit your bed: Somehow hotel beds with their crisp white hotel linens just ooze holiday and relaxation. So make your bed like hotels do: fold the top sheet six inches over your blanket. Then fold your comforter three-quarters of the way down to make the bed super inviting. Break out all your throw pillows.
- Spa out: Find or splurge on some lush terrycloth robes. Stock the bathroom with a luxe body wash, candles, and eucalyptus or lavender soaps.
- Create a mini bar: What’s an ultimate staycation oasis without munchies? Stock up on some gourmet potato chips, salty cashews or pistachios, water, bubbly and your favorite spirits.
- Order “room service”: Keep your favorite take-out menus handy. Think omelettes, waffles with berries and cream, freshly squeezed juice for breakfast, or fries and champagne for a late-night snack. Use your china and eat in bed!
- Tune up: Set up portable speakers in your bedroom and family room — select some chilling out music and prep some staycation playlists.
Set up Some Ground Rules for Your Staycation
It’s easy to get into vacation mode when you have traveled to a far-away destination that’s away from it all. However, It’s often not as easy to establish that same vacation state of mind when you are in your own, everyday environment. This is why I highly recommend that you establish some ‘rules of engagement’ for your staycation holiday – to make sure that you actually destress and ‘get away from it all’. You’ll want to customize these to match your style, but having some agreed-to ground rules actually makes the whole staycation more successful and enjoyable.
Some example rules of engagement you may want to adopt:
- No desk work — mobile devices OK but not for doing work. This rule is vital, and should really be kept without fail — it ensures that you aren’t drifting back to your email or phone. You will see that you will become happier as each day goes by without having drifted back into work.
- No house work. This one enhances the sense of being away / in a hotel.
- Eat out as often as you want, no judgments. It’s great to establish that eating out for breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner is permissible, just as on vacation.
- Daily outings planned, ie each day will have some planned activity(ies).
- Normal routines will be changed up. Instead of eating dinner while watching TV, eat in the dining room, or on a blanket in the living room for a picnic. Switching up the regular stuff makes it more memorable.
- Option to take your pets and/or kids to friends/family for a night. This one goes along with changing things up a bit. Make it permissible to take at least one day break – your kids/pets will also appreciate the change. And it will enable you to skip the 5am trip outside to take the dog out.
- Daytime cocktails are OK. Typically when we’re on vacation, we don’t inhibit ourselves from enjoying a cocktail on the beach, or a glass of wine with lunch. It’s thus freeing to establish this as a permissible staycation ground-rule.
Make sure to plan and play House music. Often when we are so busy in our regular days at home, we don’t think to put on music the way we do when guests are coming. It’s actually a great way to make yourself feel more vacation-y — wake up to some relaxing music, or make dinner to some opera – music improves your mood!
Build Excitement for your Staycation
Counting down to your vacation is important to get yourself and everyone in the vacation state of mind. Put the dates on the calendar and talk about how it’s two weeks and then one week, 3,2,1 days before vacation time! Print out a vacation calendar, and as you make your plans and reservations, mark them on the calendar. You can even print boarding passes (from mothersniche.com) for your staycation or some of your reservations/tours to get the excitement building.
Ultimate Staycation Ideas for Families
Food-Related Activity Ideas for Families
Make a feast: Try gourmet recipes that you have saved but never found the time to make. Or make it a destination dinner to bring a different continent’s flavors to your home. Set the mood with themed decorations. Set your dining table with a nice tablecloth, your fancy china, and candles to create upscale ambiance. Get everyone involved in the planning and preparation. Check out my post on how to make a memorable family dinner.
Take a blindfolded taste challenge: Plan out a variety of kid-friendly options, and load them up onto forks and spoons. Blindfold the family members and hand out one taste at a time. The first person who guesses the correct taste earns a point, and the player with the most points is the winner – provide a simple prize and this will make for a memorable staycation activity.
Indulge with a Sweet Treat Feast: Visit local dessert spots — a bakery, cupcake place, or a chocolatier or patisserie and have a “sweet treat feast” to sweeten up your day.
At-Home Activity Ideas for Families
Game day get-together: If you are a sports-loving family, game-day for a favorite team is a great opportunity to lay out a spread of good eats, a few chilled beverages, and to sit back and relax with the ones you love. Put together a menu of dips and spreads, cut up lots of fresh veggies and fruit, barbecue some kebabs, and make a pot of chili or stew in the slow cooker, for your pre-game and game-watching festivities.
