How a Staycation is a Vacation without Travel

A staycation is a type of vacation where instead of traveling, you stay at home. Like a vacation, you take paid time off from work for leisure. Taking a staycation means planning many of the same activities that you enjoy on vacation without the stress and cost of travel. The difference is you’ll stay at home and go on day trips nearby. Your next stay-vacation is ideal when you are not comfortable traveling or just can’t afford to take a trip far from home.

Staycation - Vacation without the Travel

There are many situations when a staycation is the best use of your paid time off. Learn how to plan the perfect staycation itinerary, how it can be just as good as a regular vacation, and search for the top staycation ideas in your city. 

Definition of Staycation

What is a staycation? To get the definition of the word “staycation” we can refer to several authority sites on the subject. Wikipedia is the first place to turn and describes it as a period in which you and your family stay home and participate in leisure activities. They state that a staycation doesn’t involve overnight accommodations though in my opinion you can stay with a family member or friend when practical. Consider staying one night at a hotel just to avoid driving back late at night (like when you are having a few drinks) since for the bulk of your staycation you will be sleeping at home.

The purpose of a staycation according to Real Simple is to deal with life’s challenges in the simplest way possible. Their telltale signs for needing a vacation-at-home include needing a break from daily annoyances, feeling sad or overwhelmed, getting burnt out from your job, and needing quality time off to unwind and refresh. A staycation is supposed to be the solution to all these problems. For them it’s less about avoiding travel and more about happiness.

According to Good Housekeeping, a staycation means taking as little as a day or a few hours of time off work for fun or relaxing activities. For them it’s when you feel the need to get away but don’t have the funds or vacation time available. Depending on what you choose to do by yourself or with family or “just languish in your own home,” you will come back to work refreshed. You might disagree that taking one vacation day is not quite a staycation. However if you turn it into a three-day vacation weekend (forgoing the responsibilities of home on Saturday and Sunday) it certainly fits the VacationCounts definition. 

Taking a Staycation for Financial Reasons

The most common reason for taking a staycation has been for affordability reasons. Vacations can be expensive, though they don’t have to be. Right now you may have limited money saved up for a trip and are living paycheck-to-paycheck. Are you saving up to buy a house, paying off college debt, putting aside money for the kids college fund, or investing for retirement? A staycation will always be cheaper than traveling far from home. 

Staycation Savings

Look at your budget and decide what you can afford to spend on travel this year. When funds are limited, use your paid time off for a cheaper staycation. Depending on how many vacation days you’ll earn this year, consider taking one big staycation and one big vacation to balance it out.

When to save your money with a staycation:

  • You are buying a house or moving soon
  • Your job and steady salary or bonus is at risk
  • A new addition to your family is on the way
  • Major expenses like home repairs or a new car are needed
  • To put more money aside for a rainy day
  • College and retirement funds are higher priority
  • The cost of plane tickets for a family with children is exorbitant

Taking a Staycation for Health Reasons

It’s not just an outbreak of coronavirus that will stop people from traveling for vacation. Some people have underlying medical conditions that make it difficult to travel long distances. Airlines and hotels have gotten better about accommodating people with physical disabilities and special needs. It all depends on your level of comfort and the amount of assistance you may require while traveling. If exploring the world is an important life goal, you can surely find a way.

The point is to take your vacation days regardless of whether you are able to travel or if a staycation is the best decision given your current state of health.

Staycation for Health and to Stay Safe

It goes without saying that when a worldwide pandemic hits as it has in 2020, health and safety is a critical reason to cancel your trip and go into staycation mode instead. Even if you want to go, travel plans can be affected due to business trip and conference cancellations as well as country-based flight restrictions. With the level of nervousness and feelings of anxiety quite high (it’s hard not to pay attention to the daily news feeds), it is perfectly normal to want to stay home.

Further Reading on Health and Balance

Smarter Living: The Difference Between Worry, Stress and Anxiety (NYTimes)

Worry is an important defense mechanism that causes us to take action. If your health or an outbreak causes you to worry, take action before it leads to stress and ultimately anxiety. A staycation may be the travel-free prescription for work-life balance during difficult times. The lesson is to take planned time off from work and life even if you are isolating yourself at home for an extended period.

