How to Get the Benefits of Vacation Without Actually Going Anywhere


(Image credit: Tara Sowlaty)

I'm sure that most of us can agree that, in a perfect world, we'd take a vacation much more often than we currently do. It's not just the prospect of traveling somewhere new that's enticing, but it's also getting a reprieve from everyday responsibilities like work, errands, family, stress and more. Just visualizing going somewhere far, far away (even if I have absolutely no plans to do so) has a very calming effect on me. 

But this "vacation effect" isn't just something in our heads; it's actually rooted in science. There are proven health benefits that come with taking a vacation, making it all the more motivating to take one. NYC-based therapist Sheina Schochet, LMHC agrees: "Vacations are beneficial for mental and physical health in so many ways. No matter how much you love your job and overall life, the reality is that the daily hustle and bustle gets stressful. And though stress can help you get through your to-do list, it can set you up for increased risk of depression, anxiety, irritability. Stress raises cortisol levels in the body. Cortisol (in a balanced amount) is necessary for healthy functioning, but in excess, it causes negative physical health effects and can make you overreact to minor, everyday annoyances".

But like I said: In a perfect world, we'd vacation more often than we currently do. Strict office vacation policies, tight budgets, family obligations are just some of the roadblocks to requesting that OOO. And while everyone certainly deserves a vacation, it's something that can be viewed as privileged and only available to those who have flexible schedules and/or sufficient funds. 

Okay, here's the good news. You don't technically have to travel anywhere to take a vacation, and there are many things you do to still make it feel like you're on one. Indulging in a staycation not only costs less, but it requires a lot less vacation time since you don't need to leave room for travel (you can even do it in just a weekend if you need to). You'll still reap the health benefits of a vacation but won't have to pack a single thing. Have we convinced you yet?

Keep scrolling for 5 ways to feel like you're on a vacation in your very own home.

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Play Tourist in Your Own Neighborhood

One of the best parts of a staycation is getting to do all of the things you've been putting off doing. I moved to a new city a few years ago, and while it was exciting enough at first, I started to push off doing things in my own neighborhood in favor of traveling to new cities and destinations. To this day, I have countless places and activities I've been meaning to explore, but haven't, and they are all less than 45 minutes away from my doorstep. Is there a new restaurant you've been wanting to try? A museum exhibit you've been meaning to check out? "There are many gems like this- you just have to find them. Go there with a loved one, and you get the added relationship benefits!" Schochet tells us. Make home feel exciting again by treating it like a place you've never been to before—without the hassle and stress of getting lost. I suggest keeping a list of all the places you want to try, but never seem to have time for, and referencing that the next time you're planning your OOO.

Indulge in Self-Care

The term "I need a vacation from my vacation" is all too real for me. I'm the type of person who squeezes in as much travel and activity into my time off as I possibly can, which often means returning to work feeling depleted and even more exhausted than before I left. One of the benefits of staycationing is that you have plenty of time to take pamper yourself, something that isn't always a given when you're constantly on the go. Draw a bubble bath, read a good book, light some candles, enjoy a glass of wine... whatever activities make you feel refreshed and renewed should be on your to-do list.

Put Yourself on a Digital Detox

I'm guilty myself of checking emails while on vacation, but it's a practice I'm constantly working on. Taking a break from your phone can reduce stress, improve sleep... all the things we look for while out of office. With a typical vacation, where you're visiting historical monuments or taking in picturesque views, you may be tempted to constantly be on your phone snapping pictures and posting on social media. Staycations don't always have those same temptations, meaning you can easily get the well-deserved break from technology you've been craving. And it's good for us, too: "Mindfulness does wonders for our mental state, and when on vacation you naturally engage in being present far more than in day-to-day life. You actually notice the beautiful greenery on the side of the road, rather than worry about making it to your meeting on time", says Schochet. New to digital detoxing? Here are some tips. 

Cross Items Off Your To-Do List

I want to emphasize that your staycation should still feel like a vacation. Just like spending your Sundays prepping for Monday can put a damper on your weekend, you don't want to use a staycation as a reason to catch up on emails or do all your chores. That being said, tackling a few items that have been taking up space on your to-do list can be a major stress reliever and making going back to "real life" a whole lot easier. Choose a few items that have been nagging at you—like going to the dry cleaner or returning a call you keep putting off—and incorporate them into your itinerary. 

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Spend Time Outdoors

Nearly every vacation, whether you're going somewhere warm or chilly, incorporates some sort of outdoor activity. Given the benefits of spending time outside, we're all for it. This is a fairly simple (and free) way to feel like you've gone out of town, even if you haven't. If it's available to you, spend part of your staycation doing outdoor activities like lounging on the beach, going hiking or swimming in a lake. Not possible for you without leaving town? Picnic at a local park (or even your own backyard), try your hand at gardening, or just take a long walk (barefoot in grass, if you can!) And if that's not available to you, there are always plants (yes, spending time with even indoor plants can be beneficial). 

Allow Yourself to Be Lazy

I have this annoying habit where I tend to guilt myself for not being constantly busy. Every spare minute of my day should be spent doing something productive—even the books I choose to read tend to have some educational purpose to them. Having time off is the perfect excuse to indulge in a little bit of "laziness" without feeling like I should be doing something productive. But the problem with traveling is that it can be more difficult to be lazy when you feel pressure to constantly explore and sightsee. And even if you're visiting somewhere more chill, like a beach, you can find yourself still getting stressed over things like making sure your suitcase is under a specific weight, getting lost, speaking a foreign language and spending more money than you are used to. Staycationing avoids many of these downsides, giving you the perfect opportunity to do "lazy" activities like take naps, binge-watch your favorite shows, and spend lots of time in sweatpants. It's the art of doing absolutely nothing—and it can feel so, so good.

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Treat It Like a Real Vacation

I'll leave you with one final tip: Your staycation is a real vacation. Put your OOO responder on, sleep in, eat some good food—just because you aren't going anywhere doesn't mean you don't deserve a vacation. Everyone needs a break—it's for your health after all—so make sure you actually take one. Your body will thank you.

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Next up: Going Somewhere? Follow These 7 Rules to Stay Healthy While Traveling


This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to be used in the place of advice of your physician or other medical professionals. You should always consult with your doctor or healthcare provider first with any health-related questions.