Ten Tips for a Terrific Staycation

Imagine a vacation where:

  • You experience new adventures each day but sleep in your own beds each night.
  • You can eat homemade, healthy foods every day.
  • You don't have to help your children use a restroom in a gas station or at the back of an airplane.
  • You don't have to listen to small children crying/ screaming/ whining/ complaining/ fighting for hours on end in a confined space or while surrounded by unsympathetic strangers.
  • You don't have to pack any clothes, toiletries, or favorite children's toys.
  • You don't waste any of your vacation budget on airline tickets or car fuel.
  • None of your precious vacation days are wasted traveling to and from your destination.

Say hello to the Staycation: the vacation you take right in your own backyard.

Our Accidental Staycation

My husband and I weren't planning on taking a staycation. I didn't even realize we were on a staycation until it was nearly over. My husband had a week off before starting a new job, his only vacation time during the entire summer. We took advantage of Papi's week off by visiting the sites and attractions of our own area. Since we hadn't vacationed all summer, we let ourselves splurge a little and visit places we would normally consider too expensive. We even ate out once as a family (a rarity for us). If we were a different family, we might have packed up the van and taken advantage of Papi's week off to make a long road trip to visit family. But we're not that kind of family.

My husband and I used to enjoy travel. In the early years of our marriage, we visited Colombia twice along with New York City among other places. But when our first child was born 7 years ago, our travel came to a grinding halt. First there was the road trip with the incessant crying. At one point I was nursing a very disconsolate exhausted baby while he was strapped in his car seat and as I bent awkwardly over him in a moving vehicle. Not recommended (also not that uncommon I found out after relating this story to other parents). When I could no longer stand the crying, I insisted we stop and sleep at a seedy motel in the middle of nowhere less than two hours from our destination. Then there was the short hour-long direct flight that turned into a horrendously long ordeal involving three different airplanes and hours on the tarmac trapped in a hot airplane with almost no air circulation, all while I was experiencing morning sickness and taking care of our energetic toddler. I haven't flown since that miserable experience now almost 6 years ago.

So it's not because I'm eco-virtuous that I eschew both car and air travel. And it's not really to save money either. It's because I hate traveling with children. But instead of feeling pathetic or guilty about it, I can instead pat myself on the back and think about how I'm helping out my friend the planet.

The Staycation: Lazy, Cheap, and Green

It's been a while since we had an installment in the series Lazy and Cheap Ways to Be Green. I am highly selective about what behaviors make it into this exclusive club. It was during our recent accidental staycation that I realized it was the perfect fit for Lazy, Cheap, and Green. A staycation requires far less effort than an actual vacation (very little planning and no packing necessary!). Without any travel costs, you save oodles of money. And by not burning fossil fuels or generating the waste associated with staying in hotels or eating out all the time, you help out the environment too.

Here are a few tips for a great staycation:

  • Be a tourist. Consult tourist publications and websites about your area. Call or visit the local tourism bureau. Ask your moms group and longtime locals about their favorite local adventures.
  • Do something you otherwise wouldn't do. Have you always wanted to take a sailing class but could never quite find the right time? This is the time to try something you haven't had the time or energy for during your regular schedule.
  • Make plans. Or don't. I like to plan, but my husband doesn't, so what worked for us was me generating a list of possible fun activities, and then deciding the night before or in the morning what we wanted to do. Be sure to let your kids help you find activities and make plans.
  • Don't overplan. Leave lots of time for sleeping in, hanging out and relaxing, maybe watching a movie at home.
  • Take day trips. Spending all day in an unfamiliar (albeit not too distant) place will make you feel like you are on a vacation.
  • Take public transit. Since you're not in a big fat hurry to get anywhere, you can try leaving your car behind and getting there a different way. Kids are often huge fans of traveling by bus or train and this can add a lot of the excitement of the activity.
  • Take photos. If you enjoy reliving experiences through photos, make sure you document your staycation adventures, just as you would during a regular vacation.
  • Unplug. Make sure your staycation offers a mental break from work and your usual activities. Don't do anything you wouldn't do on a "real" vacation (don't answer non-urgent emails, for example). Consider turning off your computer and letting your phone go to voicemail for the duration.
  • Do regular chores in advance. Clean the house, shop for groceries, get the oil changed before your staycation begins. Try to do in advance or postpone any non-fun tasks or errands. 
  • Splurge. Since you are saving so much money by not paying for transportation or accommodations, you can afford to do a few things locally that would normally seem too expensive. 

Have you ever taken a staycation?

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