Time for a Staycation: How to Kick Back, Relax, and Vacation at Home
Vacations are pretty great, but figuring out how to have a staycation can be just as rewarding—plus less stressful and more affordable. It sounds counterintuitive, but traveling for a vacation can come with a lot of stress, what with planning the trip, finding the money to pay for everything, and working through a vacation checklist. If life is truly getting out of control and money and/or vacation time is in short supply, a staycation might be the best option to unwind and reset.
Taking a vacation at home isn’t always easy, though, especially if you don’t go about it intentionally. It’s easy to let a few unplanned days off at home get away from you, especially if those signs of stress are running rampant. Adding a little structure and considering a few staycation ideas can help the time away from work and other responsibilities feel rejuvenating, not just relaxing, and leave you ready to head back to the office.
What makes a great staycation? It depends on what you want to gain from it. If you want the feeling of having gone on an adventure but money or other restrictions keep you at home, you can have an exploratory staycation; if you want to tackle those to-dos that just don’t seem to get done as part of your standard routine, you can make that happen, too.
Try these staycation ideas and consider how you can make some weekend getaway ideas work at home. Most importantly, commit to unplugging. If you act like you’re not on vacation by answering work calls and emails or being as in-touch with neighbors and friends as you usually are, it won’t feel like much of a staycation at all. Make sure everyone knows that you’re taking a little trip by putting your staycation on your calendar, telling friends and coworkers you need some time away, and resisting the urge to respond to every message. That task accomplished, let the staycationing begin.
Put the World on Hold
Take time out—literally. Eliminating reminders of time helps wipe away the stress of the daily grind, says Amy McDonald, spa director of El Monte Sagrado, in Taos, New Mexico. Gather up all the clocks in your house and stash them in a dresser drawer. Throw your watch in next to them. Leave them there for the whole day (or two, or five).
Turn off your phone. Turn it on to check messages, texts, notifications, and the like only when you want to, keeping in mind that not at all is always an option.
Do an out of office message for your email (even if your office is a corner of the playroom). Say you won’t be checking your email until you’re back from vacation (they don’t need to know it’s a staycation), then exit out of your inbox. Resist the urge to check your email again until you’re back at work.
Skip the news—and maybe even stop the mail—for a week. When you banish the source of stress, the stress itself may follow. The earth will continue to turn even if you’re not reading all about it every morning at 7:30 sharp, and sadly, the bills will still be there when your vacation is over.
Have It Done for You
Bring a destination home for dinner. Can’t make it to the Chesapeake? Order one of Harbour House Crabs’ Maryland blue-crab dinners, complete with mallets ($170 for a jumbo dinner for two; ilovecrabs.com). Thoughts wandering Down East? Spread a cloth on the lawn (or the rug) and dig into a direct-from-Maine picnic of lobster rolls and whoopie pies from Hancock Gourmet Lobster Co. ($129 for six of each; hancockgourmetlobster.com).
Get your house cleaned from top to bottom. Part of the pleasure of a vacation is having the bed-making, dusting, and order-restoring consigned to someone else while you dedicate yourself to the task of lolling about. Why shouldn’t it be this way at home―for one brief, shining week, anyway? Let Merry Maids send a cleaning crew to render your place spotless (rates vary, merrymaids.com). They don’t do laundry, though, so why not let it pile up, then send it out to be done just this once? Or hire a cleaner on a friend’s recommendation and negotiate the extras.
Have dinner delivered every night. Place a stack of your favorite take-out menus next to the phone, and follow where your fancy leads you, from Chicago-style pizza one night to a Thai buffet the next.
Organize a babysitting trade-off with two or three friends or neighbors. Have all the kids report to a designated house for an evening of organized fun―pizza, games, Toy Story DVDs―leaving the other parents free to enjoy a date night (while saving money on sitters). Another night, rotate houses and repeat.
Set the Mood
Roll up and stash your rugs so your naked feet can enjoy that beach-house feeling of walking on cool wooden floors.
Play a vacation sound track. As any self-respecting escapist can tell you, the next best thing to being there is grooving around the house to the music you’d be listening to if you were there. If in your dreams you’re strolling the beaches of Bahia, play the classic bossa nova of Joao Gilberto and Antonio Carlos Jobim. Thwarted dude ranchers can try Willie Nelson’s Red Headed Stranger, one long, sad-sweet ballad to the Old West that’s great for sing-alongs.
Relax outside by candlelight. If there’s nothing on your evening agenda but zoning out to good music and enjoying good company―your own, perhaps?―set out dozens of tealights ($4 for 100, ikea.com), or line the edge of the patio with large pillar candles on plates (from $7 each, crateandbarrel.com). Your favorite songs, or simply the natural harmonies of a summer evening, will sound even sweeter when your senses are more attuned to them.
