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15 Ways To Plan a Staycation That’s Actually Relaxing

COVID-19 may have disrupted your travel plans for the foreseeable future, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need a vacation. Particularly if you’re working from home, the days can start to blur together when there’s no commute or weekend events to break up the routine. Fortunately, the “staycation” is here to save the day! Long enjoyed by frugal vacationers, taking time off at home is a great way to enjoy a break from the daily grind.

The key to a relaxing staycation is simple: Step back from as many of your usual responsibilities as you can. Request your vacation days and don’t plan on catching up on chores—this time is for you! Read on for fifteen staycation ideas that will help you finally relax.

1. Brunch on Your Schedule

Nothing is more relaxing than trading your usual hurried morning routine for a leisurely breakfast that eventually becomes brunch—unless, of course, you have to make it yourself or do the dishes afterwards. Treat yourself to a relaxing morning instead! Whether you dine in or take your food to go, you’ll enjoy the morning more if all you have to do is search for “where to get breakfast near me.”

2. Tackle a Cooking Project

If you do like to cook, you’ll want to wander back into the kitchen eventually after taking a break for a few meals. With more time at home to supervise labor-intensive foods, consider trying out an appealing but challenging recipe you’ve always wanted to cook. Thousands of people jumped on the bread-baking bandwagon this spring, but there are plenty of options if you’re sour on sourdough! Homemade soups and stews, yeasted donuts and cinnamon buns, and comforting classics like Bolognese sauce and lasagna are all well worth the effort they demand.

3. Mix Your Own Cocktails (or Mocktails)

Even though restaurants are open, bars are still closed in many areas. You’ll be hard-pressed to mimic the camaraderie of packing into a bar with your best friends over a Zoom happy hour, but delving into the world of mixology might remind you of some of your favorite drinks. If you love to cook, you’ll find home bartending a natural extension of your current hobbies.

For mixologists who want to make sure kids feel included, or who simply choose not to imbibe, try your hand at mocktails, which have all the fancy flavors of artisan cocktails and none of the alcohol. Recent trends in health and wellness have driven greater interest in alcohol-free drinks, and many new mocktail recipes are so tasty, you won’t even notice the difference.

4. Give Your Outdoor Space a Makeover

If you have a balcony, patio, or backyard, now’s the time to put it to good use as the vacation spot of your dreams! Hook up a projector and watch movies under the night sky, invest in a new grill or smoker, and put up some string lights to set the mood. For backyards with room to spare, use the extra space to set up outdoor games or an inflatable pool. Finally, don’t forget to spruce up your outdoor seating arrangements so everyone can comfortably enjoy their time outdoors. Make the most of the last days of summer with this list of staycation must-haves.

5. Plan an All-Day Day Hike

For most people, skipping the daily commute hasn’t resulted in much more leisure time, and your visions of a daily outdoor walk or run may not have materialized in real life. But with your staycation dedicated to spending time on all the things you really want to do, why not devote some time to investigating a new trail at a nearby nature reserve? With the whole day available, you’ll have plenty of time to take a day trip to the best natural spaces within driving distance and set out on a longer trail.

6. Bring Your Phone Outside

Smartphones have a bad reputation for tethering you to the stressful world of work and current events with always-on internet, but it’s possible to use them for loftier purposes. For your day hikes, download iNaturalist, an app that lets you identify local plants and wildlife with help from other users if you need it. As you learn about your local ecosystem, your explorations will be stored in scientific databases that researchers use to understand regional biodiversity. Later at night, download SkyView and become an amateur stargazer; just aim your phone at the sky and the app will help you identify planets, stars, and constellations.

7. Play a New Game

For good reason, video games are more popular than ever. With extra time at home and new options like “Animal Crossing: New Horizons,” people who have never before picked up a controller are discovering that games aren’t the niche interest they once were. They're involving and rewarding—in other words, a perfect way to relax and pass the time during your staycation. Games are most fun when you can play them with friends or family, but that doesn’t mean you need to become an esports champion! There are plenty of great options for cooperative games of all genres that you can dive into with a partner, even if you don’t have much gaming experience.

8. Premiere Your Own Movie Night

There’s a big difference between scrolling through social media while reruns blare in the background and settling in for some quality screen time with a movie or TV show you really want to see. Make your favorite movie snacks, set your phone to theater mode, and curl up on the couch to catch up on your personal must-see list. If you and your partner live together and can agree on what to watch, this is a relaxing way to wind down a romantic staycation date!

