Craving a much-needed getaway but don't have oodles of spare time or cash to burn? 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.

By Lindsay Tigar
August 23, 2019

Though 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. Whether you’re limited on paid time off, finances, or caring for children or elders, it is difficult for many to truly get away from their duties. One trendy solution is to take a "staycation" instead. So, what is a staycation? Travel blogger Maggie Gunther defines this type of  "trip" 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—from flying to driving long distances—ultimately, your staycation will give you the same good vibes from travel, but without a big budget.

Image courtesy of Getty.

What’s important to remember when it comes to planning your staycation—no matter the time of year—is to exercise creativity. Sometimes, your at-home vacay could be just a few hours, while other times it can be a whole 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.

Related: 7 of the Best Drive-In Movie Theaters That Are Worth a Road Trip

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. Pick up your favorite wine, beer, or beverage of choice, get comfortable, and tune-in to the Netflix show or movie you’ve been meaning to watch. 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 solo-preneur without an office, you may feel the need to escape. Another four-hour-staycation idea is to take your bad self out to dinner. As travel blogger DeAnna Taylor suggests, sometimes a good book and a glass of vino at your fave restaurant can ease stress and put you in the right mindset. 

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 of course, how much you want to invest. The theme though, according to Gunther should be ‘treat yo self!’ Consider pampering yourself with a manicure and pedicure or booking a massage. If you want to be spoiled during a hotel staycation (room service, anyone?), 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, Gunther says to whip up whatever you have laying around in your fridge, light some candles, dim the lights, and take a bath. Or, 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 home is, 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 find a great deal on a hotel, you may want to hang out and enjoy the amenities at that property, like the spa, pool or gym,” she continues. “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.”

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 an 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.  

Related: These Are the Best Vacations to Take with Your Mom

You Have a Full Week Off

While previous generations would often forgo vacation, current professionals take advantage of their paid time off, even if they can’t leave their zip code. With a week off, Gunther says you can conquer the world. “You could visit at least seven museums or cultural attractions, or try 21 different restaurants: one for each meal,” she shares. 

Though it could be exciting—and eye-opening—to really dig deep in your current location, you may not have flexible funds to pay for all these tabs. If so, Gunther suggests checking off one of those dreams you keep putting aside. It could be as complicated as a 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.”

Related: Research Says Experiencing Live Music Can Help You Live a Longer, Happier 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 may not realize there are cooking classes, yoga courses, and other wellness-forward options, right in your backyard. 

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 cocktail with a few, go to one of your favorite spots sans-crowds or check out a museum, even an hour can make a difference in your happiness levels.



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