By Angie Chandler, NBC-HWC, NASM-CPT, FLT-vLE
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed all of our lives, and what we’ve experienced has been different for every single person. It definitely forced us to find new ways to feel comfortable traveling, or opting to stay home and make the most of our own backyards and hometowns. I believe we all need to find personal ways to feel comfortable again in this everchanging world. It’s still important to make time to rest and recharge, despite restrictions or new rules for traveling.
We all know what a staycation is. We’ve typically used the description to tell others that even though we don’t have a plane ticket to paradise, we’ll have just as much fun staying around home ‘on vacation’ anyway! They’ve served us well when we’ve needed a break, can be a delightful way to spend time with family, and are cost-effective, too. But now, with our health awareness on high alert and extra precautions for travel, staycations are certainly here to stay — so stay tuned for some excellent ideas for planning your next one.
Safest Getaway, Every Day
Choose to go to your happy place daily. One simple thing we can do for ourselves — whether we are in a health crisis or not — is take time to unplug, breathe and disconnect. Try yoga or meditation. What a great way to take time and space away from work or daily chores so you can “return” refreshed and invigorated.
A true vacation is whatever whisks you away to an alternate special place, right? It’s a time to splurge on activities we love to do — from treats to souvenirs. Yes, it’s usually for an extended period of leisure and recreation away from home, but times have changed, and we all have, too. Deeming yourself on “Holi-stay” or going on “Stay-cation” may be just what to do for a much-deserved break and needed rest. Make sure to close up that home office or home school to truly disconnect and plan some special activities — whether it’s an outdoor movie night or sunbathing in the backyard. One fun tip I learned recently is the concept of celebrating Lillördag, which is Swedish for “Little Saturday.” If you are working from home, planning something fun and special for Wednesday afternoon or evening can help break up your work week. It doesn’t have to be expensive, it can be a picnic at a favorite park, a walk along a lake with a friend or family member, a pedicure appointment or meeting someone for lunch.
A New Way to Getaway
Before planning your ultimate getaway — for mental reprieve, physical relaxation, or both — an attitude adjustment is in order. Accepting life as we knew it is different now, we need to say goodbye to what was, including how we take vacation time. We must set a new expectation. It’s not going to be the same so adjusting our expectations is only logical. Say goodbye to the old (expectation) and hello to what is new (honoring safety). I find that pairing something I used to love “the old way” joined with a new expectation and approach works very well.
An example would be to make an appointment for a manicure and pedicure while taking proper precautions including wearing a mask if the salon is requiring it, making an appointment ahead of time, and physically distancing to the best of your ability.
This pandemic did not end everything fun or enjoyable. The connections with others may feel deeper knowing that we are all working together to stay safe and healthy. Supporting a local small business feels good, too. If you’re not feeling comfortable going out, create an at-home spa experience with your family or close “quaran-team” friends you trust.
Whether you take time off of work or positively reframe a whole weekend off as your special time “away” — the act of planning is all part of the fun. Here are some ideas for staycation special extras:
- Get your vacation reading list. Just like you would if traveling, pick a few books you’ve been meaning to get to and enjoy the health benefits of reading. What about treating yourself to a few fun magazines to get your vacation mind excited? Low or no-commitment reading can be refreshing and enlightening.
- Eat breakfast in bed. It feels luxurious when you order room service at a hotel, so duplicate that idea at home or at a cottage rental. Here are some healthy breakfast options that are easy too. After all, you’re on vacation!
- Go online shopping for souvenirs. For families: craft time with kids (tons of ideas online) leads to a bonus art lesson. Your completed craft serves as your Staycation souvenir.
Be Outside as Much as Possible
Remember, we live in Pure Michigan and people love to travel here. How lucky are we? Our weather has been gorgeous recently, and it’s beautiful in Michigan during all seasons. Fresh air and sunshine are excellent for our overall good health. Here are special outdoor ideas for your staycation:
- Set up an outdoor movie theater.
- Camp outside: complete with a tent, fire with s’mores etc. Or, camp out in the living room if you prefer air conditioning or hate bugs. You can even set up a tent inside!
- Get active outside right in your own neighborhood. Start a driveway fitness group and get to know your neighbors! I call mine “Hall Street Fitness” and it’s been a super-fun way to start the day. Here are some more fun ways to get moving.
- Go berry picking and cook up something delicious with your finds.
