What Are Your Tips For Having A Good Staycation?
August 19, 2015 7:40 AM   Subscribe

In just a couple of days I will have 10 days to unwind and recharge. Money is tight so my husband and I (no children) won't be travelling and will be able to only have a couple of restaurant meals. I want to plan the most refreshing staycation possible and am looking for your tips.

I'm thinking that the 10 days will be divided into roughly 1/3 house/yard work (right at the beginning, so we have a decent spot to return to), 1/3 local sight-seeing, and 1/3 loafing, reading, or watching TV and movies.

I'm keeping the following tips in mind:

- unplug as much as possible, even from (gasp) MeFi
- not running errands or doing housework or projects after those first couple of days
- not to have a plan that's too rigid, but also to make sure to have some kind of a plan

One caveat--our yard is not a place of relaxation as a great deal of work remains to be done and we live in a noisy, high-crime neighbourhood, so tips about spending time in it would not be useful.

To be clear, I'm not looking for recommendations on places to go, only on how to successfully structure/navigate the time so that at the end of it we can actually feel relaxed, as though we've had a good break, and that we've created a few nice memories.

What are your suggestions? Thanks!
posted by Amy NM to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (28 answers total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
Sightseeing - maybe try treating your city as if you were tourists - there may be plays, or gallery showings, or museum exhibits or whatever that you wouldn't normally have time/inclination for. Oh, and whoop it up - have fun!
posted by parki at 7:52 AM on August 19, 2015

I can't say as I've ever had an entirely good staycation, but I can give you a few tips on what to avoid: don't sleep in every day. Don't run errands every day -- front load them. Do your grocery shopping and cleaning and laundry the first weekend, then spend the rest of the time doing other stuff. I think your idea of doing house/yard work at the beginning is just right. Don't get too invested in the loafing part early on -- it's hard to break out of, and before you know it, it's Sunday night and you have to work the next day and you've binge-watched 3 tv series on Netflix and that's about it. Uh, not that I've had experience with that.

I'd suggest planning what local sight-seeing you want to do, just like you would with a trip to somewhere else. I've read that the planning gives more pleasure than the actual doing, so don't make it off the cuff.

My more successful staycations have generally involved getting out of my routine. So don't just make it a 10-day weekend. See people. Go to that museum you've always meant to (they generally have a night that's free). Make one day a beach day (if you're near a beach). But do some planning. Weeks go by very quickly.
posted by clone boulevard at 7:53 AM on August 19, 2015 [8 favorites]

Do as much meal prep as you can now: menu planning, grocery shopping, make & freeze, etc. It's much more relaxing to choose from readily available dinner options vs. think of what you want to make, go to grocery store, then make the food. You could also get some paper plates for the week so you have less mess to clean up (although I usually feel too environmentally guilty to do so).

Come up with a list of plans you'd like to do and them put them in two lists: one sorted by desirability and the other sorted by how much time the plan takes. Each night take a look at the weather and your lists and decide what you want to tee up for the next day. The sorted by time list is useful to toss in an extra activity with minimal planning.
posted by mikepop at 7:53 AM on August 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

Our family just did this! It was great. We prioritized getting outside to fabulous parks that are normally excessively crowded on weekends. We brought picnic lunches/dinners with us.

One thing that I didn't like about the staycation was that our house got dirtier than usual -- due to the whole family being home more than usual -- and that felt like extra work.
posted by stowaway at 7:56 AM on August 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

I agree with frontloading the work at the beginning of the week. We've been pretty much exclusively staycationers for the last 5 years for a variety of reasons, and they are always enjoyable because we spend 2-3 days working around the house and the rest slugging around the house. In addition to the regular weekly to-dos, we always choose 2-3 big projects that there never seems to be enough time for but cause little bouts of periodic stress. Things that we can do on weekends but would consume the whole weekend so we never do them -- like cleaning out/rearranging and purging every closet in the house, cleaning the garage, washing all of the windows inside and out, stocking the freezer with "freezes beautifully" meals, vacuuming all of the spiders out of the basement and attic (this is probably a very unique chore for us!).