Taking a Staycation for Personal Reasons

There are loads of other reasons when a staycation is the way to go. You may be working too hard and wish to relax around the home instead of booking a complex trip. This is true for professionals who travel often for work and think of staying at home like a vacation. At other times in your life it may make sense to forgo travel to pursue hobbies, do volunteer work in the community, or to simply spend quality time with the family. There are no wrong answers. 

Moving For Your Job

Have you just moved to a new city, state, or country for your job? Taking time off to explore your new hometown region is a terrific vacation idea. You may not get as much annual paid leave when starting a new job. A staycation lets you avoid long distance travel and play tourist without the expense of hotels. Plus you'll use fewer days off and leverage company holidays to enjoy 3-day weekends.   

Children Not Travel Ready

Are your kids too young to justify taking on an expensive and far away vacation? Having young children is a good excuse for staying close to home while still making fun memories. Or perhaps your official school break is at a bad time for your work schedule. You may not be able to get away, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take the family on a trip centered around home. 

Staycations for Couples

Staycations are great for couples who are dating. You may not want to commit to a trip that includes flying or taking a week-long cruise. However taking time off work together and planning a day of fun and romance is the ticket to improving your relationship. Taking a couple staycation is also the perfect idea if you can’t coordinate vacation schedules or if you don't get the same number of vacation days at your jobs. A full-time working couple (think DINK or dual-income no kids) may find it hard to be away from their desks at the same time of year. A staycation can be more flexible and just as rewarding for both people and careers. 

What other personal reasons have you used to justify your staycation? Add a comment below to share your reason for taking vacation days while staying at home.

Differences Between Vacation and Staycation 

As you can guess, there are few differences between the terms vacation and staycation. A staycation can be considered a type of vacation with certain limitations or rules. The definition of vacation is about taking paid time off from your job for leisure purposes. At a minimum it’s a day or more of planned and booked activities that requires at least some travel. The difference is that a staycation removes the need to travel farther than your commute zone and to stay overnight at a destination. Staying at home is the key ingredient. 

Differences between Vacation and Staycation

It’s easier to explain the difference by looking at what a staycation doesn’t typically include:

  • Round-trip flights to get to a destination
  • Train or bus travel when you can’t return the same day
  • Multi-day road trip adventures
  • Cruises that include a cabin and ports-of-call
  • Camping, RVing, or backpacking over multiple days
  • Staying at a resort, beach house, or casino

Surprisingly left out of this list is staying overnight at a hotel, home rental, or with family or friends. Typically a staycation includes multiple day trips taken from home without the need to book hotel rooms. However there are several good staycation ideas that include spending the night. The key is that you are staying close enough to home to return quickly and easily if you need to. Look at the list of staycation ideas below for specific examples of multi-day staycations. 

5 Benefits of a Staycation

A staycation has several advantages over a vacation that includes travel. Whatever the reason you are choosing to take a staycation this year, keep the following benefits in mind.  

1. Staycation for Your Health

When you stay at home it removes the stress and exhaustion of travel, especially flying across time zones. You’ll eliminate jet lag, breath in more fresh air, eat healthier, and keep your immune system strong. It can be hard to avoid being exposed to germs and getting sick while on vacation. One study highlighted healthy heart and well-being outcomes associated with taking more vacations, even those taken at home. 

2. Staycation for Your Local Economy

Vacationing in your hometown offers economic benefits to the community. You’ll be supporting small businesses, restaurants and attractions where you live and work. Instead of spending money in another state or abroad, spend your vacation pay where it will pay you back. 

3. Staycation for Climate Change

Airplanes produce a lot of carbon emissions, leading to concerns about our personal contribution to climate change. There is a growing movement to not fly for climate’s sake and do our part. Regardless of whether or not you are cutting back on flying, a staycation is a small step to help. By car-pooling and taking public transit, you can do more for the environment.

4. Staycation for Happiness

Everyone needs to take time off from work (and life) to do whatever makes us happy. Remember that a vacation day is not meant for catching up on chores around the house. It’s an opportunity to spend time by yourself, with your spouse, or together with your family. Ask yourself what activities make you and your loved ones happy and plan to do that on your staycation. 

