If your spring break getaway's gone, you can still make an exciting vacation right at home.

By Lisa Milbrand
Updated March 27, 2020
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Right now, I should be packing up for my family's spring break vacation to a big beach house in North Carolina with my parents and my sister's family—another year of dipping our toes into the still-chilly Atlantic, eating shrimp and grits, and unwinding together for a week.

But instead, we're gearing up for a very different kind of spring vacation this year, as self-distancing and spring break means a staycation is definitely in the cards. But just because we're (still) stuck at home, doesn't mean we have to be bored at home.

If the coronavirus quarantine means you have a lot of free time on your hands right about now, here's how to make your time stuck at home feel more like a vacation.

Plan ahead.

It may be harder than usual to get anything you need for the activities and meals you want to include in your vacation plans, so now may not be the time to go with the flow. Make a list of what you'll need to make your time off special ahead of time, and start shopping online. If you're looking for cool international foods and decor, World Market may have what you need, while Goldbelly is perfect for foodie splurges. 

See what the internet has to offer.

"So many things that used to be behind a paywall or only available at the destination are now available for free," says travel writer Melissa Klurman. Resorts and destinations are rolling out the red carpet online to allow you to have a vicarious vacation now (and get ideas for future travel while you're at it). Velas Resorts is offering a slew of staycation ideas under its #BetterTogether hashtag, from meditations with the sea as its soundtrack, to offering the services of their chefs to help you plan something fabulous for dinner from what you have on hand. (You just have to send them a picture or a list of your ingredients via their form.) If you have young kids, the Great Wolf Lodge's at Home section includes crafts, science experiments, kid-friendly yoga, and easy (and fun) recipes for kids. If you're low on cocktail ingredients, Derek Brown, owner of Washington DC's Columbia House, has been helping folks plan excellent vacation-worthy drinks with simple ingredients like bourbon and eggs.

Dedicate a day for each person.

Don't take on all the planning yourself! Put each person in the household in charge of "hosting" a particular day of staycation, and let them come up with the vacation activities and menu. Bonus: You might get less griping from your kids about trying the things you want to do if they know they have a day coming up that's all about them.

Choose a destination (or three).

Consider this your opportunity to travel around the world in a matter of days or hours. "You can organize your vacation by destination, and make it a cultural night," Klurman says. There are a whole slew of virtual tours available, whether you want to get an up-close look at the masterpieces in the best museums in Paris or Italy, or take a 360-degree tour of some of Hawaii's most jaw-dropping landscapes. Klurman recommends checking out the the storehouse of incredible Nat Geo documentaries at Disney+ (currently available with a seven-day free trial). Look for recipes and instructional videos to help you make meals or crafts associated with that country. You can make origami and dip into some ramen for Tokyo day, or try your hand at making macarons—and enjoying them while you watch Ratatouille with your kids.

Get a little competitive.

Plan out games and activities to encourage a little friendly competition. You can have a cooking contest a la Chopped (a great way to make the most of what's left in your pantry), host a Monopoly marathon, have a virtual trivia night with friends and family over Zoom, or try one of the online scavenger hunts at home crafted by Let's Roam. (They have versions for couples and families to try.)

Set aside time for a spa day.

Nothing's more relaxing than a little time at the spa. Pull out the fluffy robes and the scented candles, slice a little fruit for your chilled water, put on your most relaxing playlist and whip up a few homemade hair and face masks to help you unwind.

Treat yourself to something splurgeworthy.

Hey, you're on vacation! Find a "souvenir" that'll make you happier at home. Maybe give the whole family the same comfy PJs to wear around the house, treat yourself to delivery of a gorgeous bouquet of flowers, or invest in a set of luxe multi-thread-count sheets to make bedtime more wonderful.

Try something new.

One of the biggest joys of vacation is experiencing something unexpected, that helps take you out of your comfort zone. So go ahead and try something new—whether it's takeout from that restaurant you've been meaning to try, or trying your hand at online tango lessons.

Enjoy the outdoors.

If you have a backyard or even a balcony, think of ways you can bring the action outside, so you're not completely cooped up in the house. "You can set up a warrior course in your backyard, or just relax outside with a tropical drink in hand," Klurman says. If you have the space, have a campfire (complete with s'mores and spooky stories), or pitch a tent and "camp" in your backyard to give you a change in scenery.

Memorialize the time.

Hey, it's still a vacation—and it might be one of the more memorable ones you've ever had. So snap some shots and videos to help you remember the fun.