10 Ways to Make a Staycation Your Best Vacation Ever

published Aug 5, 2016
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(Image credit: Hayley Kessner)

I am a wholehearted devotee of the staycation, which may come as a surprise to those who know my love for travel. Going to sleep on a plane and waking up in London or France is a thrill, and zipping up to New York for a long weekend is a treat, but travel and vacation are not always compatible; the jet lag and stress of highways and airports can erase your vacation chill. When you need to unravel that knot of tension in your shoulders and get some real, restorative sleep, home is often the place to be.

I believe in staycations so much, in fact, that I took one for my honeymoon a few years ago, and right now I am fresh off another with my husband and new little daughter. Over time I’ve learned some little tricks and strategies for turning a staycation into a luxury to be savored.

Of course, a staycation is not always a first choice. There have been many years where a staycation was the only thing that fit in the budget. This year we were tempted by a trip out west to get our fix of hiking, ocean, and mountains. But with a new baby and bills for much-needed home projects, it was a better, more prudent decision to stay home.

A Good Staycation Needs a Plan!

But like every good travel adventure, every good staycation needs a plan. It is far too easy when you stay in your normal routine and environment to get sucked back into work (“Just checking my email once, dear!”) or into the little chores of home (my pantry is a mess and oh that closet upstairs). So my husband and I make it a point to talk through our staycation strategy for relaxing, having fun, and recharging.

Do our little strategies make a staycation surpass a week on the beach in Hawaii, or a getaway to the mountains? Perhaps, perhaps not — it depends on your personal quotient of homebody. But whether you are staying home because you love it or because travel just isn’t in the budget this year, I hope you find these tips helpful in having the best vacation ever.

1. Get the house cleaned by someone else.

Remember all that money you’re saving by not going out of town? Put a little of it aside for some luxuries during staycation, starting with getting the house cleaned. This could be a full clean from a house-cleaning company, or a visit from a local high schooler who wants to make a few bucks cleaning out your sink and refrigerator.

I had our house cleaned the morning our staycation started and it was the best — all the dishes done, the floors washed, the bathrooms smelling fresh and clean. Almost like we were in a hotel.

2. Put something fresh and pretty in the bedroom.

A vase of flowers, a new candle, a new set of sheets — anything to freshen up your bedroom and make it feel a teeny bit extra special will go a long way. If nothing else, change your sheets and plump up your pillows. (Bonus: If you have cleaners come, have them make up your bed in that really crisp, hotel-style way that I can never seem to manage on my own.)

3. Split up room service responsibilities.

One of the loveliest things about going on vacation to a hotel or resort is room service. As mediocre and expensive as it can be, I really can never get over the luxury of having someone bring me a tray of hot food with tiny ketchup bottles. If you’re taking staycation with a partner or roommate, swap days where you’ll serve the other room service.

Stretch out in bed and enjoy a good book while the smell of omelets and toast, cooked by someone else, wafts up from the kitchen; it’s even better than a hotel. (Here are 26 brunch recipes we love, if you want some ideas.)

4. Buy new coffee mugs (or another “souvenir”).

This is another little splurge: Before a staycation I buy something as a souvenir of our time at home. This year I bought a pair of coffee mugs I had been coveting for about a year. I pulled them out of their box on the first day of staycation and we drank our coffee out of them every day — a little treat and souvenir of our week off.

5. Savor the planning of indulgent dinners.

Whether you’re staying in and cooking or going out to restaurants, spend some time really planning your meals. They say most of the pleasure of vacation is in the planning, after all; take some time to luxuriate in your cookbooks and pull out things you’ve been meaning to make, or research local restaurants you’ve been hoping to try.

6. Go wild at the grocery store.

Maybe a staycation means you eat out every day. For us this year, we splurged on food at home. The triple-creme + good bread + prosciutto dinner happened at least twice; we grilled a slab of steak; we had fabulous salmon in olive oil with herbs from our garden boxes. We sought out some wine we really wanted to try.

These meals are made by shopping more than cooking, but a splurge-y trip to Whole Foods cost less than a week of restaurant meals, and it was so fun to go be indulgent at the grocery store.

7. Learn a new cocktail (or try a new wine).

My husband loves tinkering with cocktails, so he restocked some essentials in our liquor cabinet so he could play bartender. It’s so fun to try something new, like the Negroni and Sidecar variations we drank all vacation.

8. Decide if you want to be a hometown tourist.

Now, the obvious thing to do on staycation is to roam about your hometown and check out the museums and other hotspots that you don’t usually have time to enjoy, but don’t feel pressure — part of the bliss of staycation is in the absence of any obligation to leave your bedroom. (Something I can’t say about London or Paris; staying in your hotel all day in a great city is a bit embarrassing.)

We had plans to check out our renovated downtown library and art museum, but in the end only made it out to a matinee of Star Trek while my mom stayed with the baby. I don’t have a whit of guilt about this.

A Cheerful \Beach-y (Image credit: www.saritarelis.com)

9. Delete your work email account from your phone.

This may be specific to my own line of remote, always-on, always-connected digital work, but I think it is more and more common to be tied to your phone even on vacation — especially if you’re in a familiar setting. During vacation my husband and I turn on our auto-responses, then delete our work accounts (and Slack) from our phones.

10. Take lots of photos.

We tend to take tons of photos when we travel to far-flung places, but what about when staying at home?

We put so much time and energy into our homes, keeping them clean and organized, beautiful and healthy. Don’t they deserve to play the starring role in our vacation photos, just as much as a beach in Bali or seafood shack in Maine? The time to stretch out and rest at home is just as precious as the time we have traveling or lazing at the shore; memorialize it!

We spent a lot of time on staycation enjoying our new back deck, and some of the photos of our baby daughter sitting on my husband’s lap in the summer sunshine, in whatever fleeting stage of babydom she was in that week, will be some of my favorites.

Have you staycationed this summer? Do you have plans to do any of these things? Or do you have other strategies for getting away from it all in your own home? I would love to hear!