5. Staycation for Relationships

A relationship must be nurtured so what better way to get closer than going on vacation together. You and your partner can spend the whole day doing something fun or romantic or inspiring or rejuvenating. A one-day staycation is like a date that lasts all day from morning till night. Couples that vacation together stay together!

Risks of a Staycation

When you tell your boss that you are taking vacation days and casually mention that you’ll be staying at home, there is the risk that you may be on call. After all you are just hanging around at home so your co-workers may wrongly think it’s not a vacation. You may feel the obligation to check email and answer the occasional call or message to deal with things that come up at your office. The same rule must apply to staycations as to regular vacations in order to achieve optimal work-life balance.

Remember that you are not working from home. You are taking earned and paid time off as you are entitled to do. Make it clear to your manager and team that you are “on vacation” and literally out-of-office. Of course a true emergency can be dealt with whether you are at home or abroad as long as you are not encouraged, tempted, or feel obligated to work from home while on paid vacation.

How to Plan and Book a Staycation

Are you looking for a staycation near you? To make your staycation just like a vacation, you need to plan and book activities and do the research in advance. Otherwise it’s more like taking a personal day or treating your time off like another weekend day or whichever day of the week you normally don’t work full-time. Mark your calendars for your next staycation and start searching for things to do, places to eat and how to get around. Here is a step-by-step guide to creating a staycation itinerary:

Step 1 - Staycation Research

Do what you always do to plan a vacation using Google Search, TripAdvisor ratings, Viator activities, and following travel bloggers on social media. In addition, head to the website for the official tourism office or visitors bureau where you live. In the US there is often a tourism site for a city, one for the county or tourism region, and one for the entire state. These websites are a great source of lists of top local attractions, walking routes and maps, lists of food and retail businesses by category, and upcoming events on a calendar. 

Bonus Tips:

  • Walk into a hotel and get brochures and coupons from the tourism info rack
  • Ask your friends on Facebook and social media for local advice
  • Pick up a destination guidebook for your city or region at the local bookshop
  • Seek out free local event newspapers distributed in your area

Step 2 - Staycation Booking

You won’t have to make as many bookings for a staycation as for a vacation that involves flights and hotels, but you’ll want to make at least a few reservations. Museums and popular tourist attractions may offer discounts for booking tickets online, but if not at least you can guarantee entry. Ticketing sites such as Ticketmaster, Eventbrite and Brown Paper Tickets are full of event listings across a wide range of categories and locations. To plan your staycation itinerary, buy tickets for something that catches your eye. The list of ticketed events includes everything you can imagine such as theater, dinners, arts, dance, music, film, comedy and sports to name a few. 

If you decide to spend one night at a hotel to avoid going home late at night, now is the time to book a cancellable hotel room. Since it’s only for 1 night you can use this opportunity to splurge on a luxury hotel or boutique property; perhaps one with a spa and fitness center. Try to pick a location that is convenient for the things you have planned to avoid excess travel along with access to public transportation or parking.

Other things to book for a staycation include restaurant reservations, behind the scenes tours, cooking classes, sporting events, lectures, escape rooms, and timed entry to top attractions.

Step 3 - Staycation Itinerary

Finally, in order to turn your staycation into a vacation, document your itinerary using your preferred tool. Gather all your notes, confirmations, bookings, maps and top things to do. Software like Microsoft OneNote which runs on Windows desktop as well as Web and mobile, can capture all these details to share with your family and travel partners. Create an online notebook so that you can refer back to your staycation itinerary and not miss any of the carefully planned activities.  

Alternatively use Outlook or Apple or Google Calendar to schedule your day and trigger event notifications on your phone. It does not matter which software or app you choose as long as you write down your plan for the staycation of your dreams. 

Along with an itinerary to take with you, make a packing list for your staycation. Remember it’s still a vacation! What do you need to bring (or leave at home) to make the experience exactly what you have planned? Of course you’ll take your camera which is probably your iPhone or Android smartphone. Consider packing a real camera to snap away. Pack snacks, binoculars for birdwatching, printed confirmations, power banks, books to read or podcasts to listen to, and medicines just in case. A backpack can come in handy since you won’t need a suitcase for your staycation. Since you’ll be out all day include gear to match the weather forecast.

