How to Make Your Staycation Feel Like a Getaway

Medically Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian, MD on July 21, 2022
5 min read

You really want to get away. But high gas prices, inflation, rising COVID-19 cases, and canceled flights have you thinking that maybe this isn’t the best time to travel.

But you really need a break.

You probably know that vacations are good for your physical health, productivity, and mental well-being. Even looking forward to and planning a vacation may help you manage stress. So if you can boost your mood, help your health, and save money, why not take a staycation at home?

If you’re shifting your plans for cost-effective reasons, you’re in good company. A spring 2022 Bankrate survey of U.S. adults found that 69% are changing summer vacation plans due to inflation. Within that group, 48% plan to skip their vacation because they can’t afford it and 20% are staying put due to COVID-19 concerns. And the kicker? Almost as popular as going to the beach is “staycationing” at home.

If you have a job where you’re expected to answer email and keep up with projects, you’re going to have to be intentional about unplugging.

“If you don’t take breaks from thinking about work when you’re not there, you may start to lose the ability to enjoy non-work activities because you’re distracted,” says Lisa Kath, PhD, associate professor of psychology at San Diego State University.

It’s not about being physically not in the office. “Psychological detachment from work doesn’t have to happen by putting a lot of miles between you and your workplace,” Kath says. “The key to successful psychological detachment is not thinking about work. That’s it.” Kath says.

“In this digital age, that may mean turning off notifications of work emails and stowing your work laptop out of sight,” Kath says. “If you’re doing a staycation at home, disrupt your routine a little so you don’t fall into habits that may inadvertently draw you into thinking about or engaging in work.”

Creating a vacation vibe at home is doable, says Meggan Kaiser, an Atlanta-based travel expert and author of Everywhere for Nothing: Free Travel for the Modern Nomad. But just like with your work, you’ll need to set some boundaries so you don’t spend your staycation in home maintenance mode.

“What it really takes is thoughtfulness and a bit of willpower,” Kaiser says. “Are you truly willing to live like you’re not in your own home? Willing to shelve all the home-focused projects on your to-do list? Willing to let yourself relax? Willing to ignore that wall smudge you hadn’t noticed before?”

Choose staycation activities that will be truly restorative. Is there a hobby that you usually don’t have enough time for?

“Hobbies are great for helping people enjoy a sense of mastery, which is beneficial,” Kath says. “Working to improve your skills in something that you truly enjoy is a powerful antidote to the effects of stress.”

So think of your staycay as a great time to take an online class and learn something new like how to paint, draw, play guitar, or knit.

Don’t spend time dwelling on things that stress you out.

“Avoid ruminating, or ‘doom scrolling’ bad news in social media feeds. Taking breaks from information overload and enjoying time in nature can influence the way you react to stress,” Kath says.

Decide how connected you want to be to the outside world and how you’d like to spend your free time. You may want to opt for unplugging from social media altogether during your time off.

“Create the mental and physical space that will enable you to relax and enjoy. Just like with any vacation, it’s all about planning,” Kaiser says. “There are some basics to cover to ensure you won’t get distracted by the ‘normal’ day-to-day stuff. Will you pause the mail? Prep meals in advance? Minimize electronic distractions? Ask a friend to watch the pets (or the children)?”

You can indulge a bit without creating debt you’ll regret.

“I would consider a staycation’s budget just like any other, but I might allow something I wouldn’t normally indulge in since I’m saving so much on other travel expenses,” Kaiser says.

You could:

  • Take an online cooking class or go to a wine tasting.
  • Watch concerts or films on the screen in your living room that you’ve always wanted to see.
  • Camp in your backyard. You might want to buy some outdoor games, water toys, and maybe a fire pit for s’mores and snuggling at night.
  • Enjoy your morning coffee outside.
  • Go to a farmers’ market and cook your own farm-to-table dinner.
  • Finally use that waffle maker for an indulgent breakfast.

For a serene setting, think about what you’d find at a luxury hotel or spa. Then pick and choose what fits your budget:

  • Fresh flowers
  • A bottle of champagne
  • Chocolates on the pillows
  • A relaxing scent of lavender or eucalyptus with essential oils or candles
  • High-quality cotton sheets
  • Silky PJs will go a long way towards quality sleep.

If you have kids, let them inspire you. “Ask what their idea of a home vacation would be. Maybe it’s setting up an amazing fort, a board game tournament, or having dance parties every night,” Kaiser says.

It might end up being your favorite vacation, ever.

Step off your beaten path for a local adventure:

  • Walk in the woods or find trails, a track, or a nature preserve.
  • Head to a lake to paddle board, canoe, kayak, swim, or raft.
  • Bike to a nearby town and try its best restaurant or bakery.
  • Visit a local museum, zoo, aquarium, or park.

Even when you use your best staycation imagination, there can be times when you need to tweak your thinking. It’s easy to slip back into your everyday routines in a familiar setting. When Kaiser starts to stress about, say, dirty dishes in her kitchen sink on staycation, she asks herself, “‘How would Vacation Meggan respond to this?’ And then I do my best to behave that way.”

Your staycation is a chance to work on simple things that help you handle everyday life. For instance, you can’t control things like rising grocery prices, but you can influence the way you react to stress, Kath says. “You can do this by taking good care of yourself in the ways we all know are important: exercise, sleep, social interactions and eating well. This helps us become more resilient.”