Have you ever gotten back from a vacation feeling like you need another vacation just to recuperate?
Or worse: you get back from your vacation, and within a day it’s like your trip never happened?
All you wanted was some much-needed rest, perspective, and to “reset.” But here you are again, back in the same old grind. The only difference is that now your back aches from sitting on a plane for 5 hours, and you’re dreading that next credit card statement when you see what the “damage” is from your trip.
Instead of repeating this same cycle with regular vacations, maybe it’s time to try something different: a stay-cation.
In this article, I share the fundamental rules of a staycation, along with some creative tips and ideas for how to have a great stay-at-home vacation.
Why a Staycation is Sometimes Better than a Vacation
When you hear the word “staycation,” you might think of some slovenly guy loafing around in his sweatpants eating cereal out of a mixing bowl and not showering for days.
I picture the montage with Jason Segal in Forgetting Sarah Marshall—some sort of sad, stir-crazy, downward spiral.
But if done right, a staycation is the opposite of that.
Staycations can actually give you many of the benefits of a regular vacation…without the downsides:
- Staycations are cheaper, for obvious reasons. No airfare, no need for a hotel, you can eat some meals at home, etc.
- They require virtually no travel time. So the relaxation to transit ratio is MUCH higher. Less time spent on the move, more time spent unwinding and having fun.
- The “afterglow” from staycations is better. Unlike a vacation to a distant paradise—which can sometimes be erased the minute we return—the memory of a great staycation can often last longer. At the end of your staycation, you’re not returning the SAME OLD house. Most likely, you’ve created a new association with your home. No longer is it just a place where you sleep and do chores in between slaving away at a thankless job. Now, it’s actually a place where you can relax! And for that reason…
- Staycations give you a new appreciation for where you live, so the gap between that “relaxing paradise” and your everyday grind doesn’t have to be so wide.
Fundamental Rules of the Staycation
While there are some huge potential upsides staycations, they are delicate creatures. If you’re not careful, they can fall apart pretty quickly.
Since a staycation involves staying home, the biggest potential issue is that you might slip right back into the pattern of your daily grind.
That means you need to consciously engineer your staycation so it doesn’t at all resemble your daily life. Most likely that means you need to:
- Slow the pace. You spend so much time rushing from one thing to the next, so your goal with a staycation should be to do the opposite of that. Slower. Mindful. Actions.
- Alter your routine in some way. Daily habits are triggered by persistently encountering the same cues. If you consciously alter those cues, you’ll snap out of “autopilot” mode and be less likely to slip into your usual mindless routine.
- Avoid getting sucked into email, especially work email. Author Faith Durand recommends deleting your work email account from your phone. Calm down, you’re acting like I asked you to remove your spleen.
- Steer clear of the social media vortex. Social media is a great distraction from everyday life. But what you need is not to be distracted, you need to be present. Turn off all your notifications, and enjoy NOT being a slave to your phone.
- Resist the urge to “putter” around the house doing everyday maintenance like cleaning, laundry, or paying bills. That stuff can wait.
Treat Your Staycation Like it’s a Vacation
While it’s tempting to treat your staycation differently than a vacation just because you’re home, you should give it the same respect and consideration you would a trip to some far-off destination.
Have a Concrete Plan
Yes, a staycation removes most of the logistical worries of a regular vacation, but you still need to do some planning.
You wouldn’t fly all the way to Hawaii without having at least SOME idea of how you were going to spend your time, right?
I don’t mean you need to make a rigorous schedule. You just need to lay out your “menu” of how you plan to fill the time (even if that means actively lounging around the house). Otherwise, with a staycation, you run the risk of falling back into your usual patterns.
Later on in this article, I’ll share some specific ideas that you can consider using for your staycation menu/plan.
Pre-Wire Your Staycation for Success
In the same way you try to “tie up loose ends” before going on a regular vacation, there are things you can do to make sure your staycation goes smoothly. One of them is to literally get your house in order.