9. Bring Beach Reads Home

At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, many people planned to use the time to dig into classic literature or weighty tomes with cultural importance. Unfortunately, if you don’t really want to read those things, it can feel like homework—and you probably won't end up reading anything besides your Facebook feed. Instead, try treating yourself to a bestselling, page-turning beach read, and you’ll be much more likely to rediscover your love for the written word.

10. Plan a Staycation Spa Day

If your bathroom hardly evokes a peaceful spa retreat, you might have trouble convincing yourself to take time for extra self-care practices at home. But the benefits of giving your skin, hair, and nails some special attention last well beyond a single day, since feeling well-kept can boost your mood and self-esteem.

That doesn’t mean you have to go back to all the beauty and grooming routines you’ve enjoyed forgoing! Take advantage of your time away from the public eye to relax, spritz on a favorite cologne or perfume, and schedule a facial peel and hair mask in the comfort of your own home. Not sure how to take care of your skin? Get started with this extensive guide to everything you need to get your staycation spa up and running.

11. Wind Down in the Tub

For staycationers with children, it may be possible to step back from work responsibilities for a few days, but you’ll still want to be present for your family—at least, for most of your staycation. If you’re almost always in charge of taking care of your children, make your co-parent responsible for childcare or ask for help from a trusted family member or friend for a few hours so you can enjoy some quiet time. With interruptions managed, dig out those bath bombs you’ve been meaning to use, light a candle, and set aside a fluffy robe for lounging in once you dry off. You can relax sore muscles in an Epsom salt bath if you’re not fond of fragranced baths; the warm water and relative quiet will make the experience just as restorative.

12. Sleep Late, Guilt-Free

When offices around the world shuttered and their former occupants were obligated to perform their work duties from home, there was at least one silver lining: everyone got more sleep. From China to the U.S., the percentage of daily time spent asleep grew, often in reverse proportion to the percentage of time spent commuting. Sleep is critical for every normal body process, from muscle building and skin regeneration to cardiac health and brain function. If you’ve been feeling “lazy” for sleeping more, put that negative self-talk to bed and make getting the full eight hours a priority, at least for the duration of your staycation. Let yourself wake up naturally if possible; it’ll be a refreshing change from your alarm clock.

13. Rediscover a Favorite Pastime

You’re not alone if day-to-day responsibilities reliably crowd out any time you could spend on favorite hobbies or pastimes. Still, creative activities and interests that are unrelated to your job are perfect ways to stimulate your mind, improve your mood, and bring more joy into your life. Schedule a few hours over the course of your staycation to unearth the musical instrument or easel buried in the back of your closet and explore an activity you’ve been missing.

Don’t worry about your performance, especially if it’s been a long time since you were able to practice; focus on the parts of your hobbies that you’ve always enjoyed. If you feel a spark, schedule another few hours to plan ways to spend more time every day on doing something you find fulfilling.

14. Dig Into a Dream DIY Project

Most advice for home renovations focus on updates that sell your home quickly. Right now, though, home prices are high due to both an increase in demand and a decrease in the amount of people willing to sell their homes and move. If you’re one of the many homeowners who’s planning to wait out 2020 before moving and you enjoy working around the house, think about a home improvement project you’ve always wanted to do, even if it doesn’t add to your home’s sale price. Keep the stress factor low by sticking with easy options, like changing out your cabinet pulls, hanging peel-and-stick wallpaper, or repainting a few rooms.

15. Go Back to School (Online)

Learning new things satisfies your natural human curiosity and creates feelings of mastery and confidence. If your memories of school days are less than rosy, you’ll be delighted to discover that online classes are low-pressure and available for just about any topic that might spark your interest. From the famous Yale seminar on the “Art of Happiness” offered at Coursera to celebrity-chef-led cooking classes on MasterClass, there are thousands of ways to pursue your interests for their own sake. Especially if you feel like you don’t usually have time for personal goals, indulging your curiosity can be a rewarding, relaxing use of staycation days.

With travel plans curtailed for now, vacationers will have to get creative! You might have to miss out on international plane trips for a while, but there are plenty of things you can do to relax and unplug at home in the meantime.

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