There are lots of great things about traveling, from immersing yourself in new experiences to getting a break from the daily grind. But what if jet-setting just isn't part of your game plan this summer? You should still absolutely still take some time off because there are countless ways vacation time can boost your health and happiness.
But you don't have to stray far from home to reap the benefits. Taking a chill break at home can deliver almost as much of a well-being boost as heading to a far-flung location, according to Finnish research from 2017. The trick is to make your downtime feel special and different from a random Saturday where you might run errands or spend an hour on the phone with the cable company. Here are eight suggestions to do just that — without spending a fortune.
1. Have a Sleepover
There's something exciting about spending the night at a cool hotel, even if it's only a short walk or drive from your home. Aside from not having to worry about making the bed or cleaning the bathroom, "it'll make you feel like you're actually exploring a new city and give you a different perspective on your hometown," says family travel writer and blogger Astrid Vinje.
And it might be cheaper than you think. Some swanky spots offer lower rates for different days of the week (think midweek, not around major holidays), while others give discounts to in-state residents or AAA members. If you can't find discount info on the hotel's website, give them a call to see what the concierge can do for you. You'd be surprised by what you can sometimes get just by asking!
2. Start a New Hobby
Yes, the mere thought of trying that embroidery or papier-mache project or learning Spanish or how to bake French pastries after work is exhausting. But a staycation is the perfect chance to try out a new skill, says Sarah Hollenbeck, a savings expert with Offers.com.
You won't just have more energy to explore that new activity on your time off: Having a few free days can help you learn the ins and outs of your hobby, so you're more inclined to keep it up when you go back to work, Hollenbeck says. Rather than having to stop at the store for supplies or figure out a basic technique, you can just pick up where you left off.
3. Outsource Your Chores
One of the major perks of traveling is forgetting about all the stuff you normally have to take care of at home. But there are plenty of ways to get that same feeling on your staycation. Chief among them? Treat yourself to hiring a cleaning service. A whopping 68 percent of people say it zaps their stress, according to a survey conducted by Merry Maids.
And if you're one of those rare people who finds scrubbing the bathroom soothing and therapeutic, look for other ways to lighten your load. Have your groceries delivered instead of schlepping them from the store yourself. Drop off your laundry at the wash and fold. Hire someone on TaskRabbit to finish that home-improvement project you've been ignoring for months.
4. Do a Daily Disconnect
Ditching your devices can make you feel like you're miles away, even if you haven't actually left your home or city. But resisting the urge to check your phone or tablet can be tough when it's sitting right next to you.
When you're home, try stashing it in a drawer so it's out of sight. And when you go out, see what happens when you leave it behind! Have kids? You can enlist them to hold you accountable, says family budget and travel blogger Jamie Harper. "I taught mine to sweetly ask me, 'Is what you're doing on you're phone more important than being with me right now?' Ninety-nine percent of the time that answer is no," she says. ("Sweetly" is definitely the key here!)
5. Take a Cruise
We're not talking about dropping thousands of dollars to sail around the Caribbean. If you live near a lake, river or ocean, there's a good chance that someone in your town offers sightseeing day trips or dinner-on-the-water tours, says savings expert Sarah Hollenbeck. Sure, it's a pretty touristy thing to do. But who cares? It's fun, it's different and it's a cool way to see your town or city through the eyes of a visitor.
6. Seek Out New Interactions
Often, the new people you meet are one of the most memorable parts of traveling. Chatting with strangers can mean learning something new, getting a different perspective and sometimes even forming a new friendship.
And guess what? Though most of us don't think to, you can totally do this at home. "Sit in cafes and talk to people nearby, seek out mom-and-pop shops or visit local attractions. Anything that enhances more personal interactions can be applied to your staycation," says travel writer Michael Brein.
7. Have Multicourse, Multicultural Meals
Trying a new restaurant might seem obvious. But what about exploring new cuisines at home with your friends or neighbors? Family travel expert Donna Bozzo likes to plan progressive dinners where each host cooks and serves a dish from a different country. Got kids? You can go the extra mile with decorations and homemade passports that get stamped at each new spot.
8. Go Camping in Your Backyard
Throw your favorite eats on the grill (or build a fire if you're feeling ambitious and don't have too much brush in the area), cozy up in a circle to tell stories, snack on s'mores for dessert and pull out a stargazing chart to see how many constellations you can spot.
You can opt for the full camping experience by sleeping in a tent, says sustainable travel blogger Carolyn Scott, or you can end the night by heading back inside to snooze in your own bed. The beauty of this kind of camping trip is that you have a choice.