What Is a Staycation?

New Yorker Mili Thomas takes a staycation around her own city, visiting the South Street Seaport.
Chris Hondros/Getty Images

­These days, it costs­ a fortune just to think about getti­ng away. Airfare is even less affordable than it used to be. And even though gas prices are low, they're crawling back up, making a lot of people nervous about planning a road trip. With traveling to a vacation spot out of many people's budgets, not to mention the carbon footprint of driving or flying long distances, vacationing has become an outdated notion for some people.

But others are working around the logistical difficulties of travel. It's called the "staycation," and it's much better than nothing.


­A staycation is a combination of vacationing and staying at home. That may seem kind of lame, like calling a string of sick days a vacation. But a staycation can be a real vacation if you do it right.

Just like a traveling vacation, a staycation is about relaxation and enjoyment. It's about "me" time or "us" time, whichever the case may be. And, counterintuitively speaking, a staycation can even be about experiencing new things. After all, can you really say you've seen and done everything your hometown and the surrounding area have to offer?

Of course it depends on where you live, but in a lot of ways a staycation can be remarkably similar to a getaway vacation. What comes to mind when you think "vacation?" A lake and a picnic, holding a glass of wine or an iced tea while you lie on a blanket with a book? Breakfast in bed? An amusement park and happy, squealing kids? Wandering a museum followed by a fine dinner out?

Now just tweak the setting to a local lake, getting your kids to bring you breakfast in bed, or an amusement park that's just an hour away that you haven't had time to get to in a few years.

It may not have the draw of putting yourself in a whole new setting, but in some ways it can be a lot less stressful than a getaway. There's no packing, no waiting in line at airport security or sitting in traffic, and no scrambling to get where you're going by a specific time. And while amusement parks and fine dinners don't come cheap, they're not bad compared with a couple hundred dollars a night for a hotel, and hundreds for gas or a couple of thousand for a family's airfare.

­But there are pitfalls to staycationing, and you've probably already thought of a few of them. Let's take a look at some staycation dos and don'ts that could help you avoid sabotaging your time off.


Vacationing at Home: Keeping It Real

If your idea of a good vacation is breakfast in bed, go ahead and be a queen for a day -- at home.
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­It's pretty easy to ruin a staycation with certain bad behaviors that turn downtime into plain old working from home. You may do a great job of ruining your weekends with these behaviors. Do you check your work e-mail on Sunday? Spend all day Saturday doing laundry, grocery shopping and cleaning out the garage?

Well, you can kill a staycation using the same time-honored approach. But if you obey a few simple truths, you'll have a much better chance of actually enjoying a vacation at home (otherwise, there's really no point -- just go to work).


Work Is Not Vacation

There's working from home, and then there's staycationing. Pretend you're halfway around the world -- don't check your work e-mail, don't plan to get in on a conference call because you can, and by all means, do not stop by the office "to pick something up real quick."

Chores Are Not Vacation

Do everything you would do before leaving on a trip. Get your important chores done, because you can't do them while you're vacationing. Pay your bills, make your phone calls, and let people know you're going to be "away" so you don't find yourself sucked into the daily grind of your personal life. Do not plan to finally pull those weeds, repair the leaky faucet or clean out the attic.

Vacations Require Planning

Don't get lazy about a staycation. Just like you would if you were going away, plan some activities, do some research about your city to find out what there is that you haven't seen or done, and set a budget. Even though you'll be spending less than you would if you got out of town, make sure you spend more than you would during your regular daily grind. You're on vacation. Treat yourself.

The bottom line here is, don't get stingy, either with money or indulgence, just because you're home. If you'd eat out during a getaway, eat out during your staycation. If you'd do a bunch of fun, different things 500 miles (804 kilometers) from home, do a bunch of fun, different things 5 or 10 or 20 miles from home. There's definitely something to be said for experiencing the world, but until you can afford a trip to see the Great Pyramids, experience some good times at home. Your friends, family, co-workers, planet and mental health will thank you for it.

For more information on staycations, vacations and related topics, look over the links on the next page.


Lots More Information

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More Great Links

  • Alban, Debra. "Staycations: Alternative to pricey, stressful travel." CNN.com. June 12, 2008.http://www.cnn.com/2008/LIVING/worklife/06/12/balance.staycation/index.html
  • Brown, Jeff. "Avoiding high gas prices with a 'staycation.'" MSNBC.com. May 29, 2008.http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/24859538/
  • Leamy, Elizabeth. "Tips for Planning a Great 'Staycation.'" ABCNews.com. May 23, 2008.http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/Consumer/story?id=4919211
  • Yates, Jennifer C. "Get away on vacation -- at home." MSNBC.com. March 12, 2008.http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/23580960/