Vacation At Home

tips for a relaxing stay-cation

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By Rachel Swenson Balducci

It’s that time of year again—those blessed weeks when we’re thinking about escaping, unplugging, unwinding, getting a change of scenery. Vacation! Free at last!


Unfortunately, getting out of town isn’t always an option. Finances, tight schedules, too many people going in different directions—these and a million other factors can thwart vacation plans. Too often, the very things that cultivate a need for vacation hold us back from getting there.


Never fear! The staycation is here.


Chances are we’ve all traveled to a different part of the state or country to explore the history and culture. We come home relaxed and refreshed. We’ve seen all there is to see, tasted good foods, enjoyed our family, and hit the reset button. Even better (for some folks) is going somewhere and doing nothing at all—sitting in a beach chair, for instance, and staring off to sea, day after glorious day.


Whether you’re a family that likes to be on the go or one that likes to sit and relax, finances and schedules shouldn’t keep you from doing that in your very own town. What you need is a staycation: a stay-at-home vacation.


Several years ago, Joanna Watwood stumbled upon staycations, and she has never looked back.


Joanna and her husband Jordan were newlyweds in need of rest and relaxation when they decided to stay at a local hotel and take in some of the local sights and sounds.


“We wanted to get away and have a break,” said Joanna, “but we didn’t have the time and means to go anywhere far.”


Before they had left for their honeymoon to Rome several months prior, the couple had stayed at a hotel in town and earned a free night by filing out a survey.


“We waited and used the room when we needed a break,” said Joanna. “And then we went on vacation in our own city.”


That weekend, the couple hung out at the hotel pool and enjoyed the live band. They were able to upgrade to a room with a balcony, and they brought their favorite food with them. They enjoyed window-shopping at stores they usually don’t have time to visit and took in what the town had to offer.


“We love to embrace the opportunities in our own city,” said Joanna. “There’s a freedom that comes with being able to unwind without really having to worry about the cost of it.”


That first experience instilled in Joanna and Jordan a love of exploring their hometown. The couple, who recently made a short-term move out West, has continued their love of the local, of taking time to unwind without going far.


We probably all have attractions in our own town that other people travel to see. How many times do we drive by a local museum or historic landmark without ever stopping to explore? These points of interest are perfect for a staycation.


There are lots of advantages to staying home for vacation. While we might consider getting out of town to be the ideal, the same rest and relaxation is available locally with the right mindset and attitude.


Coming up with a plan is a big part of the experience. Just as you would for an out-of-town vacation, sit down and decide what you want to do. Every town has museums, good restaurants, and fun places to explore—your town is no different!


And while finances might be a big part of a decision to vacation closer to home, it also makes sense practically. Staycations are a great way to explore something new with less travel time.


“We’ve found we really get the opportunity to unwind,” said Joanna. “You’re not coming back from vacation tired. You can pop back into life and get more out of it.”


Joanna added that their experiences have given them a greater appreciation for their city and local community.


For Kajse Conkright, a quick trip several miles from home was the perfect solution to a need for a getaway.


For Kajse and husband Bill, it had been almost two years since the birth of their twin boys—children numbers six and seven—and what this couple needed was a chance to catch their breath and reconnect.


Kajse decided that the best Christmas present for her husband Bill would be a trip away from the house, just the two of them. The problem was finding time in the middle of their hectic schedule that allowed for more relaxation than travel-time in the car.


“We waited for a weekend that was peaceful,” said Kajse, “one where there wasn’t tons of kids’ activities going on, with a sitter lined up.”


When it was time to plan their trip, Kajse and Bill knew they wanted to stay in town.


“We didn’t have the energy to drive somewhere,” explained Kajse. “We were just too tired to go on a trip. We wanted to make the most of our time.”


The couple decided to stay at a renowned bed and breakfast that happened to be a ten-minute drive from their home. They had driven by the stately manor for years—Bill actually had grown up down the street from the home—and they used their getaway as an excuse to see something new, yet much closer to home.


For Kajse, staying close to home allowed them to experience something others traveled to see, with the added benefit of knowing the area.


She was able to make quick reservations at one of their favorite restaurants, and the next day they knew exactly where on the river they wanted to sit and relax. The familiar dovetailed nicely with trying something new.


“Our trip was only 24 hours,” said Kajse. “Because we were leaving the twins for the first time, this met our comfort level of being gone from them and also not overwhelming their grandparents, who were watching them. And we didn’t have to spend most of our time driving.”




1. See if there are any buildings or sites in your town listed on the National Historic Register (visit


2. Find a small town nearby and explore its history.


3. Pick a nice hotel with a pool and stay overnight with your family.


4. Try going to Mass at a different parish in your city.


5. Window-shop. Peek in stores you don’t normally visit (just like during an out-of-town trip!).


6. Go camping at a local campground.


7. Visit a local state park. Pack a picnic and spend the day exploring nature.


8. Visit a local amusement park.


9. Go to the nearest zoo.


10. Have lunch at a local restaurant you’ve always wanted to try.


11. Go to the gourmet grocery store and load up on nice wine and cheese. Enjoy in your backyard.


12. Take a drive an hour outside your city. Explore the back roads.


13. Visit a bird sanctuary.


14. Take a tour of the local newspaper.


15. Spend a day on the local river or lake.


16. Does your town have a sports team? Go cheer them on!


17. House swap. Joanna and Jordan offered to swap houses with Joanna’s sister—kids included! They spent the weekend with six nieces and nephews while the lucky (and exhausted) parents enjoyed a quiet evening in town, child-free.


18. House sit. “House sitting can be kind of like a staycation,” said Joanna. “It’s an opportunity to get a change of scenery—one couple even had a pool.”


19. Visit the local government. Take a tour of your mayor’s office or municipal building.


20. Go to the movies.


21. Visit an art museum.


22. Ride horses at a local stable.


23. Ask your kids what they want to do!


24. Take a deep breath. Laugh. Repeat.


Tips for relaxing on a staycation:

Just because you didn’t leave town doesn’t mean you can’t leave the pressures of day-to-day life. A vacation is a chance to catch your breath and reset your focus. A staycation allows you to achieve this without traveling very far.


1. Don’t forget to turn off your phones. Part of vacation means being less accessible to the demands of daily life.


2. Ignore email, or decide to check it only once a day. Walk away from the stress!


3. Make a decision to focus on your family. Vacation is always a great way to bring people together (once you get over the initial stress of getting out the door!). Remember that unplugging and unwinding is a chance to reconnect with the people you love most: your spouse and kids.

Rachel Swenson Balducci

Rachel Swenson Balducci is a wife and mother, a writer & newspaper columnist, author of How Do You Tuck In A Superhero? and co-host of The Gist on Find her at her personal blog,