A staycation can be more exciting than a few extra days of watching Netflix at home. Learn how to explore your own home like a tourist with this guide to staycations during the coronavirus pandemic.
There have been many predictions since the outbreak of COVID-19 that New York is “over.” However, I (along with Jerry Seinfeld) have to disagree. When I walk around my neighborhood in Brooklyn, there is still a buzz in the air. The characters still exist, as does the rush and the incredible variety of thought, as well as the grit, the noise, the piles of garbage, and all the other things New Yorkers love (and love to complain about). Still, I cannot deny that the city is, at the moment, very quiet and very different. And while I have faith that the New York of bygone days will return (as it has many times before after many other crises), the truth is that the place I call home has changed.
Yet during this period, my husband and I have not only rediscovered the things we love about New York but also discovered elements of the city we had never explored before. We’ve biked to Coney Island, we’ve sought out urban gardens, and now we’re on the hunt for the best local hot chocolate. While COVID-19 has taken much away, it has also forced us to find new ways to find new forms of entertainment, get out of our comfort zones, and remember why we are lucky to live where we do. We’ve become tourists in our own town, treating the city as a visitor would.
If you’re planning some time off but long-distance travel opportunities remain limited due to the pandemic, trust me—a staycation is the next best thing. They promise less time wasted getting from one place to another, less planning-related stress, and less damage to your wallet, as well as more flexibility since you aren’t chained to an itinerary or bound by the same logistical constraints. And while it may seem like a staycation just involves sitting on the couch and letting the days pass as you make your way through the new season of The Crown, it doesn’t have to be that way. With the right amount of planning and the right approach, time off at home can feel just as special as any other trip.
1. Don’t Forget to Treat This Like a Normal Vacation
Approach your time off as a vacation without the travel headaches. Keep a running list of things you want to do or see so that when you plan your staycation, you don’t have to hunt too hard for ideas. If you pass something on the street or read about something in the news, make a note of it. There’s often much more going on outside the four walls of home than we sometimes think. Certain activities may necessitate more planning (especially during the pandemic), but that doesn’t mean there aren’t fun and safe options. Consider checking out a drive-in movie, visiting outdoor art installations, or taking yourself on a walking tour of an unfamiliar area.
2. Disrupt Your Routine
It’s easy to settle into patterns at home. During your staycation, try to break them. Take a new route somewhere, or cook up the delicious meal you saw on Food Network you’re usually too busy to recreate. Walk your dog in a different park, call a good friend you haven’t spoken to in months, take a break from social media, or force yourself to try a new takeout place.
Be sure to step away from your work email. Treat this time just as you would any other vacation and try not to think about the office—it will all be there when you’re back. Most of all, force yourself to look for the things you don’t notice on the daily, the small details that pass you by when you’re rushing from place to place on autopilot. Reveling in the simple can’t be overstated.
Then, create a day-by-day schedule just as you would a travel itinerary for an unfamiliar place, and be sure to set a budget. This will allow you to plan activities that are both affordable and engaging.
3. Get Outside
Since March, and especially during periods of total lockdown, many of us have found ourselves spending more time in front of our screens and rooted in our couches. One of the best ways to combat pandemic fatigue is to get outside.
Plan a hike, garden, take a bike ride, or walk around an area you have yet to explore. Alternatively, take some indoor activities outside. Bring a book to the park, picnic in your backyard, or on a roof deck if you have one. Play a board game or bring some cards out on the porch. If it’s cold where you are, layer up and prepare accordingly. And, once you do get out there, breathe deep and enjoy.
4. Pamper Yourself
While your bathroom might not be exactly the same as a hotel spa, there’s no reason you can’t create some zen in your own home. Light candles and stock up on sheet masks for a spa day. Listen to a relaxing playlist as you soak in a bubble bath. Give yourself a manicure and make your own fruit-infused water. Meditate.
Pampering doesn’t have to equate to spa-related activities. Other options like cooking, journaling, or reading can also be forms of self-care. Take a virtual yoga class, make an artful cheese plate, arrange a bouquet of flowers. The goal is to create space for yourself and engage in a leisure pursuit you don’t usually have time for.
5. Be Flexible
A staycation should be a less-stressful way to escape than normal travel. There is no rush to the airport or lost baggage or jet lag or language barrier to worry about. The goal is to enjoy yourself, so don’t overthink the details.
With ongoing uncertainties around the pandemic, be prepared to run into some roadblocks and expect some last-minute changes. Be flexible with your itinerary and make adjustments as needed. Whatever goes wrong, at least a small staycation snafu doesn’t translate to a missed connection or hours in line at the airport claims desk. We’ve all had enough to worry about this year—it’s time to embrace calm instead.