Family Game night: Get your competitive family spirit going by pulling out your board games and keeping score. Set up snacks and drinks for a marathon board game tournament, and offer a gift card at a popular store for the prize. Challenging yourself and each other can be fun and great way to laugh together. Try Charades, HedBanz, Trivial Pursuit, even video games you have (think Rock Band/Guitar Hero or racing games) and other fun interactive games. Tom’s Guide has a great list of family and group games available on your smart phone, to get you laughing and playing together for a memorable staycation game night.
Living room campout: No need to travel to a camp or resort, just set up your tent in the family room! Bring out the sleeping bags, make some popcorn or other fun camping treats (smores!), play games and watch a movie through the tent door. The novelty of a tent in the family room will be one of your most memorable staycation activities.
Host a home film festival: Pick a theme, have everyone pick a movie, and settle in for a day of movie screenings. Be sure to provide plenty of snacks, and have a few intermissions to rate and discuss each movie.
Local Attractions Activity Ideas for Families
Visit a fire station: Kids love fire trucks, so going to a fire station to see them up close can be an exciting outing. Arrange a meet and greet — most stations have fire station tours that allow you to meet firefighters and paramedics, and learn about what they do. Most tours also allow visitors to see some of the equipment, and even to climb aboard a fire truck. Research your town’s fire station online to schedule your visit.
Go to a local team’s game: If your family is full of sports fans, go watch your favorite team play live – most towns have at least 1-2 nearby professional teams, college teams, or even high school teams with a wide variety of sports to go support and watch. Deck out in fan gear and have a blast supporting your team together.
Paintball or laser tag: Battle it out for the family title of Most Awesome PaintBaller or Laser Tagger. There are paintball or laser tag facilities almost everywhere — search for your nearby location and plan an active family outing, sure to get everyone excited with an activity you don’t do every day.
Visit a Local Children’s Museum: A great Children’s Museum will have a great variety of fun and interactive activities that can keep everyone busy and entertained the whole day. Check out the Association of Children’s Museums website to find one in your area, and get ready for a fun-filled day of exploration.
Go bowling: Getting out of the house for any sort of semi-active activity is always a good idea. And bowling works no matter the weather. Small kids can participate with bumper bowling, and for older kids, some bowling alleys have night time ‘glow bowling’.
Go to a movie. If you are ready for some time out of the house, go to one of the giant theaters and have a 3D movie experience — don’t forget popcorn!
Family Activity Ideas Requiring Some Planning
Plan a treasure hunt / scavenger hunt: Get into the spirit—decorate the house, serve fish & chips and Chips Ahoy cookies, and dress as pirates for your treasure hunt. Or try one of the many other themed treasure hunts or scavenger hunts and family activities you can find at My Kids’ Adventures.
House swap with another family: If you live in the city, look for a home that’s in a more rural environment. If you live in the country, try to find someone with a city dwelling to swap homes with. Changing your immediate environment is a sure-fire way to relax. And swapping into a different kind of environment than the one you live in every day makes it even better.
Sign up for a workshop or activity you can do as a family. Look into cooking lessons, tennis lessons or walking tours of your town or neighboring village.
Take the train. Many railway carriers offer short trips of an hour or two, sometimes offering lunch or dinner as well. Get onboard and enjoy the scenery with your kids.
Perform acts of kindness together: Take cookies to the police and fire departments, help an elderly neighbor with chores and pick up trash in your neighborhood or nearby park. Share the amazingly good feeling of giving back with your family. For a plethora of amazing ideas, check out these 100 random acts of kindness ideas from signupGenius.
Ultimate Staycation Ideas for Couples
Food-Related Activity Ideas for Couples
Take a cooking class: Something about food never fails to bring people together. If you’re too busy during your normal weeks to cook dinner — use your staycation as a chance to learn some new recipes and cooking techniques with your partner. This is a fun way to learn more about food, master some unusual kitchen techniques, and also just to spend time together doing something new.
Go out to dinner: Try someplace new — check out a place you’ve always wanted to try or one that’s just opened up in town.
Host a potluck or barbecue. Invite friends or neighbors and ask everyone to bring something to share. Planning this together will be a great way for you two to reconnect.