- Go hiking near you, go fly a kite at a park or hit up a beach in your area and get active while you’re there.
Create Vacation Theme Days
Borrow from the summer camp planning pros and make each day a theme. Dive into theme days for your “staycay” with some of these fun examples:
- Movie Monday – Make a go of that outdoor movie screen. Or try “Series Saturday” and watch your favorite series old or new (I love “Little House on the Prairie”) on Netflix.
- Travel Tuesday – Research tourist attractions you’ve always loved and enjoy their virtual tours. Go to a virtual museum or zoo. Can you find a safari visit online? There are so many options online and bonus: no admission fees! If you’re ready to venture out to a nearby Museum or Zoo, remember that most are requiring appointments to keep social distancing in check. Make Tuesday the day you travel out and about around your own community and discover new parks, beaches or restaurants with outdoor dining.
- Workout Wednesday – Exercise day! Stream a new workout and get moving together as a family. Take a brisk walk together and add jumping jacks at each corner for everyone’s age.
- Throwback Thursday – Bake a treat that your grandma, aunt or uncle, mom or another loved one used to make when you were a child. Peek at or share some pictures in your baby or wedding album, or watch funny family videos.
- Fashion Friday – Have a fancy dinner: dress up and order carryout or tackle a gourmet recipe. If you have kids— get them involved as servers or hosts and decorate or even make menus. Light candles and don’t forget (healthy) dessert. Find some great recipe ideas for a sweet finish here.
To help design your own themes try an activity box like murder mystery kits, painting kits and more. Make one of your staycation nights a “date night” if you’re in a relationship with these ideas to reconnect with romance.
Use Your Imagination for Fun
Some other ideas for creative fun during your staycation include:
- Get carryout and have an outdoor picnic if you’re not comfortable going to restaurants. Or, try new restaurants in your area you’ve been wanting too – decks or patios are great options if you’re not ready to eat inside. Our state is opening back up and that means new local businesses to support.
- Go for ice cream just like you would on a vacay away. Here are some Michigan spots and healthier options.
- If you want to avoid crowds: set up a beach in your backyard: it’s pretty inexpensive to get a sprinkler, kiddie pool, make your own splash pad or slip and slide. I love the fun ideas in this article.
Try a Safe-cation if You’re Comfortable
A Safe-cation is a concept of leaving your home, but with extra caution. COVID-19 is still prevalent, so those who choose to leave their safer home environment should plan and follow safety precautions. Planning that great escape needs strategy for success.
Whether you plan a scenic road trip within our beautiful state of Michigan or venture to another state or country (that will allow us) by car or plane to reset and regroup, here are some ideas of what to do, where to go, and how to do it.
DO overthink safety. In what ways can you mimic the safer home environment while traveling?
- Rent your own space such as a camper or cottage/Airbnb and sanitize to your comfort level. You can be in control of your own food, bedding, etc. and choose who you’d like to have over to visit.
- Stay with family or friends you trust who has been full vaccinated and following other safety precautions
- Check the health status of your destination and surrounding areas online (CDC has tons of helpful info) before you go.
- Call ahead to make an appointment for the places you’d like to visit. For example, many zoos are open with timed tickets.
- Pack plenty of masks for the businesses requiring them and hand sanitizer. Practice social distancing wherever you go while you’re away.
For some, such as those in a high-risk category, traveling may not be comfortable yet and that’s ok. A staycation is still a great option.
Whether you stay home or travel far, time away from your regular routine helps prevent burnout. Make time to recharge or have a change of scenery, doing the best you can to stay physically distanced and practice recommended safety guidelines. Enjoy your vacation—you’ve earned it and your health and overall wellbeing will benefit.
About the Author: Angela Chandler, NBC-HWC, NASM-CPT, FLT-vLE is a health coach in Priority Health’s Wellness Department and has been a ThinkHealth byline author for 5 years. She holds the 2017 National Board-certification for Health and Wellness Coaches and has worked as a wellcoaches®-certified Health and Wellness professional coach for 8 years. Angie has been a National Academy of Sports Medicine-certified personal trainer for 25 years, and a Firstline Therapy®-lifestyle educator for 8 years. Her professional experiences continue to fuel her passion for writing health and wellness content. Prior to Priority Health, she worked at EHAC, The MAC, and CHCC in Grand Rapids. Angie partners with people in a positive, respectful, non-judgmental and playful way that brings out their best and generates inspiration.