I know it seems counterintuitive to take on big projects during a staycation, but the level of zen I feel after they are done is worth giving up a couple of the days to power through it all. Plus you can then feel really good about plopping on the couch and netflix-binging for the next 5 days!
posted by archimago at 8:01 AM on August 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

- not to have a plan that's too rigid, but also to make sure to have some kind of a plan

I find that planning for vacations generally works best if I adhere to the "daypart" principle -- you pick one thing to do in the morning, one thing to do in the afternoon, and one thing to do in the evening. This doesn't mean exactly one task or activity, but one starter "thing" -- e.g.:
Morning: Yardwork
Afternoon: That Art Museum We Keep Meaning To Go To -- this may also include lunch out, or a side trip to that other nearby museum, or shopping in a nearby mall, but the plan is just "That Art Museum", and anything else is just gravy
Evening: Catch Up On TV Show
posted by Etrigan at 8:03 AM on August 19, 2015 [5 favorites]

I suggest a flop day (or two) on which you make a nest of cushions on the floor and maybe watch movies or maybe just lie around. Somehow creating a new space that is neither the bed nor the couch can be liberating and bust you out of your routines.
posted by PercussivePaul at 8:03 AM on August 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

I generally structure play-days so that we go out in the morning, even though that means generally waking up to an alarm. I tend to get anxious if I'm at loose ends all day before a thing, so I like to get up and not rush getting ready, go out for breakfast*, go to a museum or tourist thing or park or activity, and then go home for loafing and lunch whenever we feel done.

*Breakfast is easily the cheapest meal to eat out. Hit a donut shop, go to Starbucks, treat yourself to McDonald's or Jack In The Box. It gets you moving, nobody's got to clean up, you're probably going to end up with a perfectly serviceable iced coffee, it's a good start.

You're going to be tempted to picnic for lunches, and then you're going to drop a restaurant-meal's worth of money on overeager picnic supplies. Do not do this. Buy a loaf of bread (sure, splurge an extra buck or two on fancier bread), buy standard lunch meat and cheese, buy two normal bags of good chips to parcel into baggies, get a bag of apples, and make yourself a batch of cookies. Strictly brown-bag stuff, it'll be fine, you don't have to make up for anything with your lunch.

If you're going to do an evening thing, also do something in the afternoon or you will spend all day uneasy and at loose ends. If it's a slightly dress-up thing, put on your dress-up clothes and go to a low-rumple afternoon activity, then straight out from there. (Given my personal preferences, I'd actually do almost all my fancy eating out and stuff at lunch and plan to be home at nights drinking cheap wine in front of the Netflix queue in yoga pants. Bonus: fancy lunches often way cheaper than fancy dinners, even with drinks if you drink.)

Depending on your level of desired social isolation, you may want to set up one or two friend-dates to break up the long slog of only being together, either couple-friends or separately depending on your inclination.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:05 AM on August 19, 2015 [7 favorites]

i don't know what your life balance is normally, but if cooking is usually a hurried thing assembling frozen pre-prepared components, why not spend some of that time making and enjoying good food? it doesn't have to be expensive - i'm cooking lentils right now in the cheapest boxed wine i could find, and it smells delicious. a big, steaming bowl of lentils, some fresh bread, and a beer, would be a great start to a lazy evening doing nothing much (or invite over friends!)

a way to make walks around the neighbourhood more interesting is to take photographs. you probably already have a camera in your phone or whatever. and then you can spend hours pootling around processing the images. i took most of these within an hour's walk of where i live (ok, i have the advantage of living somewhere "exotic" - see other recent askmes for more on that, ho ho - but everywhere has something unique).
posted by andrewcooke at 8:21 AM on August 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

Every really good staycation I've had included some amount of getting hilariously drunk in the afternoon and going to bed early for a really long night's sleep. Sometimes it's cocktails and cake with friends, sometimes it's beer at the pub while everyone else is at work, sometimes it's boardgames and gin with my husband, sometimes it's just me and the cats and a bottle of sparkling wine. So much fun. Maybe it's just me though, I dunno....
posted by shelleycat at 8:37 AM on August 19, 2015 [6 favorites]

