Traveling is great and all, but sometimes you need a little R&R in the comfort of your own home or city—here’s how to make it happen.

By Kristin Granero
Updated: July 09, 2019

In an ideal world, you have vacation time—and are taking advantage of all of it (or at least most of it)—as an opportunity to travel and explore new regions and cultures with family and friends, vacation packing list and all. Traveling can certainly be relaxing, but for many, it can also mean piling on a ton of work in preparation before the trip, back-to-back activities during, and a lot of laundry and playing catch-up after—hence that feeling that you need a vacation to recover from your vacation.

But when was the last time you dedicated a few days, either vacation or personal, to finally making a dent in that ever-growing to-do list or just taking some time to reconnect with yourself or the city you live in? Because staycation ideas can be more important and helpful than you think, we’ve rounded up six telltale signs you’re in desperate need of a staycation—if you’re familiar with signs of stress, they may be a little familiar—along with expert tips for making the most of a little purposeful time at home. Read on to assess and de-stress, and you’ll want to make time for a staycation every year.

The telltale signs you need a staycation

Everything is triggering you

You’ve gone over the same thing with a co-worker or loved one (or perhaps been exposed to their loud chewing) many times before; perhaps you usually find their opinions interesting or quirky habits charming but, this time (or lately), it’s different.

“When everyone and everything seems to be getting on your last nerve, it is time for a break! This typically shows once your irritability and tolerance levels are at an all-time high, which means you may need to take it slow,” says Tracy Effron, a luxury travel consultant with An Avenue Apart based out of New York and Miami who dubs herself the Staycation Queen.

Nothing makes you happy

In addition to being particularly sensitive to comments and conditions that never used to bother you, it seems you’re desensitized to the things that used to bring you joy. “In the past, a little retail therapy could have easily been the cure, but sadly that new bag or outfit just isn’t doing the trick anymore, or perhaps you’ve tried sprucing up your home to little or no avail,” Effron says.

“If you are going through the motions, but nothing seems to satisfy you, it’s a sign you’ve checked out of your own life,” says Bryce Kennedy, a meditation instructor and co-founder of TheOther50 Corporate Coaching.

You feel overwhelmed

The bills are stacking up. The refrigerator is empty. It feels like the world is closing in around you and your to-do list just keeps getting longer. “You feel like you can’t handle one more alert or message coming through your device and that, even when you are making an effort, you still can’t manage to make progress. The bottom line is you’ve got too much going on,” Effron says, noting that recognition is the first step in re-strategizing and resetting.

You are burnt out

As a result of task overload (with no potential rest in sight), you may also feel like you’re running on empty. “You can barely stay awake come evenings and, despite having gotten your eight hours of sleep, still wake up lethargic. You find yourself having to drag yourself out of bed in the morning and dreading having to face your never-ending inbox or the week ahead,” Effron says. Other common signs of burnout include feeling generally unmotivated, forgetting details, and making small (or even major) mistakes.

You’re glued to work

If you’re constantly answering work emails during off-hours, including at the gym or functions with loved ones, it might be time to put the smart phone down. “While there may be times you need to check in with work, it’s also important to spend time with those that matter (including yourself),” Effron says.

The same goes for venting about work instead of taking time to really connect. “When you think back on your life, you’re likely going to wish you’d invested more time on you and the ones you love,” she says.

You feel stuck

Another downside of operating on autopilot? You don’t have the opportunity to take stock of your life and the bigger picture. “When was the last time you checked in with yourself and asked, ‘What is important to me and what actions do I need to take to get there?’ When you’re tied to a strict schedule, you often don’t have the time or energy to re-center yourself and ensure you’re aligned with your larger goals,” Effron says.

How to have a staycation (and make the most of your vacation at home)

Start planning

Now that you’ve confirmed you are, in fact, in need of a staycation, you’ll want to carve out a plan for making it work for you. “Think about what your objective is. Whether that is organizing paperwork or getting some much-needed errands or housework done, writing it all down will help clear your mind and give you a sense of everything you need to accomplish,” Effron says.

Your plan should leave room for enjoyment. “Make a list of places you’ve been wanting to see or try in your city ahead of time so you can plan accordingly. It’s always fun to feel like a tourist in your own town,” Kennedy says.