Cook a Meal From Scratch Together. A staycation offers you the opportunity to take your time and cook a great meal, without the scrambling and rushing that often occurs on regular week nights. Try some new techniques and some dishes you haven’t had time for. Or make it a ‘destination dinner’, exploring and cooking cuisine from a region you are interested in visiting someday — calzone night from italy, or crepe night from france, you get the idea.
Create an ultimate tasting event: If you are a foodie of any kind, you can have tons of fun exploring which local pizza is the best; or which brand of breakfast cereal; or sandwich shop; or local wine. Your staycation can be the perfect time to explore these questions with a tasting event. Construct a scoreboard with all the nominees, and then both rate each submission in a variety of categories (eg flavor / cost / texture / color) and declare the winner.
Try an Out-of-the-Way Restaurant. Try that remote restaurant that you’ve been craving but never get to with the hectic normal schedule. Your staycation is the perfect time to go visit that out-of-the-way restaurant.
Hire a chef for an in-home cooking lesson. Have a chef show you the ropes in the kitchen. It’s a fun way to learn new skills together. ChefXChange makes it easy to search for cooking professionals around the US.
Chill-Out Activity Ideas for Couples
Enjoy a Movie Marathon. Have a daytime marathon movie session punctuated by warm cookie dough and spiked hot chocolate!
Pamper yourselves with a spa day: Book a spa day at a local salon or make up your own home treatments with special massage oils, foot scrubs, facials masks, bubble baths and lavender lotions. Take turns giving each other foot and back massages. You could also schedule an at-home massage.
Stay in a hotel for a night: For one night, find and stay in a nearby boutique hotel. Often times if you ask, hotels will offer locals a discounted rate.
Get a Couple’s Massage and Dinner at a Restaurant. In our everyday hectic lives, we often neglect to take care of ourselves — so take your staycation time as an opportunity to invest in some TLC and time with your loved one. A massage and a nice meal will do wonders for your attitude.
Have a Star Gazing Night: Visit a local planetarium or grab some astronomy books and head outside to look at the stars one night. The Dating Divas have some great ideas for star gazing date night.
Local Attractions Activity Ideas for Couples
Go Antiquing or Gallery Hopping. Shopping for art or furniture can be romantic since you’re picking out items to enjoy together. Check out some shops you haven’t been to together, perhaps in a neighboring town that you don’t often get a chance to visit.
Soak in some Theater. Heading out for a pre-theater meal and a musical or play is a great way to break out from your everyday realities.
Check out local events: Visit the art fairs, zoo, music festivals, rodeos, concerts and sporting events happening in your area. Your local chamber of commerce will have a list of upcoming events.
Go out on the town in The Big City. If you’re mostly suburban or rural, it can be exciting to spend a day or two in your local big city. Drive into town, rent an Airbnb or a hotel room for the night, and go out on the town. Explore the culture, shopping, and nightlife in the big city.
See Live Music. Seeing a concert or a live band at your local bar can be a treat. Make a night out of it with dinner beforehand as well.
Have a New York Date Night: Go shopping, enjoy NY pizza, and an ice cream parlor, and create an amazing New York Date Night (as per the Dating Divas).
Go to your local botanical garden. Most cities and many universities have a conservatory or greenhouse that you can visit. Inside the air is warm and tropical, and filled with beautiful lush plants and flowers. This is a terrific wintertime activity.
Tour a local winery or distillery. A great way to support local businesses is to visit some local wineries, distilleries or factories. Sometimes local facilities give structured tours, or at least have a gift shop to explore their crafted creations.
Outdoor Activity Ideas for Couples
Get outdoors: You’ll be guaranteed to feel rejuvenated and relaxed after meandering outdoors. You can try zip-lining, hiking, ice skating, snow shoeing, cross-country skiing, downhill skiing, sledding, build a fort and have a snowball fight, go birdwatching and feed the birds, roller skating, go-kart racing or rent a Segway to explore your downtown, weather permitting.
Go on a picnic. Pack up a few blankets, make some hearty sandwiches, and bring hot chocolate or soup in a thermos for an invigorating lunch!
Go on a photo expedition. Head out around town or to a park/lake to take pictures of the winter landscape.
