Before Your Time Off Begins: How To Prep for a Staycation

Staycations are a wonderful way to escape from everyday life without the hassle of travel or the expenses that go along with a traditional vacation. With just a little bit of advance planning, a change in routine, and an open mind, time off in your hometown can feel just as novel and carefree as a normal vacation. Here are a few things to consider when planning your staycation:

Budget: One of the main motivations for taking a staycation is to save money, but that doesn't mean that you should sit at home all the time in order to scrimp. Making a budget ahead of time can help you figure out how often you will be able to eat out, what kinds of little luxuries you can treat yourself to, and what types of activities you should consider. If you're on the tightest of budgets, it might be more practical to prepare food at home and find some free activities. Knowing this from the get-go will help you make the most of your staycation.

Make all necessary work preparations: Be sure that you formally request time off from work. If you request the days off in advance, you won't be tempted to take work calls or answer work emails during your staycation, and it will help you truly escape. Catch up on all necessary work, and set up an "away from the office" voicemail message and automated email response, just as you would for a normal vacation.

Run errands: Take care of the sundries of daily life before your staycation starts. Pay all the necessary bills, pick up the dry cleaning — run any errand that might encroach on your time off. The point of a staycation is to relax and escape from everyday life, so spending a little extra time beforehand to take care of these little tasks will make your time off much more like a vacation.

Perhaps the most important errand to get out of the way beforehand is grocery shopping. If you're on a budget, cooking at home is an easy way to save money, and having all the necessary ingredients on hand will, again, help keep your vacation separate from your usual routine. Take this opportunity to plan some fun meals that you've been wanting to try. Use new ingredients, or try new cuisines. If you're an ambitious cook, this is the time to experiment with that chocolate soufflé recipe or to spend hours perfecting your puff pastry. If you hate cooking but still can't afford to eat out, then take the time a few days in advance to make some meals and freeze them. Yes, it means extra cooking the week before, but then you'll be more relaxed on your time off.

Clean: Having to take care of chores on your time off is the fastest way to ruin the "vacation" feel. Before you start your staycation, sweep the floors, mop, and do laundry. Clean your home as you would if you were leaving for a week. You should definitely change your bedding, since nothing feels as good as a nice, clean bed. Cutting out all chores, like cleaning the kitchen, may be unrealistic, but keeping your tasks to a minimum will help the staycation feel like an actual break.

Research and Schedule: While you shouldn't plan every second of your vacation, you should make a loose schedule of activities. Figuring out a template for your staycation can help it feel more like a vacation, and it will help you resist the temptation to stay at home reading read blogs or playing World of Warcraft all week. You really will feel better if you separate your vacation activities from normal ones, try new things, and create some lasting memories on your time off.

Research your town as if you were visiting a new place. Are there any parks, museums, concerts, plays, restaurants, etc., that you'd like to try? This is your chance to do all those things that you've been meaning to but that you've never had the chance to try. One fun way to approach a staycation is to come up with a theme. If you're going to be doing a lot eating at home, maybe you could take a fantasy trip to Paris and prepare a series of French meals. Or you could orient your activities around a common thread and plan a historical tour of your town, an outdoor retreat that makes the most of nature, or an urban adventure filled with shopping and museums. If you have kids, it's best to consider nap/rest times in advance and to plan some novel activities for time at home.

Let me add a word of warning: this is not the time to tackle long-term projects like home improvement tasks, unless this is honestly how you unwind. There's nothing worse than being frustrated or exhausted on your time off, and it's an even worse feeling to return to work feeling like you need another vacation.

Splurge a bit: This is the time to treat yourself nicely, so you should build a few luxuries into your vacation. If you have the money, schedule a massage or make an appointment with a cleaning service (an at-home stand-in for a hotel's maid services). Think about what makes you the most relaxed and the happiest on vacation. If it's the chance to take a long bath, consider splurging on some new fluffy towels. If it's the chance to shop, set aside some money for a treat. Even if you are on the tightest of budgets, you should still throw in a few little luxuries; buy yourself a new soap, some nice tea, or fresh flowers. While you may not be able to fully indulge your desires, you should still plan on treating yourself a little bit nicer than you normally would.

MORE STAYCATIONS ON APARTMENT THERAPY:
Staycation Variation: Escape from Your Home, But Not Your Hometown
Staycation Idea: Trade Homes with Friends
6 Ways to Make a Staycation Feel More Like a Vacation
The Locavore Staycation: 5 Fun Things to Do This Summer

(Image: Shiva's Eclectric, Romantic Modern Ranch House Tour)

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