To preempt yourself from puttering around the house doing chores, consider doing a deep clean before your staycation to get the house totally spotless, the chores done, and small projects completed so they aren’t a temptation. You may even want to hire a housekeeper just this once, so you’re not scrambling.
As you prepare, take advantage of the concept of “structural motivation”—the way that small changes in your environment can have a big influence on your behavior. Want to watch less TV during your staycation? Unplug it or put it in the closet. Want to enjoy the outdoors more? Put a chair outside so you can enjoy morning coffee and evening wine while breathing the fresh air. Want to cook more during your staycation? Put all your cookbooks on the kitchen counter and tab some recipes. You get the idea…
In general, you want to give yourself as many visual cues to relax and enjoy the moment. When you go to a resort or some far-off paradise, this is usually easier, because the environment is already set up to encourage R &R (think chaise lounges and umbrellas). At home, you just have to work a little harder to set up those cues. Whatever form of active relaxation you plan to enjoy, set up “stations” in and around your home that support it.
Finally, before your staycation, email friends and family to tell them ahead of time that you may not be responsive, and that you are not, in fact, dead—just enjoying some peace and quiet at home for a few days. And related to that…
Set Firm Boundaries and Don’t Cave to Other People’s Agendas
Once your staycation begins, it should be sacred. Be strong, and remain impervious to interruptions. Unless something is a matter of life and death or sudden deportation, whatever it is can wait. Just because you’re home doesn’t mean you need to be available.
“I’m not in your hurry. I’m on staycation right now” should be your mantra.
If you booked 5 nights at a resort in Maui, you wouldn’t let someone—even a friend who arrived unexpectedly—totally derail your vacation plans. Just because you’re still in your own zip code doesn’t mean your carefully planned home vacation is any less precious.
Give Yourself Permission to Not Be Productive
This one is tough. I know some people struggle with feeling guilty for not “being productive” even when they’re vacationing abroad (myself included). And it’s even harder when you’re in your everyday environment. But if you can resist the temptation, the payoff is worth it.
Whatever you do, don’t use your staycation to just “get caught up” with basic life stuff. If you sense that you are using your time off to simply prepare for your time on, you’re doing it wrong.
However, I will say that staycations can be great for tackling those larger projects that have been hanging over your head and that realistically you would never make time for. Those “game-changers” that give you massive relief or make a huge impact when you complete them.
So, as I mentioned earlier, you should avoid piddly stuff like laundry, doing the dishes, or mowing the lawn. But larger once-in-a-decade projects like doing a massive purge of your garage, redecorating the house, or adding in new landscaping to your backyard could be worthwhile.
The key point is, if you do tackle a project, it should be something that continues to give you satisfaction or benefit long after your staycation is over.
Take a Ton of Pictures
Respecting your staycation also means making sure to keep it special. And one way to do that is to take a ton of photos on your staycation.
Think about it: you always get loads of pics when you travel, but how many great photos do you have that were taken at home—either at your house or just around town? The same way those travel photos preserve a memory of a special trip, photos of your staycation can be a great way to remember the great “non-traveling” times.
Consider a Splurging on Something Big
When you’re traveling to a far-off place, spending money on expensive stuff or experiences seems more abstract. And you might rationalize it by thinking, “Hey, I’m on vacation—go big or go home, right?” But of course, once you get back to reality, the bill becomes due.
With a staycation, you might initially be more reserved with your spending since you’re in your regular environment. But if you think about it, the staycation is an even better time to spend money.
As New York Times writer Shivani Vora reminds us, “Since you’re not paying for airfare or spending a large amount of money on fuel, a staycation is a good excuse to spring for an indulgent experience that otherwise is too expensive.”
Now might be the time to treat yourself to that frivolous toy, tool, gadget or experience you’ve been craving. Or, you could even consider ponying up the cash to stay in your local 5-star hotel for a night. You’ll still end up spending less than you would on a travel vacation.