It's tempting to plan a fun sightseeing thing and then go home, with the urge not to overload yourself, or spend too much money all at once, or finish the day too tired. I see previous posters suggesting a morning thing and then loafing all afternoon. I find it more refreshing to pack all the things together. Take one day in which you do a daytrip to the city of your choice (even if it's the downtown 10 minutes from your house), leave right after breakfast (or before), walk around the shopping areas, go to a museum, have lunch out, walk around a historic district, visit a local X-maker you heard was good (I'm talking cheese, wine, beer, etc, kind of tasting space, or visit a pottery shop and watch them making things), end the day with a free concert in the park or a band at a bar, or whatever you can find - and come home exhausted. Then the next day you can feel legitimately tired, sleep in, lounge, watch a movie, whatever. You can also go out for coffee with a friend and tell them all the awesome stuff you did yesterday, and it feels like when you've just gotten home from a week of travel, you've got lots to report and lots of hold-over excitement. I definitely enjoy spending <$25 or so on an item (shirt, necklace, gaudy socks, mug, etc) that I can then wear/take to work on my first day back, as a reminder that I did something fun last week.
posted by aimedwander at 8:37 AM on August 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

Since you'll have a good chunk of time to play with, you might try researching local museums and attractions you're interested in to see when their free days/nights fall. Your local library might also rent out passes to local museums that will be booked up on weekends but available on weekdays, so this would be the perfect time to use something like that. Since you're on a budget, these strategies could help you get to see more spots.

My husband and I also really like to plan surprise day trips for one another. The other person doesn't know where we're going/what we're doing, which makes it a lot of fun. We've done walking tours of specific cool local neigborhoods, drives to local hiking destinations, themed "let's see a bunch of local things having to do with X fun topic", etc. If this appeals, both you and your husband could each take one day to surprise the other, with a set budget you have to stick to.

Another thing we've done this summer for the first time was to make a giant brainstorming list of everything we thought would be fun to do. It's not a "to do" list -- we're not guilting ourself if we don't get to everything on it! We've just experienced those summers that sort of slip away if you don't have an intentional plan, so we wanted to really think about what we'd love to do and have an easy access list for those weekends when it's like "Um, what should we do this weekend?" "I don't know, I guess just marathon Netflix?" I feel like this could work well for you guys -- brainstorm a list of everything cool in your area you've wanted to try, and then you've done a lot of the thinking work and on a given day you can just choose what sounds appealing for that day or fits the weather (i.e. you don't want to have a strict schedule that has you going to the beach on a day that's stormy).
posted by rainbowbrite at 8:39 AM on August 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

Do you do yoga? If so, it could be really nice to start or conclude each day with a shortish practice to really help enjoy the relaxing time you have off to its fullest.
posted by mdonley at 8:43 AM on August 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

We have a tendency to get bogged down in house projects and then not have time for any fun when we have a stay-cation or long weekend. To alleviate that, we set a stopping time, say noon or 2:00 - we have a deadline to finish our tasks and then have fun time after that. It gives us a bit of a schedule and a reward for finishing our chores.
posted by sarajane at 8:54 AM on August 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

If you can afford it, arrange for a housecleaning service the day before and the day after your staycation. This is the best.
posted by crush-onastick at 9:06 AM on August 19, 2015 [3 favorites]

Go to a part of your city where you've never been, and enjoy the feeling of strolling around with no deadline to get anywhere in particular.
posted by JimN2TAW at 9:07 AM on August 19, 2015

Maybe try, y'know.....not planning. Or at least set aside a couple days as "whateverthefuckifeellike" days, where there is no set schedule and you are perfectly free to do spontaneous whatevers if you have the energy, but are also equally free to watch soap operas and pick your feet and not feel a shred of guilt about it if that's sincerely what you want to do. You know, take Bruno Mars' "Lazy Song" as your inspiration.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:09 AM on August 19, 2015

