Growing up, my family’s definition of vacation included travel. From camping in the mountains to visiting my grandparents’ house in the city to exploring the beach and going to Disneyland, vacation was synonymous with getting away. It didn’t matter where as long as we packed our bags and left home.

A few years ago, I decided to do something different. I planned to use up my vacation days while staying at home. Initially, I was a bit nervous about it. What would I do? Would I be bored? Am I going to have FOMO and feel like I’m wasting my vacation days? I realized just how much I’d equated travel with relaxation and adventure. But I wanted to shift my way of thinking—to focus instead on vacation as a mindset, not as a physical place. I was also curious: How does one find pleasure in exploring their own backyard? There were still so many places in my city that I’d not yet seen. 

For once, I didn’t have to be anywhere or do anything. This meant I could go anywhere, and I could do anything. Take a long nap? Sure. Spend hours cooking an elaborate meal? Why not. Take a day to explore the hidden corners of my small town? Absolutely. I spent the money I would have spent on travel expenses on morning coffee at the cafe down the street. I got a haircut. I splurged on new books and a cozy blanket for my bed. When the week was over, I felt refreshed and rested. While my Instagram feed didn’t show photos of European beaches or plates of pasta, my journals were filled with pages of thoughts and reflections.

“For once, I didn’t have to be anywhere or do anything. This meant I could go anywhere, and I could do anything.

This idea has compelled me ever since. I still love to travel and try to get away as often as time and money allow. But I try to balance this out by spending intentional time resting at home in my own city too. We don’t need to leave home to have a meaningful or memorable vacation. In fact, with a bit of planning and creativity, rest and relaxation can often be found when we have a staycation at home. Here’s how:

Set Your Intentions

One secret to having a meaningful staycation? Structure. Try to set an intention for the length of your vacation, as well as for each specific day. You don’t need to plan out every hour, but having a few reservations on your calendar can help with momentum. Think dinner reservations with a friend, tickets to an afternoon movie, or an hour scheduled at your local spa. These mini-goals can give you something to look forward to each day and will keep you from sitting on the couch wondering what to do next.


Treat Yourself

You may be choosing a staycation because finances are tight. Choosing to relax at home rather than travel is definitely the best way to save money. But even if you’re working with a strict budget, try to treat yourself at least once during your vacation days. An iced coffee, a new book, or a couple of summer tops from the thrift store are some of my favorite options. Another budget-friendly way to make the week feel a bit more special? Get a few fancy groceries that you’d normally skip—e.g., the expensive coffee, your favorite snacks, frozen popsicles—you get the picture!


Go To One New Place Each Day

If you’re like me, you have a fairly consistent route you follow around your city. I walk my dog in the same direction around the block, I drive the same roads, and I have a favorite coffee shop and grocery store. Try to switch this up during your staycation by going to one new place each day. You don’t have to spend money or buy anything; rather, expose your senses to a new place in your city. Visit the library and sign up for a card. Check out your city’s local museum. Go to a park you’ve never been to before.

Don’t Judge Yourself for Not Doing Anything

Finally, don’t judge yourself for resting. It’s easy to feel like you need to fill your schedule with activities and adventures and all the things you don’t have time to do during a typical work week. Especially when you’re staying at home, chores and household projects suddenly seem glaring. Don’t do them though—unless, of course, yard work is your idea of rest.

Instead, listen to your body. If you want to nap, take a nap. You have permission to spend the entire day sleeping or curled up on the couch with a book if that’s what you need. Honor your body and don’t force yourself to do things because you feel like you’re supposed to do them. There is no standard for how to do a vacation, or a staycation. Equal parts rest and play are essential for health and balance—no matter if you’re traveling or enjoying your days off at home.

Kayti Christian is the Managing Editor at The Good Trade. She has a Master’s in Nonfiction Writing from the University of London and is the creator of Feelings Not Aside, a newsletter for sensitive people.