Buy Staycation Souvenirs
Besides taking a ton of pictures, what’s another way you typically remember your vacations? That’s right: useless knick knacks from overpriced gift stores!
While it may sound odd, buying a souvenir or two can be a great way to keep celebrating the memory of your staycation as well. Faith Durand recommends something simple like buying a set of unique coffee mugs. Souvenirs like mugs are something you can use during your staycation, but they’ll continue to be a reminder of your time off once your staycation is over.
Ok, now that we’ve covered the basic do’s and don’ts, let’s talk about a few ideas and themes for staycations. As we run through these tips, remember the essential goal of a staycation: breaking free of the daily grind, enjoying the present moment, and finding new appreciation for the beauty and fun that is probably right under your nose every day but you’re normally too preoccupied to notice.
31 Staycation Ideas and Themes
Here are 31 staycation ideas—in no particular order—that will give you some food for thought. There’s no reason you can’t incorporate many of these into a single staycation.
1. Be a Tourist in Your Own Hood: Go to your local visitor’s center and find out what people do when they visit from out of town. A few years ago, my wife and I wouldn’t be caught dead visiting San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf. But one day we decided to venture where all the tourists go. We even splurged on a ferry ride to Alcatraz. Guess what? It was actually fun. It didn’t matter that we were still in our home town. Because we were being carefree tourists. And those clam chowder bread bowls are goooood.
2. Ask Your Friends About Their Favorite Things to See and Do: Even if you think you know all the great spots in your town, there’s alway somewhere you haven’t been yet.
3. Ditch the Car and Embrace Your Bike: If you normally spend all your time rushing around in traffic, there’s no better antidote than lazily peddling along the street or a trail.
4. Ditch the Car and Embrace Mass Transit: I know it doesn’t sound glamorous, but riding a bus or train give you a completely different view of your own city. And since you don’t have to pay attention to driving, you are free to soak in the view, read, or even just space out. After all, you’ve got nowhere to be, right?
5. Eat All Your Meals Out: With the money you saved on travel expenses, maybe you can treat yourself to some nice dinners at those fancy restaurants in your home town that you’ve always ignored.
6. Eat All Your Meals In: Stay in and make yourself some epic food. Why not be like the French and make meal prep and eating an all-day affair? Maybe your staycation finally gives you the time to tackle that exotic recipe you’ve been wanting to try out. Or, if you’re feeling lazy, have all your meals delivered.
7. Arrange a Lavish Picnic in Your Local Park: You might drive by that park every day, but it sure looks different when you’re laying in the grass enjoying some wine and cheese without a care in the world.
8. Binge Listen to Old Records: For the audiophiles out there, a staycation is the perfect time to give your neglected music collection some love.
9. Binge Listen to Totally New Music: Maybe your playlists and music collection are feeling a little stale. Ask your friends on social media for their current favorite music. Buy it/download it/stream it, and treat yourself to a whole new aural experience.
10. Camp in Your Own Backyard: Sleep out under the stars in your own backyard or in a nearby park.You don’t need to be far from home to enjoy the simplicity and calm of “getting back to nature.” Plus, having non-scary flush toilets and hot showers just steps away is a big plus.
11. Do a Deep Purge of Clutter: It may sound like work, but few things are as cathartic as getting rid of a bunch of crap—especially when it’s been there so long that you’ve become blind to it. “Wow, so that’s what the inside of my garage looks like!”
12. Redesign Your Bedroom or Living Space: If you can afford it, get rid of all your furniture and start over. Or if you just want to make some tweaks, put sliders on the bottom of your furniture and just move things around to try different configurations.
13. Find Local Walking Tours: You’ve probably never taken time to truly explore the historic neighborhoods around your town. You’d be amazed at what you’ll find in your own area when you set out on foot, especially with a knowledgeable guide. Many walking tours are free or donation based, so there’s no reason not to give it a go.