Indulge in a vacation-reading binge. An armchair journey is a trip, too, when taken in the company of an evocative writer. First, create an ideal setting: Pick your most comfortable chair (or a chaise lounge outside), making sure that you’ll have all the light you need. Then furnish it with the necessary props: a throw for when it gets chilly; reading glasses, if you wear them; a tall glass of your beverage of choice (or a travel mug or a thermos to keep it warm or cool); a dictionary for words that make you go hmm; a notebook and a pen for jotting down phrases that make you go aah. Tackle a classic you never got around to in college, or if that feels too much like homework, try a summer blockbuster.
Take a camping trip in your own backyard. Borrow or buy a tent. Pack drinks in thermoses and snacks in Ziploc bags. Bring sleeping bags or blankets, flashlights, and mosquito repellent for everyone. And arm yourself with enough ghost stories to keep little ones up thrillingly past their bedtimes.
Decorate your fantasy home, the old-school way. Skip Pinterest for this one. Head to your town’s best newsstand and select the glossiest decorating magazines you can find. Then curl up with a pen and Post-its and start shopping. Money’s no object: If you love that five-zillion-dollar castle in Belgium, excellent. Mark it, then furnish it from your cache of glossies. Revisit it occasionally, and congratulate yourself on your impeccable taste.
Have your own three-day film festival. Pick a theme―When Smooth Men Ruled the Silver Screen, Road-Trip Movies, The Five Biggest Tearjerkers―then add them to your Netflix queue. Lay in a supply of your favorite movie snacks, however indulgent. (Reminder: It’s your staycation, and it’s only a few days.) Turn off all phones, turn out the lights, and slip away.
Declare Water-Game Day. Buy or borrow a kiddie pool, turn on the sprinkler, unravel the hose, and commandeer as many spray bottles, buckets, tubs, and water pistols as possible. Decree a compulsory all-day uniform of swimsuit and bare feet (and, of course, waterproof sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 15). Says actor John Lithgow, a devoted dad and the author of Lithgow Party Paloozas!, “All parents have to do is provide the props and initial ideas for games. The kids will take over and beget their own fun.”
Bring the Spa to You
Turn your bathroom into an aromatherapy spa. Stop in at a health-food store to pick out a selection of essential oils in scents you like (calming lavender, rose oil, or chamomile; energizing peppermint or lemon verbena). Then draw a warm bath, sink into it, and let Mother Nature do her botanical best for you.
Make staying hydrated a beautiful thing. Take a cue from Rancho La Puerta, in Tecate, Mexico: Fill your prettiest pitchers with ice water and slices of lemon, orange, or cucumber. Place them (each with a glass) at various strategic points around the house and in a shady spot outside. Then, as you go about your day, stop often to take a long, cool, flavorful pull.
Hire a massage therapist who makes house calls. Ask friends for recommendations, do a bit of research, or check out an at-home massage app. Alternately, most good day spas will dispatch a therapist for a home visit; 20 percent is the standard gratuity for house calls. If your terrace or yard is relatively private (and shady), consider having your rubdown in the great outdoors.
Stretch Your Muscles
Try a DIY back massage. Here’s how: Lie on your back on an exercise mat or a carpeted floor. Position tennis balls under points where you have pain or tension—above your pelvis, at your bra strap, between your shoulder blades. Roll gently up and down and side to side for 5 to 10 minutes as your body weight helps massage the stress away. (Note: Massage therapists say that only those without injuries or other back problems should try this self-treatment and that you should heed your body’s advice and stop if it hurts.)
Take a yoga retreat in your living room. Strike images of painful contortions from your mind: “Restorative yoga poses are variations of lying on your back, but with extra support in key places, so you release muscular and nervous tension even more profoundly than when you’re sleeping,” says Cyndi Lee, the director of New York City’s OM yoga center. All you need is a couple of blankets or towels and the right instructional video. Check out online teachers and YouTube channels, or try the book Yoga Body, Buddha Mind ($17; amazon.com).
Give yourself a relaxing foot massage. Put a tennis, squash, or golf ball on a hard floor and roll the sole of each foot back and forth over it, concentrating on the instep and the ball of the foot, just below the big toe, where lots of tension can gather. Do this for five minutes while you read or just gaze out the window.
Indulge in Luxury-Hotel Amenities
Buy yourself a plush white cotton or terry robe, the kind you itch to tuck into your suitcase when you check out. Slip into it when you wake up, sit with a mug of your morning brew―perhaps delivered on a tray by room service (a.k.a. your partner)―and savor that pampered feeling.
Sleep on ultra-high-thread-count sheets—or just the pillowcases. Try some of the most comfortable sheets, or pull out the for-guests-only sheets you save for special visitors.
Have nightly turndown service. Buy a box of beautifully wrapped chocolates or caramels, then dispatch a different family member each evening to fold back blankets, smooth sheets, and leave a sweet or two on each pillow.