Search Google for Staycations By City

You don’t need to be reminded that Google is the easiest way to find places to go and things to do on your staycation. It doesn’t matter whether you live in Austin, Portland, San Diego, or Chicago for example. The search results page for many cities in America will include the summary (called a snippet) of the top results. Just search for “staycation “ followed by the name of your city. Add in the state if there is more than one (e.g. Portland, Oregon versus Portland, Maine) or try the name of your metro area or region of the country. 

Give it a try! Find your city and click to search for the top staycation ideas where you live. Included are the top cities and metropolitan areas in the United States and Canada by population. Is your city or metro area not listed below? Enter any place in the textbox and click the 'Search' for staycations ideas button to open results in a new window. 

As you look at staycation ideas in your city as suggested by Google scroll and consider the source of each of the search results. Look at the URLs to seek out familiar sites and reputable sources. The linked articles you’ll find often come from your local newspaper, travel guides such as Fodors and Frommers, TripAdvisor, Yelp, and bloggers that cover your hometown. You’ll never run out of ideas on what to do on your day, long weekend, or week of staycation. 

Stuck at Home Staycation

It’s a rare situation that you’ll be forced to stay home and not be able to leave the house during your time off. The coronavirus pandemic is one such state of emergency with government restrictions for health and safety. Even though your office might be closed, you are still hopefully working from home so you can still earn pay and benefits including paid vacation days. While you wouldn’t normally choose to spend vacation days at home, what can you do but plan a home-cation?

Stuck at Home Staycation

Searching for activities to do at home leads to endless ideas. To ensure that you are “on vacation” and not tempted to do chores or laze around the house, follow these tips.

  1. Pick a room of the house or in your yard to be your staycation destination
  2. Select a few activities from your hobby list to organize a full day
  3. Hide your reminders of work and life such as devices, bills, laundry, chores, and projects to eliminate distractions.
  4. Gather all the things you need like you would do when packing for a vacation
  5. Share your home staycation plan with your partner or family
  6. Take photos to capture your staycation since you are on vacation 

So what kind of vacation activities can you do without leaving your own home? The answer is the same things you do for fun and relaxation, expanded to fill a full day. Use your imagination to devise a theme to turn a regular activity into a special occasion. Here are a few simple ideas for planning a vacation day at home. 

TV Home Theater Day - binge-watch a favorite TV series or movie set with snacks and the comforts of home. Also works for listening to music of a genre or decade. 

Game Tournament - get out the board games to crown a winner or play multiplayer or interactive video games in tournament mode with the family. 

Master Chef at Home - follow the recipe for breakfast, lunch and dinner while watching cooking shows and enjoying tastes from around the world.

Art & Music Studio - creative types can take a day for painting, drawing, playing musical instruments, and showing those talents at a show at home. 

Armchair Traveler - check out these 30 staycation ideas to keep up your love of travel from the comfort of home as written by Dr. J of Sidewalk Safari. 

Crafty Club - stock up on projects from the craft store or maker (DIY engineering and invention) shop and make cool and beautiful things all day long.

Spa Mindfulness Day - light candles, gather spa products, and consult meditation practices to enrich your mind and spirit while having the most relaxing day at home. 

Vacation Memories Show - You’ve taken lots of vacations over the years, so take the time off to relive those experiences. Gather photo albums and souvenirs from those trips to take a trip to a past destination. The VacationCounts web app can help organize your past trips so you never forget your top vacation memories.

Sharing Your Staycation Memories

It doesn’t make sense to take a staycation without capturing the vacation memories. It is no different than traveling on vacation so be sure to take photos, share on social media, journal your thoughts and experiences, and keep track of every vacation big or small. You’ll want to remember the enjoyable time you’ve had. Use the same software and apps and scrapbooks and photo albums to document your “trip” as always.

Maybe we should stop calling it a staycation since it really is a vacation after all. What you do with your paid time off from work is up to you and your family to decide. Everyone has different preferences when it comes to their desire to travel. A staycation is the way to go for a variety of good reasons as highlighted in this article. Hopefully as more people take staycations, whether by choice or due to emergency travel restrictions, the word will gain a more positive meaning. 

So what staycations do you have planned this year and how are you going to plan an incredible and memorable trip from the comfort of your own home? Let’s get excited about planning and taking a rewarding staycation this year!