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15 Ideas for the Best Staycation Ever

Many of us have had to cancel our travel plans this summer due to the pandemic and are opting instead to stay home for our vacation. While a staycation may not be as exciting as traveling to an exotic locale—with a little imagination, creativity and an open mind, vacationing at home can actually be a lot of fun. And it’s a good time to connect with family, nature and your inner child.

Here are 15 ideas to make your summer staycation just as—if not more so—relaxing and enjoyable as the real thing.  An added bonus: just think of the money you’ll save on airfare, travel costs and hotel stays.

1. Turn Your Home into a Hotel
Bring the hotel experience home. Treat yourself to hotel-amenity treats like an indulgent hot chocolate at night or warm cookie. Enjoy turndown service by making your bed daily and leaving a chocolate on your pillow. Stock a tray with drinks and snacks to recreate a hotel minibar experience. Place a folded robe and new pair of slippers on the bed or in the closet like they do at fancy hotels. Create a “room service” menu and let your family pick their favorites.

Add a beautiful tray or basket with amenities (travel size shampoos, lotions and soaps are ideal) in your bathroom, and put everything else like blow dryers, toothbrushes and hair brushes away. Refresh your towels (the fluffier the better) and use brighter bulbs to brighten the lighting. Add a plug-in scented air freshener. Upgrade your hand soap and hand lotion with luxurious scents that you love.

2. Around the World Cooking Nights
Transform your kitchen into a dining destination and create an exotic dinner right in the comfort of your own home. Pick a culture or cuisine and turn it into a multi-course affair, complete with beverages, dessert, and decor.

If you’re feeling especially creative, pick a new country each day: Monday is Italy, Tuesday Mexico, Wednesday Morocco, and so on. Learn the cuisine and traditions of each country. Play music popular in the country of the day and wear traditional garb to set an authentic backdrop. For even more fun, have everyone learn some basic words and phrases from each country and use them throughout the day.

3. Pitch a Tent
If you have a yard, it’s easy to pretend you’re “roughing it” in the great outdoors. Pitch a tent, grab the flashlights, pull out the sleeping bags and cook on a portable grill or fire pit. Have a singalong, tell ghost stories, make s’mores (No campfire? Make them in the microwave).

If you don’t own camping equipment, ask your friends and neighbors. No doubt someone will let you borrow exactly what you need for your backyard camp-out.

4. Hold a Yoga Retreat
Recreate a lush yoga retreat without leaving your living room. Infuse ice water with citrus and cucumber slices, unroll your yoga mat, put on some relaxing music or nature sounds, and turn on some online yoga videos. If you’ve new to yoga, stick to simple poses and focus on breathing and relaxation.

5. Watch a Performance
You may not be able to go to a crowded theatre or music hall, but you can still enjoy your favorite shows and performances at home. If Broadway shows are your favorite, BroadwayHD.com is offering free trial online access to some of their best shows with a 7-day trial period. The service is available on iOS, AppleTV, Android, Roku, Amazon Firestick and Web.

You can catch many of your favorite musicians and concerts on YouTube, Facebook and streaming online. It may not be the same experience as seeing them in person, but no lines for the bathroom either!

6. Host Your Own Film Festival
Host your own film festival from your couch. Try screening a series like Lord of the Rings or Star Wars or pick a theme and choose movies that fit. You can watch freebies on your cable or streaming service, or rent them. You could even dig out those old DVDs or purchase used ones cheap on eBay. Load up on popcorn and other movie-style snacks. Create tickets to “invite” your family members, and if you’re inspired, put together bags of “swag” just like the celebrities at the film festivals receive.

Be sure to turn off the lights and turn up the volume to get an authentic movie theatre experience. Shh! No talking during the movie, please. Comfy PJs required.

7. Unleash Your Inner Picasso
Remember spending hours daydreaming and drawing pictures when you were a kid? Reconnect with your inner child and stretch your creative muscles by creating art or taking an art class online.