This will also help you figure out how many days you’ll need to fit everything in. As Kennedy points out, time is of the essence, so you’ll want to plan as soon as possible to give your employer ample notice and arrange for any necessary childcare. If time allows, you might also want to consider booking a stay outside of the home. “Go somewhere a few hours away or check into a hotel nearby that you’ve always wanted to stay at. Some hotels and tourist spots even offer discount to local residents,” Kennedy says.

Knock out as much as you can in advance

It might sound counterintuitive (especially if you’re overwhelmed), but squeezing in little chores or to-dos throughout the week or two ahead of your staycation, especially if they’re time-sensitive, will help maximize your time and offer you some peace of mind during your staycation. Try to carve out time to do one extra thing per day, whether it be washing a load of laundry or vacuuming one room, and consider multitasking (such as booking an appointment or paying a bill on your lunch break) when possible.

Kennedy also recommends outsourcing where you can. “Is there anyone else in your household who can chip in with chores? You might also want to consider calling in a handyman, house cleaner, or having necessities like groceries delivered,” he says. It’s also not a bad idea to order some extra treats for your staycation itself.

Do the heavy lifting first

Once on your staycation (especially if you’re using it to help tackle chores), you’ll want to get to the remaining tasks you’ve been dreading most first. “Prioritize the projects you have been pushing back the longest. There is no escaping the fact that they must get done,” Kennedy says. “I like to call it the opposite rule. If not doing these projects is the norm, shake things up by facing them head-on, and the sense of accomplishment will lift a huge burden from your soul.” If you’re taking off during the week, you’ll have the added benefit of fewer crowds and shorter lines should you need to run out to donate clothing or grab another can of paint along the way.

Allow time for some R&R

With the heavy lifting out of the way (either accomplished ahead of or at the front-end of your staycation), you’ll want to reward yourself for all of the hard work with the chance to reset. “What is enjoyable to you? It could be reading a book, eating your favorite ice cream, or lying in bed catching up on a favorite TV series,” Kennedy, who suggests disconnecting from email and social media to free yourself of the usual, says.

This is also the perfect time to indulge, either at the hotel, local spa, or the comfort of your own home. “Take a bubble bath, apply a face mask, light candles, turn on your favorite music, pour yourself a glass of wine, and wrap yourself in a cozy bathrobe,” Effron says.

Explore the unknown

To avoid feeling cooped up (and reap the added benefits of nature and vitamin D), make it a point to get outside. Spend the day relaxing at a local pool or river, do the tourist activities that people pay big bucks to do in the comfort of your own city, or tap into your inner child by picking strawberries at a local farm, flying a kite at a park, catching fireflies, and so on, Effron suggests. “By reconnecting with some of my favorite childhood activities, I’ve noticed an overall shift in my outlook on life and feel lighter mentally,” she says.

Kennedy says this is another area where the opposite rule can work wonders. “Spend the day doing things that are a far stretch from the norm, whether that means hiking, fishing, or looking for unicorns. We are so entrenched in our habits and thoughts that there is no way to break them unless we push ourselves out of our comfort zones,” he says.

Get deep

Perhaps most importantly, you’ll want to utilize your staycation as a chance to listen to your inner voice and check in with yourself. “Who are you, and how do you feel? What has been holding you back from what you want to achieve, or the life you want to live? Too often, we accept things the way they are, but it’s important to remember to choose your life. This should be a time to reflect so you’re able to reenter the world feeling refreshed with more intention and a new point of view,” Kennedy says.

While in the moment, jot down these thoughts and changes you’d like to make so you don’t forget about them once you’re back to the daily grind. “You’ve only got one life, so it’s important to live it for you and remember to prioritize the things that make you happy,” Effron says.

Pass it on

Aside from starting a journal, you might want to consider picking up some flowers or a home décor item to serve as a reminder of your staycation and need for regular self-care once it’s over. “If staying at a hotel, bring home some extra body products or purchase some from the same brand and keep them in your bathroom. When visiting a new location, I also inquire about scents that pique my interest try to pick up a candle that resembles it to incorporate into my daily life,” Effron says.

Another one of Effron’s tricks is creating a playlist of songs listened to either while at home or out and about. “I recently visited an amazing thermal castle in Tuscany that had wonderful music piped into the hotel rooms. When I want to mentally transport myself there, I put on the playlist I created and a sense of relaxation comes over me, along with a big smile,” she says. You can download an app (such as Shazam) to help you identify the songs that may be less familiar to remind you of the sounds of your very own staycation.

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