I've got a staycation coming up and have been pondering the same question. Most of the stuff I'm planning is already covered here, but one thing I haven't seen yet:

You mention minimal restaurant eats. Okay, but you have all this time at home that you don't usually have. So are there maybe some things you really like to cook or eat, but that take a long time or need a lot of babysitting, and you never make them because you don't have time in your normal life? If cooking is enjoyable for you, then maybe dig up a project or two like that. I'm planning to devote a day of my vacation to making some sort of vat of super-long-simmering pasta sauce, and another day to that ridiculous Thomas Keller french onion soup where you caramelize the onion for like eight hours. It'll be fun, it'll make my house smell great, I'll feel like I've done something productive, and yet I will also be forced to do some serious chilling around the house without guilt because I couldn't go do sightseeing even if I wanted to! I have onions to monitor!

Ignore suggestion completely if cooking is no fun for you, but for me, weeknight cooking is no fun but a big cooking PROJECT can be super-fun.
posted by Stacey at 9:28 AM on August 19, 2015 [4 favorites]

On a similar note: I recently took a day off to cook all day and fill my freezers with stuff that would be no more than 20 minutes from a plate (and most of it was assembled meals in individual portions ready to microwave). It was workhorse food, and I skipped my usual humidity-producing winter favorites because it was hotter than the sun's balls that day already, but on the rest of the hottest and/or busiest days of the summer I now do not have to cook at all. And I cleaned the kitchen and rearranged cabinets in my downtime. I got a lot of audiobook-listening (a thing I don't do anymore because I don't have a long commute) done, and it wasn't the worst way to spend a day. And Past Me is a total hero now.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:39 AM on August 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

Contact your local tourism office, and ask what sites/events they'd recommend. Check local newspaper listings for fun stuff too.
posted by peppermind at 10:30 AM on August 19, 2015

Do you live a metropolitan area?
Every year or two I see a blog post or travel section article about "most scenic" bus/street car routes in different cities (like this one about the #42 bus in Paris http://www.parisperfect.com/blog/2012/07/42-bus-best-sightseeing-paris/) . There might be a good one in your city that you could enjoy for cheap!
Or if the budget will stretch to one of those $20 hop on/hop off buses, those are my guilty pleasure when I'm in a foreign city, and I've always meant to take one in my hometown.
Lastly, what about rush tickets or cheapie matinee tickets to local theatre? I went to see Kinky Boots for $35 on my last staycation :).
posted by dotparker at 10:36 AM on August 19, 2015

I rarely get to sleep in due to kid, so one of my favorite things about staying in a hotel without the kid in tow is the light blocking curtains that make the room entirely black at noon. I love being able to sleep in absolute darkness with the disorientation that comes with not knowing what time it is when I wake up because I can't see daylight. To do this at home, buy light blocking shades at Home Depot (they cut them to the exact size you want). Also ad a thicker material curtain to block light that slips in around the edges. Also, the quiet hum and coolness of air conditioning while sleeping under a fluffy down blanket is heaven (my husband hates that so he sleeps with just a sheet, ha). To this I would ad the intention of having a day where I would not get out of my pajamas. I would get up (whenever), make great espresso, open the shade and read for a bit, followed by watching a super awesome DVD. Then I would get out the Scrabble board. By the time that's over it's cocktail hour whereby music is on and we make an amazing dinner. Afterward I would spend some time on my own, take a shower, read, do some yoga, meditate, call someone. Staying offline sounds like a bonus.
posted by waving at 12:06 PM on August 19, 2015 [3 favorites]

The absolute number one thing I would suggest is doing a properly thorough clean and chore completion BEFORE the staycation. You say you don't want to do housecleaning or chores after the first couple of days, but seriously I would get it all done beforehand and not waste a couple staycation days on that crap. Make sure your house is clean and there aren't outstanding chores or tasks, or else you'll spend your staycation either cleaning/doing chores OR feeling guilty for not doing said cleaning/chores. So do a super mega massive clean of the house and finish chores.

