Summer is imminent, people! For lots of us, that means summer vacations. But let’s talk about a vacation alternative: the staycation. You know, that horrible buzzword you’ve probably heard bandied all over The Today Show and morning talk radio? But the concept is great — if you can get the execution down, you’ll have a blast.
Being fairly fresh out of college AND workaholics AND cheap as hell, Scott and I’ve opted for a staycation far more often than an actual trip anywhere. A lot of times these go-nowhere holidays are more relaxing than a Real Trip since there’s not a ton that can go wrong.
I’m also a finding-things-to-do guru, due to my obsessive need to keep my finger on the pulse of everything going on in my little city — and I love staycations, since the aforementioned workaholic status doesn’t leave us a ton of time to experience everything in town. Here’s how I make our staycations rock.
Treat staycations as real vacations
- Budget. Part of the fun of staycations is that you don’t have to spend as much money as you would tripping somewhere, but we make sure we have at least a bit of a budget to spend on day trips, restaurants and entertainment.
- Clean the whole house — PRE-vacation. For these precious few days off, I pretend our home is a timeshare. We’ve just arrived. It should be clean and comfortable — and we may stock up with a few luxury items. Fluffy new towels, a yum bubble bath, champagne, and maybe some fresh flowers — they go a long way to make an everyday scene seem new.
- I let people know I’m out of the office. Really.
- Take vacation photos! I’m a photo phreak, and my favorite tools are smartphone apps. My iPhone is stocked with Hipstamatic, Camera+, Super Camera 2 (good for its built-in timer), Instagram, and my all-time favorite: Pudding, by KTH — which is all in Korean, but takes the best hipster photos that look least overtly altered. When I’m “home” from my staycay, I upload, my photos to make an album commemorating our time.
Set an itinerary and plan to be a tourist in your own town
- We set aside time for things we enjoy, but don’t normally have time for. I adore reading, but I’ve been working on the same few books for, like, a year. It’s my greatest dream right now to sit in the lounger on the deck and finish all of them.
- Scope local museums. ‘Round here, we have a ton of visit-worthy educational centers — some of which I still haven’t seen. Blank Park Zoo, Reiman Gardens and Butterfly House, the Des Moines Art Center, the State Historical Building, the Science Center of Iowa, Living History Farms, the state capitol. If you want to see what’s available in your ‘hood, Google the name of your city and tack “museums” on at the end.
- Plan a day trip. There is ALWAYS something interesting within driving distance. On my shortlist for our next staycation: local state parks (many with activities and rentals — jet skis!); the Amana Colonies: an historic cluster of villages; county fairs; other indie craft markets; the Grotto; and maybe a trail ride at the local equestrian center.
- Take a class. I’d love to learn to throw pots or become a raw chef.
- Plan to eat well. If I leave food choices to chance, I fall into the same rut. When I’m staycaying, I find a local top eats list and choose dining destinations from it.
- Visit a water park or local beach. Even the lamest pool has a diving board, a snack machine, and a warm patch of cement on which to sunbathe. If you’re lucky, your city or town has a new-fangled family fun park with wading areas, slides, inflatables, and a lazy river. We have a ton of nice lake beaches in Central Iowa and I’ve still been to NONE of them!
- Take tours. I totally just signed up to tour our local recycling facility in a few weeks (though I won’t be on staycation.) Our Great Ape Trust and Salisbury House offer guided tours, and our local architectural foundation gives walking tours of our downtown skyline — none of which I’ve done yet. Poke around and see what tours you can do in your area. Factories and breweries often offer tours as well.
- Go camping. Or, you know, you can get a hotel room. But we love a long weekend with friends and a challenging amount of beer to consume at the campground.
Really, a staycation is an excuse to fall in love with your town. Put your imagination into it and pretend you’ve traveled — it’ll help you get away from your everyday expectations. And save money. And relaaaaaaaaaax.
Done a staycation? Did I miss an essential tip?