Craving a much-needed getaway but travel plans impacted by the pandemic? You're in luck. These at-home vacation ideas let you treat yourself in the comfort of your own city, even if you only have a few hours to enjoy.

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Although you would love to savor gelato in Italy, watch the sunset off the coast in Australia, or wander through fascinating and delicious food markets in Thailand, a long getaway isn’t in the cards right now. Because of the global pandemic, many summer travel plans have been moved, postponed, or canceled altogether. But just because you're not boarding an airplane doesn't mean you can't have a relaxing few days to yourself. 

One solution to canceled plans is to take a "staycation" instead. So, what is a staycation? Travel blogger Maggie Gunther defines it as an opportunity to disconnect and invest in little luxuries and adventures in your own neck of the woods. Because you omit the cost of transportation, including flying and driving long distances, ultimately, your staycation will give you the same good vibes from travel but without major expenses.

young women friends eating brunch on sunny apartment balcony
Credit: Courtesy of Getty

It's important to exercise creativity when it comes to planning your staycation, no matter the time of year. Sometimes, your at-home vacay could be just a few hours, while other times it can extend an entire week. By looking for openings for rest and relaxation on your calendar, you can reap the most out of this experience. No matter how much time you have to invest in a staycation, travel experts share their best strategies. 

You Have Four Hours in the House Alone

Your mother-in-law kindly agreed to take the children for an evening adventure and your partner is out of town. Or maybe your roommates have exited the building and it’s the first time you haven’t had to battle for the remote. Four hours alone without demands from anyone can feel like a major win, and Gunther recommends making the most of it. Pour your favorite wine or beer, get comfortable, and tune in to the Netflix show or movie you’ve been meaning to watch. If you're planning this staycation ahead of time, sign yourself up for a Wine Delivery, ($60, Winc) and have all your favorites sent right to your door. No matter how tempted you are to tend to dishes, tidy up backpacks, or check your email, resist. It’s your sacred staycation time and you have earned it. 

If, on the other hand, you’re a stay-at-home caregiver or attempting to work from home without an office, you might prefer to escape the house for a while. Another four-hour-staycation idea is to enjoy a meal alone. As travel blogger DeAnna Taylor suggests, sometimes a good book and a glass of vino can ease stress and put you in the right mindset. If you don't feel comfortable going to a restaurant right now (or if your favorite joint isn't offering dine-in yet), pick up your meal curb-side and host a socially-distant picnic for one in the park or the backyard. 

You Have an Evening to Yourself

If you’re a parent, you know how liberating it is to actually have one full evening to yourself, without any tiny rugrats waking you up or crawling into your bed. Or, if you’re in a long-term relationship and you can’t remember the last time you could sprawl in the middle of your queen-sized mattress, you’re in for a treat of good sleep. How you spend this overnight staycation is really up to your preferences and how much you want to invest. The theme though, according to Gunther, should be to treat yourself. Consider pampering yourself with an at-home manicure and pedicure: This Sally Hansen Miracle Gel Polish, ($7, Target) will give you a salon-fresh look without ever leaving the house. If you want to be spoiled during a hotel staycation, consider browsing through Hotel Tonight, which offers heavily discounted last-minute bookings at luxury properties throughout the country. 

If you don’t have much money to throw at this adventure, or don't feel safe heading to a hotel just yet, Gunther says to whip up whatever you have laying around in your fridge, light some candles, dim the lights, and take a bath. If you've already burned through all your candles during quarantine, Bath & Body Works just released a new summer collection that's filled with scents that will make you feel like you're in a tropical oasis rather than home on the couch. Pick up a 3-Wick Ocean Driftwood Candle ($24, Bath & Body Works) to remind you of a fresh saltwater breeze, or grab a Cucumber and Lily-Scented Room Spray ($8, Bath & Body Works) that'll turn your bathroom into a relaxing spa. 

Or, if you need to get out of the house for a while, remove those headphones and have a date with Mother Nature. “Get out and reconnect with the environment—whether that means spending time in a park, strolling on the beach, or enjoying a brisk mountain hike,” she recommends.

You Have a Weekend to Yourself

When most people take staycations, they usually consider a weekend trip. Many families or couples who are tight for cash but need to zen-out will take a Friday and Saturday night away to reimagine their hometown through a different lens. The first decision you’ll have to make for your two- or three-day trek is where to stay, according to Gunther. Will you stay at home? Book a cute Airbnb you find? Or perhaps stay a local hotel or bed-and-breakfast? Usually, you can find cheaper nightly rates when you book on the fly since hotels want to get rid of their un-booked inventory. 

Once you make a choice, it’s time to plan, just like you would for any other vacation. “If you stay at home or check in to a vacation rental, you can experience your hometown like a tourist: strolling through city streets and exploring hidden gems you've never had time for,” she says. Keep in mind that hotel amenities like pools and gyms may not be available for use due to social distancing precautions. Check with a hotel before you book to be sure you'll get the most out of your stay.

If you can, travel expert and founder and CEO of RAR Hospitality Bob Rauch recommends committing to a digital detox. This means no emails, no social media, and no television, so you actually have a chance to ease your mind and body. This also gives you invaluable experience to tune-in to something different: yourself, your partner, or your family. Without distractions, you can have more meaningful conversations, or get comfortable in the quiet.  

You Have an Entire Week Off

While previous generations would often forgo vacation time, current professionals like to take advantage of their paid time off, even if they can’t leave their zip code. If you had requested time off for a vacation that's now been canceled, consider keeping the time off and taking some time to relax. After the stress of the last several months, we could all use some R and R. 

Gunther suggests using this time to check off one of those dreams you keep putting aside. It could be as complicated as diving into a new business idea or as laid back as ringing up a friend you miss. “Sometimes, staycations are a great time to simply reset: sleep in, work out, or learn something new. Tackle a project, take a class, or learn a skill you never had time for,” she recommends. “Invite friends and family to visit and catch up with you. I love spending quality time with my sisters while they are home on staycations. Get in some quality time with your spouse and kids. In other words: Live your best life.”

If you are flying solo for your seven-day staycation, Rauch suggests using the time to invest in your health. Because many people allow nutrition and exercise to fall super-low on the priority list, it’s probably been a while since you truly detoxed. “Book yourself a spa date, sign up for fitness classes, partake in outdoor activities like hiking or surfing or other activities,” he explains. You might not realize there are cooking classes, yoga courses, and other wellness-forward options, right in your backyard. The good news is, many of these are available virtually, so you don't even need to leave the house!

You Finished Work Early and Have No Plans

If you’re lucky enough to have summer Fridays at your company, you probably feel a little like a kid escaping from school when the clock rings noon. No matter the season though, finishing up your responsibilities of the day or week and heading out the door with hours to kill may not feel like a staycation, but you can make it one. Gunther suggests pinging a friend to play hooky or escape their cubicle and head on a mini-adventure. Whether you grab a curbside cocktail, go to one of your favorite walking trails, or just grab a patch of grass in the park, even an hour can make a difference in your happiness levels.


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