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Staycationing this year? We’ve curated some ideas

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Like so many other things in the age of COVID-19, vacations may look quite different this year. International travel is at a low and even travel across cities and regions may still be a question mark for many.

But taking a bit of a timeout may never have been more important given the weight of the last few months.

While staycations have always been an option, they may be more popular given the current restrictions.

We did a bit of homework to find some of the best ideas that are still doable at a time when music festivals and amusement parks are not yet back in business.

First, a few pointers for a successful staycation.
While sometimes work and chores just can’t be helped, these are not the best ways to start your time off. Do your best to keep the work and chores to a minimum. Some sites go even further, recommending that you turn off your phone, and check it only periodically if keeping it off isn’t an option. Make sure that your out of office messages (both phone and email) are clear that any response will be, at best, delayed. And this may be a great time to give social media a pass. You can post your pictures next week – for now, it’s okay to be in the moment.

Don’t skip the planning. All vacations – even the ones taken close to home – require planning. Otherwise you can burn through a week easily without the kind of break or memories that will sustain you when you rejoin your day-to-day routine.

Set a budget. Vacations may be a time for a bit of a splurge, which is great, especially if you have built it into your broader household budget. A lot in this list is low or no cost, but activities can be scaled up as your resources permit.

On that note, indulge – if that’s what you would otherwise do. As one site advises, 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 (editor’s note – or take 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.

So now you are ready to…well, go. So now what?

Below are ideas curated from various sites or from input gathered from friends and colleagues in putting this story together.

Above all, have fun, be safe.

Together or by yourself: explore somewhere totally new

As travelandleisure.com points out, “You can be a visitor without being a tourist, but there’s probably a neighborhood you’ve never explored.” Our home base cities and towns offer lots of variety and it can be a lot of fun going for takeout or ice cream in a new part of the city. Something you’ve overlooked may be a walk or short bike ride away. Or, if you have a car, you might venture a bit further afield and explore the neighbouring communities. This advice also blends into one of their other recommendations: turn breakfast into an adventure. With bakeries and cafes able to provide takeout, this may be your opportunity to discover the best local donut, cup of coffee, or chocolate éclair. Anyone getting hungry?

Everydollar.com goes one step further with a “tasting tour of your city.” The perfect hometown staycation is within your reach. Can you taste it? Literally—go taste it. Search online or ask around for recommendations on the best places to eat in your city, and then make a list to knock out one meal at a time. Just make sure you set what you’ll spend on the entire culinary experience and think about your budget when you order. And don’t forget to tip. Good budgeters are good tippers.

Or if you are feeling a bit more adventurous, take a trip – no passport required!

There are so many places to virtually go and things to virtually do online, and best, no lineups!

Tourism Ontario offers a large selection of virtual activities from Ontario-based attractions. Art? Check. Sharks? Check. Rollercoasters? Absolutely – and you don’t need to be “this high to ride this ride.”

Tourism Toronto: from here you can check out streaming concerts and performances, live LGTBQ+ dance party (every night), and AGO from home.

Visit New York City – with this as a “home base” you can virtually visit multiple attractions, including The Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Top of the Rock, Times Square. Or branch out and wander around New York State: visit the Guggenheim Museum, explore State parks.

London offers a wide range of activities – from Buckingham Palace to Tower Bridge, Big Ben to The Eye you can check it all out from the comfort of your sofa. Here are three sites with a number of different links: The StandardInsider.com, the Flashpacker

Or skip the flight and enjoy a virtual trip to Sydney, Australia – see the Great Barrier Reef, and hang out with a koala!

Family fun: Have kids? Try this…

Camp out – or in
: Several of the sites talk about backyard camping. All it takes is a tent, a sleeping bag and no fear of racoons, squirrels or other creatures that roam the neighbourhood at night. A firepit, if your area allows, is a great place to roast marshmallows (although a lit bbq works well too) that are great on their own or as a key ingredient to smoresCampfire.com provides some ideas for ghost stories to round out the experience. No backyard? Turn your living room into “outdoor” experience. Hang blankets over furniture, string up some mini-lights for stars and put a nature soundtrack and turn out the lights. Ghost stories and tall tales work here as well!

Water fun for kids (and adults too!) – Splash pads may or may not be up and running in your community, but if you have a backyard you can create some good clean fun. Go old school with the garden hose and sprinkler, layer in a few water guns, or just set out buckets of water with lots of sponges. And let the kids bring the imagination. For added enjoyment, if you have the space, fill an inflatable pool. You may not be able to do lengths, but it’s a good place to soak! Remember slip and slide?

Game on! From boardgames to euchre tournaments staycations are a great opportunity for some laughs and mild competition. Games from Crazy 8s to Rummy, provide hours of entertainment for younger children, and if you have forgotten the rules, Kidspothas you covered. Older kids? Try Chase the Ace or Hearts. Or if you are looking for something more modern, The Spruce has some suggestions. Or bring out the board games – Monopoly, Risk, Clue…the list goes on. Or reach for the controllers and take your gaming online and battle it out for digital victory!

Puzzle it out…or create a masterpiece! If you haven’t explored this already during the last several months, jigsaw puzzles are as hard or easy as you want to make them. They do take some patience but are great conversation starters with that full sense of satisfaction when you put the last piece in place. And paint-by-number sets have seen a resurgence of popularity recently with some very cool images available. Bonus that these can be saved and hung as souvenirs.

Theme it up! Pick a theme, any theme and build each dinner around it. Country & Western – dig out your jeans and plaid shirt, put on some Dolly Parton music (or more current country!) and cook or take out bbq. Or dress it up – pull out your dress-to-impress best and sip sparkly drinks (could be sparkling wine or water) over your favourite food indulgence. Or go tropical, with cocktails or mocktails served in hollowed out pineapples, with your favourite beach tunes and burgers. With a bit of planning every night can be an adventure.

And love this ideaHave nightly turndown service. Buy a box of beautifully wrapped chocolates or caramels, then dispatch a different family member each evening to fold back blankets, smooth sheets, and leave a sweet or two on each pillow.

On your own? Give yourself a chance to exhale

Create a spa experience at home.

Aromatherapy candles and oils help to create a relaxing experience. Combine them with a long hot soak or shower with calming music to ease any tension. An internet search (remember that part about planning, above?) will bring up lots of options for virtual guided meditation and yoga practices to stretch out your muscles and clear your mind.

Indulge in some self-pampering. Drug stores offer a range of lotions and masks for face, hands and feet as well as products for do-it-yourself manicures or pedicures, with or without polish.

Time for a film festival. Haven’t seen the full Godfather/Harry Potter/Star Wars/Mission Impossible films? IMDB.com offers a list of the Top 100 movies of all time (spoiler alert: the top movie is referenced in the list above). Show them online via your favourite streaming service or buy the DVDs, pop some corn and you decide how far down the list you want to go. Have a projector? There’s something extra fun about watching a movie under the stars, projected on a sheet hung over a fence.

Book club – for one or set up a virtual book experience. Always wanted to read War and Peace? This may be your moment. Whether it’s a heavy classic or what a past colleague called “potato chip books” (because they are light, and you just can’t put them down) diving into a good book is a great way to leave everything behind. Make it a social experience with a virtual book club. Check in every night for progress and talk about the book – over a meal, snack, coffee or beverage of choice.

And whatever you do, wherever you go – or don’t go - don’t forget the souvenir.

A photo collage of book covers, games nights, movie DVD cases will be a lasting memory of your holistay.

Pick up t-shirts (local craft, clothing or bargain store) and fabric paint (craft or bargain store) and create your own wearable tribute to the Great Staycation of 2020.