How to Make the Most of Your Staycation

better staycation

Whether you’re keeping tight reins on your spending or just don’t have the desire to travel far for R&R, there’s nothing quite like a staycation to make the most of time off — and I don’t mean catching up on laundry and Netflix. As a veteran staycationer, I’ve learned a few tips of the hang-at-home trade during my proverbial journeys. I also spoke to a few travel experts to get their take. We came up with six ways to make the most of your money — and your pleasure — when you opt for a staycation.

Be a Tourist in Your Town

Be a Tourist in Your Town

Whether you’re keeping tight reins on your spending or just don’t have the desire to travel far for R&R, there’s nothing quite like a staycation to make the most of time off — and I don’t mean catching up on laundry and Netflix. As a veteran staycationer, I’ve learned a few tips of the hang-at-home trade during my proverbial journeys. I also spoke to a few travel experts to get their take. We came up with six ways to make the most of your money — and your pleasure — when you opt for a staycation.

Remember: You’re Really on Vacation

Remember: You’re Really on Vacation

Just because you’re not Caribbean-bound doesn’t mean it’s not a real vacation. “A staycation gives you an enclave of freedom at home to just be,” says Pamela Hurley-Moser, founder and CEO of Hurley Travel Experts, who took a staycation herself earlier this summer. “You get to set your itinerary as spontaneously as you like… no must-do activities or appointments, no obligation to be at a certain place at a certain time.”

That said, you might want to avoid telling people you’re on a staycation, which can invite disruption (given that you’re “here” and all), and simply tell anyone who asks that you’re on vacation. If you need to keep your destination to yourself, so be it.

Get Out of Your City’s Comfort Zone

Get Out of Your City’s Comfort Zone

You say you know your city like the back of your hand. But odds are, there are parts that are still new to you and waiting to be discovered. Or maybe it’s your routine — yoga, coffee, rinse, repeat — that could use a bit of shaking up for a week. 

Jeanie Sauers, manager of Travel Experts in Vista, Calif., says that list-making is critical to helping her plan a staycation. “There are so many places worth seeing close to where you live — you just have to figure out where they are. Putting it down on paper helps.” For this, Jeanie says she makes a list, as well as incorporating her plans into a calendar, along with a picture or two — all of which help with making a staycation feel “real.”

For example, you could hop on the subway if one exists in your area and, without checking ahead of time for restaurant reviews and the like, get off at a random stop. If you’re in an area that requires a car to get around, then do the same by parking it in a different neighborhood you’ve never been to. Watch a film that isn’t in your normal wheelhouse — if you’re a rom-com girl, go for a documentary on a topic you know nothing about — and read a book or magazine that’s far from your usual pick. Take the hip-hop dance class you’ve secretly wanted to try, but have been scared to sign up for.

Dress The Part

Dress The Part

Dressing for vacation means reaching for pieces that are easy, breezy and wearable — things you’d wear if you were up for an adventure in another country, weather-permitting. Wide-brimmed straw hat? Check. Simple, yet stunning sundress that takes you from a museum’s corridors to an al fresco dinner in a pinch? Check. And don’t forget the Bermuda shorts, street-savvy sandals, and anything that layers (including an itsy-bitsy bikini, if you’re so obliged).

If you’ve got to put a bit of extra effort in to choose items that are slightly beyond your everyday casual arsenal, so be it: the point is to have fun with it (and not blow your budget buying new stuff to wear around town, which sort of negates the point of taking a vacation close to home to begin with). But the way you dress — as you would on any other vacation — will really help set the mindset that you are “away.”

Unplug — Really

Unplug — Really

This one might seem like a no-brainer, but if your iPhone seems cryogenically attached to your palm, then it might take a bit of getting used to. And yet there’s real freedom that comes with being unplugged — primarily in the form of happiness. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Professor of Medicine Emeritus and creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, says that by disconnecting from our devices, we become more connected to ourselves, and more able to stay present. 

You could start by clicking the ‘off’ button on anything that involves a power button aside from a Kindle, even if it’s just for a few hours a day. If you’ve got circumstances that require you to be accessible at all times, keep the phone, but make it clear you’re available for emergencies only.
 
When turning off doesn’t feel like enough, consider staying away from email, social media and the news (really) for a week. Weaning yourself off ahead of time — checking email twice a day or once an hour — can help with the initial shock of not being “on,” and I promise you: the world won’t end if you keep a witty status update to yourself. Start with scheduling an email auto responder, and go from there. (I’ve even had friends change my Facebook password so I won’t be tempted to get sucked in.) Staying unplugged can seem a lot harder than it is, but if you replace the urge to swipe with, say, the turn of a page in a book or magazine, your brain will still receive a reward (and your attention will stay with Sylvia Plath).

Make an Itinerary, but Not a Very Busy One

Make an Itinerary, but Not a Very Busy One

If you were on an island, would you prioritize picking up dry cleaning over a beach-side piña colada? (And for that matter, would you even have dry cleaning to pick up?) The answer, of course, is no. Which is why an itinerary can serve as a useful tool when it comes to mapping out your staycation. 

You might argue that having too much structure takes away from the fun of being able to do whatever you want, whenever you want to, but riddle me this: how many of you have ever taken a “staycation,” only to wind up in line at the market or behind the wheel of a car running errands? 

As Tony Robbins once said, discipline will set you free. So, make a plan of how you’ll use your time “away,” whether that means a day spent exploring a neighboring town or just a few hours checking out a new exhibit at your local museum. But don’t try to cram it all in just because you can. Think of the times when you’ve played tourist in a foreign city, eager to do and see everything, and returned to your hotel exhausted with vacation fatigue. Pick a couple activities per day — and yes, swinging on a hammock counts — and stick with them.

Tackle a Passion Project

Tackle a Passion Project

If you truly feel unable to survive a staycation without doing at least one productive thing, take a day to tackle a passion project — say, painting an accent wall in your kitchen, or whittling an overflowing closet down to a minimalist wardrobe — to help keep the rest of your days off on track. Try to choose tasks that involve a fair amount of fun (and if you’ve got friends nearby, collaboration) to keep the vacay vibe going strong. Cueing up that reggae soundtrack can definitely help, as can sipping on something fruity, be it a smoothie or a daiquiri, while you get to work. Just make sure that accent wall doesn’t extend into replacing all of the kitchen cabinet knobs, tiling the bathroom floor and rearranging your living room furniture. 

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