My other suggestion is rather than going to restaurants (which I always find disappointing and overpriced), why not aim to cook a new and different meal together every evening? Decide together what you want to make, maybe have themed evenings (ie. make chicken parm and then watch the godfather or the italian job or something). My husband and I have monthly "date nights" at home where we make each other fancy pants meals and sometimes even do a full on dress up nice when its time to eat. To me that would be super fun,and if you focus on making new recipes and trying new things you will probably have an expanded set of recipes for dinner parties and guests!

Also, what if you had one day where the other person had to plan the entire day. LIke, tuesday in your staycation is YOUR day, which means you have to plan out what you're going to do that day, including supper/evening. Bonus points if each person's day has to be a surprise for the other person.

And finally, if you can afford it, rather than going to crap restaurants, consider getting a hotel room in your city for ONE NIGHT during your staycation and having a romantic night there.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 12:31 PM on August 19, 2015

Well, I'd certainly plan one afternoon in the bath, reading a book, followed by wrapping myself in a terry cloth robe and taking a nap.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 2:04 PM on August 19, 2015

If at least one of you enjoys cooking (and the other is willing to muck in) then one good way to spend time is to plan out, shop for, and cook something a bit adventurous. My SO and I sometimes do this when we have some time off and no plans or not enough money to go away. Things like sushi, ceviche, or pulled pork: meals that require a lot of time or attention that you can't normally give to your daily sustenance.

The nice thing I find about doing this while on holiday is that you can get through a bottle of white wine while cooking and then leave the washing-up for the morning, but this part is optional.
posted by Zeinab Badawi's Twenty Hotels at 2:17 PM on August 19, 2015

We try and do a staycation every year. Here's what we do:

- Make a thing of breakfast - pancakes, waffles, eggs and bacon, local cafe - whatever takes your fancy. Read the paper, no gadgets, just chill over a leisurely breakfast. Maybe even in bed.
- At least 2 of the days should be flop around days. All day in pyjamas, pull a mattress and every pillow you own into the loungeroom, watch movies and read books with cocktails and finger foods. Bonus points if you end up asleep on the floor, like an indoor campout!
- We don't cook very much except maybe 1-2 lavish delicious meals. Everything else will be cheeses and deli meats, oysters from the fishmonger, smoked salmon, good crusty bread. It makes dinner so much more luscious and fun.
- Do your house/yard work in the morning after your luxurious breakfast, and have a cutoff time (noon?). Each day, do one afternoon activity then nap before dinner.
- Go for a late night walk! Holding hands! In a new part of town or by a waterway of sorts!
- At least 1 day, take a day trip in nature somewhere, hike, or enjoy the scenery.
- Look up free/cheap events in the city (twilight cinemas, local festivals, etc) and commit to 1 of them.
- Do something nostalgic, from dating days - Mr Shazzam and I like to go to the first Italian diner we used to eat at when we were crushing on each other. Cheap, and brings up overwhelmingly great memories.
- Take naps. Even short ones.
posted by shazzam! at 8:44 PM on August 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

What terrific answers--thanks, everyone! I've marked as best the answers that specifically resonate with our current situation, but they're all great.

I'll keep watching in case anyone else has more suggestions and might report back after the time is over (especially if I've learned anything not covered here about taking a staycation!).
posted by Amy NM at 6:30 AM on August 20, 2015

For me, the key to a good staycation is to have at least a tiny bit of structure to my day. For instance, my last staycation, I took my dog to the dog park every morning. It's a 25 minute walk each way, so that was some nice exercise to start the day. In the past, I've made it a goal to go to a yoga class every day of a staycation.

Oh, and with too much free time, I tend to get lethargic. So I like to make a list of activities, both fun stuff and chore-type stuff, and pick one or two every day to do. Could be "try this new recipe" or "start a book" or "watch a movie" or "clean the bathroom."
posted by lunasol at 8:54 AM on August 20, 2015

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