During a recent chat with a friend about vacations, I realized I always take trips away from my home area. Sure, the bustle of an airport and calm of a beach are exciting for this land-locked Iowan, but so are local attractions that I've simply overlooked because they're right under my nose. Lately, I've been revamping my days off to explore more local parks and historical sites to refresh and recharge. Maybe you can, too!
What Is a Staycation?
Simply put, you stay in your local area for a vacation. I like to define it as any destination that I can travel to easily within an hour or two.
And for many of us, it's more feasible to sneak in a day trip or a three-day weekend vacation than it is to plan a full week or two away from our responsibilities at home. Staycations allow you to enjoy much-needed time off from daily routines and make memories with loved ones while experiencing new things.
Staycations Are Good for You, Too!
We all have moments when the predictable schedule of each week begins to feel stressful, perhaps even monotonous. Taking time off from work, school, caretaking, volunteer positions, or whatever fills your days can help us better manage stress in our lives, according to the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation (BBRF).
When we don't take time off, the stress we feel from daily routines can impact our physical and mental health by leading to immune system issues, sleep problems, depression, and irritability. The BBRF says the best way to de-stress is to take time off to recharge. This means stepping away from everyday tasks and doing things that allow you to relax or unwind.
Taking time off helps you be more productive and focused once you're back to your routine. This means your usual duties will flow more easily and feel like less of a burden. Vacations decrease burnout rates, boost motivation, and improve work performance, per the BBRF.
The American Psychological Association (APA) explains that taking a vacation can improve overall life satisfaction, and the positive effects can persist months after we've returned to work by equalizing our work-life balance and boosting our mental health.
3 Reasons Staycations Are a Great Option
In addition to the health benefits of a vacation, scheduling time off in your local area may make more sense for practical folks like me. Here are three reasons why staycations are a great alternative to vacationing far away from home:
- Staycations save money. Taking public transportation or driving your car is less costly than booking flights for the family. If you're watching your budget, pick a destination that you can enjoy with one full tank of gas and a picnic lunch. You'll get all the benefits of relaxation without overspending.
- Staycations are less stressful. Taking time off should reduce our stress levels, so why add in the unpredictable nature of rental cars, train schedules, missed flights, or overbooked hotels? Instead, dig out the tent, rent a cabin at a state park, or stay with a friend or family member. These options might also be best suited for travelers with mobility concerns or who find airport navigation strenuous.
- Staycations can help you check items off your bucket list. Okay, this refers to my personal wishlist to see some of the amazing sites in my own neck of the woods, including Mount Rushmore, Falls Park in Sioux Falls, and a handful of regional water parks and state forests. Make a list of some local or regional attractions you haven't visited yet and add them to your staycation itinerary.
Planning Your Next Staycation
Your staycation can be as long or short as your schedule allows. I personally love a quick day trip or a long weekend because they flow around my work schedule much easier than a full week or two-week vacation.
The APA shares that a small Japanese study discovered short, three-day leisure trips can reduce the stress hormone cortisol in our bodies and lower our perceived stresses. The takeaway? You don't have to plan a big, elaborate trip to get the benefits of taking time off.
To make your next staycation happen, grab your calendar and look for gaps in your schedule where you can sneak in a visit to a state park or museum. Decide if it's a one-day adventure or if you want to stay overnight, and build out your plans from there. My secret is getting the time marked off on the calendar as far in advance as possible, then guarding that time block just as I would any other appointment, because physical and mental health is important!
Here's a list of staycation ideas for you to consider adding to your calendar:
- Browse historical sites. Take a walking or driving tour and dig into the stories and lore of your region. You might discover that a famous person was born in your hometown! Be sure to take lots of photos and cap the evening off with a night at a local hotel featuring a water park or playground for the kids.
- Visit a garden or orchard. Explore how your food is grown by picking apples or volunteering to help harvest a community garden. This could easily be paired with dinner at a farm-to-table restaurant, a donation of fresh produce to a local charitable organization, or a night at a country bed and breakfast.
- Train for a race. You can plan several mini staycations by training locally for an upcoming road race at area state parks. Consider staying in a cabin for a few weekends prior to the event and focus on your nutrition, stretching, and endurance training while surrounded by the beauty of nature.
- Rest at a bed and breakfast. Whether you're traveling solo, as a couple, or with kids, a quiet getaway to a unique home with amenities such as hiking, a yard with a hammock, or swimming on or near the property is sure to help you relax for the weekend.
- Camp at a park. Many parks offer overnight cabins, RV spaces, or tent camping to make your time off the grid a reality. During your stay, explore the nature trails, ride bikes, try water activities, and build a bonfire in the evening.
- Make your home a retreat. Build those blanket forts. Spend the whole day by the backyard pool. Have a movie marathon. Play in the garden all afternoon. Revive a hobby. Do whatever you need to take a mental break and indulge in the home-based activities you've been hoping to spend more time enjoying.
So, what is a staycation? It's simply an extended chunk of time off work in your local area. Scheduling time away from your everyday responsibilities not only improves your mental and physical health, but it also primes you to be more focused and productive at your work and daily tasks when you're back to your routine.
Check out more ways to maintain mind and body wellness on the Natural Inspiration board by @tomsofmaine on Pinterest!
The views and opinions expressed in any guest post featured on our site are those of the guest author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of Tom's of Maine.
Why It's Good
Start putting time for yourself on the calendar to feel your best physically and mentally. When time, money, or access make a traditional vacation a challenge, consider a local staycation to explore sites in your hometown and neighboring communities. The break in routine will help you shift out of a stressful rut and bring more joy to your life!