Ultimate Staycation Ideas for Singles
Chill-Out Activity Ideas for Singles
Spa Day. Rather than rushing to get a manicure done in between meetings, or getting a facial only once in a blue moon, book a day-long package at your local spa. Planning an all-day spa retreat will make your staycation feel luxurious and decadent. You could also schedule an at-home massage to jump-start your relaxation.
Girls-Only / Guys-Only weekend. Sometimes nothing is as relaxing as simply turning your home into the venue for a big, grown-up girls/guys weekend. Stock up on wine, craft beer, snacks, and good movies/games. Getting together with your best friends will instantly improve your mood.
Read a book: When was the last time you relaxed in some warm fuzzy slippers, sipped some tea or a cozy cocktail, and read your favorite book or magazine? You could also make an outing to a local book store or take a leisurely afternoon at your local library to find some inspiring and fun leisure-time reading.
Stretch it out: Grab a yoga mat, put on comfortable clothes and follow along to a yoga video. Burn scented candles and have flavored water handy. You’ll be relaxing your mind and your body for a great staycation activity.
Local Attractions Activity Ideas for Singles
Take an Art Class. Creative outlets are important at any age and you can find many options that allow you to work on ceramics or painting to release your creative energies. Creating art can be a fantastic relaxing activity. Perhaps you’ll discover a hidden talent!
Be a tourist in your hometown or state: There are likely some amazing local sites which you’ve never had the time to see. Go to your state’s visitor’s bureau website and schedule a nearby adventure for your staycation.
Attend a Lecture. Sit in on a lecture or presentation on a topic that interests you. Art, history, politics, current events, hobbies, and health all possibilities. Check your local museum, chamber of commerce, college, library, and hospital to find out what is available.
Project Activity Ideas for Singles
Take up a new hobby. There is likely a topic or hobby that you’ve always dreamed of doing, but haven’t yet gotten to. Your staycation is the time! Whether it’s knitting, photography, gardening, cake decorating, scrapbooking – pick your topic and go for it – your local craft stores will have kits and even introductory classes for you to take.
Start a journal. Journaling is a great way to de-stress, organize your goals, and stay productive. Your staycation is a great time to start your journaling practice, be it a gratitude journal, a planning and goals journal, or simply a diary to release your stress each day post staycation.
Create a list of life goals. Take your staycation time to think through and capture on paper some short/medium/long-term goals. Having them on paper will make it all the easier to take steps towards them once you’re back into crazy-busy daily life.
Take on a home improvement project. Your staycation can be a great opportunity to take on the project that’s been in the back of your mind all year… putting on a fresh coat of paint in the bathroom, reorganizing your closet, creating an organized laundry center or mud-room area in your home. Something that will bring you happiness long after your staycation is over.
Become a Homesteader. Learn a skill such as making cheese, sour cream or churning butter. Or learn about making homemade bread and share your results with your neighbors. Make homemade cleaning supplies or bath/beauty supplies such as bath salts and foot scrubs. You’ll be able to use your new-found skills to relax once your hectic daily life resumes.
Research Family Roots. Take a day to research your family history and start building out a family tree. Ask your family members if they have any information to help put all the pieces together. Gather family stories, recipes, and achievements to create an amazing family historical account — you’ll be surprised at all the inspirational stories you will find in your own family tree!
Plan Your Dream Garden. Get online and research garden layouts, outdoor living spaces, cottage gardens, and accessories that will make your garden in the spring and summer a source of happiness and relaxation.
Singles Activity Ideas Requiring Some Planning
Take a special workout class. On your staycation, consider buying a weeklong pass to an exercise class you’ve always wanted to try, but you haven’t had the chance to try. From hot yoga to kickboxing, it can be invigorating to switch up your regular exercise routine and explore something new.
Treat yourself. We are often so caught up in everyday responsibilities, that we put off the experiences we dream about. Try that new hairstyle, splurge on a shopping trip to the big city, purchase concert tickets for your favorite band. Your staycation is the time to make it a point to treat yourself to something you’ve always wanted.
Volunteer. Volunteering is humbling and eye-opening, and makes you feel amazing as well. Check out your local soup kitchen, senior center, or homeless shelter and take some of your staycation time to give back to your community.
And there you have it! No excuses — pick a few ideas and break the monotony of your everyday grind with an ultimate staycation to recharge your life.