How to Actually Relax During a Staycation
The last thing you should do right now is not take a vacation. Our stress levels still have not dissipated, and many of us have burned out. At the same time, you may not feel safe enough to travel to the destinations where you would typically wish to vacation. Enter the staycation.
“A staycation can give you the same mental benefits as actually getting away,” says Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D., ABPP, professor emerita of psychological and brain sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. “And there are some advantages to not having to go anywhere, such as no travel delays and lower expenses.
If you worry that being at home will, well, feel like being at home, fear not!
“There are ways to make it seem less like you are at work and more like you are really taking a break,” Whitbourne says. Follow these staycation ideas and tips to truly relax and support your well-being during (and after) your staycation.
1. Plan Ahead
It’s tempting to play it by ear when you take a staycation. But just as not making reservations when on vacation can lead to missing out on an amazing dinner, not planning your staycation can also cause you to miss out.
Being spontaneous with some things is fine, but if you don’t plan anything, “the days will be over, and you will not have done anything you wanted to do,” Whitbourne says.
2. Dream Big
When you plan, sit down with yourself, your partner, your kids, or anyone else who will be staycationing with you. Discuss what you would like to do. Maybe you choose a theme, such as Hawaii or safari. Think about the things you typically enjoy on vacation but don’t do in your day-to-day life, Whitbourne suggests.
How can you do those things in your home, your town, or not too far from home? You could also do things you haven’t tried before in your area.
3. Clean Ahead of Time
You don’t do chores on vacation. So get them done before your staycation starts, even if that means taking the first day of your break to dust and clean. If you can afford it, consider paying a cleaning service post-vacation so you don’t need to jump on that when you “return,” Whitbourne says.
4. Put Away Work and Electronics
If possible, put away everything related to work and school. Out of sight, out of mind. Or at least try to avoid walking by the desk where you work. (If you have a home office, close the door.)
Also consider making some ground rules about the TV and phones. The point of a vacation is to spend time together. One person playing a video game while another watches a movie and a third person scrolls Instagram is not quality time.
While you’re at it, decide whether you will check work email. If so, you may want to let any clients, bosses, and co-workers know you are on vacation. This can reduce their contact.
Also, only check your email once a day for no more than an hour, Whitbourne recommends. Delete anything unimportant and reply, if you must, to urgent matters. This can help decrease anxiety about opening up your inbox when you return to work.
5. Set the Scene
Home feels like… home. There’s no need to completely redecorate for your staycation. But you can do things to make it feel more like a vacation. Consider rearranging the furniture in a room or two. If you have a guest bedroom, sleep there, being sure to fluff up the pillows when you make the bed.
Buy a few photos, posters, or small items to decorate according to your theme, or even “steal” items from one room to create a new vibe in another room. Also consider scents. A candle that makes you think “spa” or “ocean” can help you feel more like you’re really there.
6. Stay Active
“A staycation is a great opportunity to build fitness into your routine,” Whitbourne says, “and physical activity is really important for mental health.”
Do something active every day. For inspiration, check out our guide to working out at home plus these at-home workout ideas. Try a variety of Openfit Live classes to see what you and your kids or partner enjoy most. You never know; they might get the workout bug, too. And don’t forget all the things you can do outside, depending on the weather and your comfort level: bike rides, hiking, playing in the park, snowshoeing, snowball fights… have fun!
7. Visit a (Home) Spa
If you feel safe doing so, you could book an appointment at a nearby spa. If you’d rather stay home, you can bring the spa to you.
“Create a bath with flower petals, essential oils, candles, and spa music and enjoy tea while you soak,” suggests wellness and mindset coach Megan Swan. You can also buy face masks, a body scrub, and a rich lotion to put on afterward. And don’t forget a fluffy robe or other comfy clothes post-spa.
8. Try a Mindfulness Practice
Search online to find a mindfulness practice that you find relaxing. This could be a gentle yoga class, sound bath, guided meditation, body scan, or breathwork. Have pillows, blankets, and other items to keep yourself comfortable and warm during your practice. This is another opportunity to share these things with those you love so they also experience the benefits.
9. Cook — or Don’t
Make the choice ahead of time which meals you will cook or order in. If you order in, try to find restaurants nearby that serve cuisines matching the day’s or week’s theme. And rather than eating out of takeout containers, use nice plates and a pretty table setting to make it feel special, Swan suggests.
If you cook, get everyone involved and make something special, she says. You can try new recipes, especially those that you may not make during the week because they take more time.
“This can even be a chance to eat healthier, because you can control the ingredients,” Whitbourne says. Try adding a fresh salad to go with your takeout to increase your veggie intake while still enjoying your no-cook meal.
10. Travel Virtually
These days, you can tour a museum, watch Broadway hits, or do a wine tasting online. Do some searching and see what appeals to you. Or simply “walk around” a place you’d like to visit using the street view on Google Maps, Whitbourne suggests. “You can even make a game of it, like going for treasure hunts or a ‘Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?’-type challenge,” she adds.
11. Make It Fun
Ice skating, “camping” in the living room, a daylong road trip with amazing lookouts… whatever you decide to do, be sure it sounds fun to you. Also take the time and money to make it special, Swan says. You never know what you will discover in your local surroundings with a little creativity.