Summer’s the perfect time to unwind and treat yourself, but you don’t necessarily have to travel to an exotic locale to do that. The idea of a staycation, where you do fun things close to home without having to spend the night outside of it, is appealing and affordable. But how do you make it feel really special and ensure that you return to everyday life feeling restored and rejuvenated?
Here are a few things you can do to make a staycation feel like more than just a regular day off.
Janelle Welch, a creative director from Virginia, would rather hang at the beach than the mountains. Even when she can’t, indulging in a seafood meal can make her feel like she’s close to the shore. “We love to be at the beach in close proximity to fresh, abundant seafood, so when we need a break but can’t get to the beach, my husband and I plan a mini ‘foodcation,’” Welch said. “We go shopping for fancier foods that are not in our normal weekly rotation, like little-neck clams or lobsters for the grill. We swing by the wine section to grab a couple of bottles of wine that may normally be out of our price range. Last step — break out the fancy china and wine glasses!”
Skip the beach
Think you have to bake in the sun to make the most of summer? It might in fact be the perfect time to head to the mountains instead… primarily since everyone will be at the beach. Christie Osborne, a California-based marketing director specializing in the wedding industry, suggests that if you live within driving distance of mountains or forests, you can do other super-fun summer activities like biking, hiking or camping. If you’re not into that sort of thing, mountain resorts are also brimming with world-class spas that can make an afternoon pedicure feel like you took a week off.
“The key to a successful staycation in a mountain location is to shift your mindset,” she advised. Pick up a visitor’s guide at your local welcome center or chamber of commerce and see the town through the eyes of a visitor. That will make even a day of rafting or hiking seem more like a vacation and less like enjoying a nearby attraction. “You can visit new places or favorite places — it doesn’t matter. Just get in that visitor mood and you’ll enjoy even favorite activities in new ways,” Osborne said.
Think outside the city box
If you’re an urbanite looking for a getaway, you don’t have to travel far to get outdoors. Andria Arena, a public relations professional from New York City, recommends trying activities you’ve never done — particularly those outdoors — in the city instead of at the beach. Think paddleboating or paddleboarding in a city park instead of on a lake or the ocean.
Soak in a spa
Many of us may visit a salon regularly or even have regular massages, but that’s not the same as indulging at a spa all day. Chelsea LaVere, a wedding and travel editor for Tidewater and Tulle, said that staycations can be great — especially for couples who are homebodies. Something as simple as going to a spa retreat for the day can really help you get a change of scenery, enjoy pampering and truly unwind. Treating yourself or your partner to a series of treatments or simply relaxing in a steam bath can be just what you need to keep your relationship healthy too. “Ask the spa for any special packages for couples to help make it even more memorable,” LaVere added. It doesn’t always have to be your anniversary to celebrate, and staycations remind us of that.”
Add an overnight
If you can’t get beyond the concept that your staycation is just a day trip, why not stay away from home overnight? Just one night away can work wonders, and you don’t have to travel far to take in an upscale hotel visit instead of a typical motel stay. A few years back, Arena and her family spent a day at the Long Island Aquarium, then stayed overnight at a Marriott before hitting Adventure Land the next day. “After eating at an amazing diner recommended by the hotel, we hung out in the huge outside pool and swam under the stars,” she recalled. “While it was only a two-day trip, we still talk about the memories we made… it was priceless.”
Plan, plan, plan
Arena said the most important way to ensure a successful, relaxing staycation is to get into planning mode. “If you wait until your time off, you are likely to just stay at home… which may not be much of a vacation,” she said. Do your research. While you may find cool deals on different activities from websites such as Groupon, try not to always take the most economical route, as you’re probably saving a ton of money already by not hopping a plane and taking off for a week or two.
Paula Ramirez, who works for the Historic Mankin Mansion in Virginia, said you may not want to tell anyone that you’re taking a staycation. If you must, be sure to specify that you don’t want any interruptions on the big day. “This will happily prevent distracting phone calls and texts,” she says — something that can turn even just a one-day fun fling into true downtime.