You may need to order some supplies in advance (paints, canvas, etc.) but the importance is to let your imagination and creativity flow, with no pressure or expectations of how the project will turn out. Leave your inner critic at the door and enjoy the process of creating without focusing on the result.

8. Get Outside
Most of us have spent far too many hours on our couches these days. Lace up your hiking boots and visit a nearby park or walk along the beach, or hop on your bike in search of the nearest bike trail.

Fill a day pack with water, healthy snacks, sunscreen and other essentials. Soaking up some nature will help balance out all this time indoors. Don’t forget your camera to capture the memories!

9. Learn a New Skill
Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn how to take better pictures, or how to arrange flowers or create an herb garden, but haven’t had time because of working and other commitments. Use the downtime in your staycation to learn something new.

10. Give Back
Many charities have been significantly impacted by the pandemic, and can use extra help. You can sign up to volunteer at a food bank, soup kitchen, animal shelter, church or other organization that needs help. Volunteering is a fulfilling way to spend a little bit of your time off, and a good reminder of all we have to be grateful for.

11. Change Your Playlist
Key to a successful staycation is making your week at home different than your normal routine. While you may be tempted to keep the TV on as background noise, before you grab the remote, ask yourself if that’s what you would do on vacation.

Be intentional about choosing music or sounds you enjoy, or opting for silence to enhance your environment during this stressful time. Think about what sounds you love on vacation. Maybe it’s steel drum music or the sound of waves crashing on a beach.

Instead of turning on the TV to the news or a random show to play in the background, you can also turn on soothing screen views, like the ocean, a cozy fireplace or a lush rainforest.

12. Have a Foodie Challenge Fest
Maybe exotic food is not your thing, but you love cooking competition shows like Iron Chef and Chopped. Bring home the fun of friendly competition to your kitchen. Visit a farmers market or vegetable stand—wherever you can get fresh, local ingredients. Then, have everyone plan a meal using what you’ve collected and anything else that’s already in your fridge or pantry.

Set a timer to create a sense of urgency like in the shows. See who creates the better dish! If you’d rather not go out, see who can find the best recipes that only use what you have on hand.

13. Embrace the Power of Smell
Scents can be powerful: they awaken the senses and create a mood. Think about the feeling you’re trying to create. For example, a tropical vacation may smell like orchids, plumeria or coconut. A bed-and-breakfast weekend may smell like fresh flowers, coffee and vanilla. Purchase inexpensive candles and incense online.

Molly Anderson, Vice President of Experience Development for Canyon Ranch wellness resorts recommends using essential oils to re-create aromatherapy treatments. Choose different oils for the various moods of your day. Bright or spicy scents will be better for more energetic times, while lavender, chamomile and bergamot are soothing and can help quiet stress.

14. Take a Virtual Tour
Visit some of the world’s most amazing landmarks and famous tourist attractions from the comfort of your couch with a virtual tour. Tour the Taj Mahal, Machu Pichu, the Great Wall of China, and more.

You can also add some culture to your staycation with a virtual visit to some of the world’s famous museums and art galleries. Check out the collections at the British Museum in London, the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, the Guggenheim in New York City and other hot spots.

You can also take virtual tours of many zoos and aquariums, and even go on a virtual roller coaster ride.

15. Unplug and Reconnect
Vacations are all about breaking out of your daily schedule and routine for a while. Even on a staycation, staying away from daily stressors is important. Turn off email notifications on your phone, turn off your alarm clock, and turn off the TV.

Some of the most luxurious getaways in the world have spotty Wi-Fi, or no cell service whatsoever. So, to make your staycation feel even more vacation-like, disconnect from your phone and social media as much as you can. Enjoy this time to reconnect with your family (and yourself!), refresh and recharge from the comfort of your own home.

Resources: Cool of the Wild, Food.com, Good Housekeeping, Familyeducation.com, Clark.com, Bustle.com, Volunteer Match, SheKnows.com, Healthline, CBS Miami, The Active Times, Billboard, Fridge to Table, Oprah Magazine, Taste of Home, Timeout.com, Travel & Leisure, Washington Post, National Park Service, YogaJournal.com