14. Sleep in Like it’s Your Job: Make it a goal to stay in bed all day. See how long you can make it before you are desperate for a shower and a bite of pizza.
15. Read Deeply and Without Distraction: Allow yourself to get lost a good book or two. Ignore the world for hours at a time.
16. Take Lazy Day Trips to Nearby Sites: This type of activity is a perfect blend between having an activity to do, but having absolutely no ambition or hurry about doing it.
17. Take Tours of Local Breweries or Factories: When I lived in California’s Central Valley, I toured the Jelly Belly and Budweiser Factories in the same day. Maybe it was an odd pairing flavor-wise. But still, it was fun to see “how the sausage was made” at both places.
18. Karaoke in Your Living Room: Sing your heart out when no one else is watching. Be honest, you already sing in the shower. This just makes it more official.
19. Set up a Frisbee Golf Course in Your Backyard: It’s hard to be bothered by the stresses of the world when you’re immersed in engineering the perfect frisbee golf experience in your yard.
20. Eat All Your Meals Outside: Savor each bite of food and breathe in your surroundings. How often to allow yourself to just “be” when you’re eating?
21. Enjoy Your Favorite Shops When There’s No One There: Staycations let you enjoy your “everyday turf” without feeling like you’re caught in the usual bustle and stress. You have time appreciate the details you normally miss. Who knew there were 5 different types of pinto beans at the supermarket? Or that the owner of that little cafe on the corner is named “Marge” and is really into Albanian dance?
22. Challenge Yourself to Learn a New Skill or Hobby: Careful with this one. Remember, the key is that it should make you feel more enriched but not more productive.
23. Go to a Random Meetup Event in Your Area: There are loads of different social meetup groups focused on different interests. It’s great way to kill a few hours with absolutely no expectations. And you may just meet some cool people.
24. Write Handwritten Notes or Postcards to People You Haven’t Talks to in Awhile: Everybody loves getting mail, even if it’s sent from just across town.
25. Play Board Games with Your Significant Other or Family: Forget Candy Crush (or whatever the kids are playing these days). It’s time to go analog. Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit, Scrabble, Connect Four…
26. Do Some “Meditations on Manliness:” Chop wood, listen to Sinatra while drinking straight whiskey, build something with your hands, man-pamper yourself by spending an hour grooming your beard or getting lost in the ritual of a traditional wet shave.
27. Arrange a Bar Crawl: There are few better ways to force yourself to explore the nooks and crannies of a neighborhood than a good old fashioned pub crawl.
28. Peek into the Branch of Your Local Library: If you haven’t been to a library in awhile, you’re in for a treat. As my friend Andrew from Primer Magazine wisely observed, “it’s like Netflix for books.”
29. Volunteer in Your Community: Spend a few hours serving at your local soup kitchen or helping pick up trash along the side of the road. I know that may not sound relaxing, but I guarantee that the high of helping other people—when you are normally so self-absorbed with your own problems—can have a hugely renewing effect.
30. Be a Kid Again: Play with Legos, blocks, Lincoln Logs (remember those?), or whatever other nostalgic toys you can get ahold of. Dust off old books you loved before you started reading The Onion and Mashable. The Mouse and Motorcycle, anyone?
31. Hammock: Yes, I’m using that as a verb. Hammock deliberately and without a care in the world. Just a simple hammock and some rope or hooks in your backyard can give you hours of tranquil relaxation. If I were to pick one piece of gear that best symbolizes a staycation, this might be it.
Admittedly, staycations are not for everyone, and they are not without their challenges. If you think you’d have a hard time breaking out of your routine and relaxing in your regular environment, then maybe staycations aren’t for you.
But if you’re like many people, you may find that regular vacations aren’t always what they’re cracked up to be. When you consider all the time, hassle and cost of traveling, staycations start to sound more and more attractive—especially when you realize how creative you can get with staycations, and how truly energizing they can be.
What other staycation ideas do you have? Leave a note below in the comments.