Travel Tips

Plan a Staycation! (Part 2)

Making plans and scheduling them in!

Summary of Staycation Part 1

Need to get away, but can’t? Plan a Staycation! In the first installment of this two-part Staycation series, I covered virtual travel experiences available on the web. You can read that post here. This time I’m going to share ideas to transform your home into an oasis replicating, as much as possible, the atmosphere or location you wish you could visit. Think of it as a way of staging your home to give you the feeling you’re somewhere else. (This post contains affiliate links for which I may earn a commission to help support this blog so I can keep it running. There is absolutely no cost to you. I never promote companies I don’t endorse and personally use. Not all links are affiliate links.)

Cook up a Mexican dinner

Option 1: Cultural Immersion

Cultural immersion is a great way to “travel” while staying home. Make a pact with yourself that you’re going to surround yourself in the culture of the place you want to visit for the entire day, or weekend! A great starting point, you can take a language lesson for your chosen culture. Learn one on one with a native on iTalki. Your first session will only cost a few dollars. Or try out my favorite language program, Fluenz.

Watch a movie or some TV shows from the country you wanted to visit. If it’s in the native language with subtitles, even better. The Rakuten Viki app has great shows from Japan, Korea, China, and Taiwan. And Arte offers European programming in 6 languages. Netflix also carries a lot of foreign movies and shows. Or watch travel shows exploring your country of choice, like “Rick Steves’ Europe” on Hulu or PBS.

For dinner, cook a meal using recipes of the culture in question, which you can find on Food Network or Pinterest, or your favorite ethnic cookbook. The Food Network Kitchen app even has live and pre-recorded cooking classes as well as show videos. Or if you’re not in the mood to cook, order takeout or dine-in from your preferred local ethnic restaurant.

I’ll offer an example of the “cultural immersion” method. Set the scene with an India backdrop like this. Drape some marigold garlands around the house. Why not try a Hindi lesson on iTalki? Then watch some Bollywood movies with a free trial of the Eros Now app, or stream the amazing Jewel in the Crown series from Amazon or iTunes. Cook dinner with Aarti Sequeira on Food Network. What to wear? Pick up my custom “India” t-shirt on Etsy! Not into India? Substitute this plan with the country and cultural traditions you want to immerse yourself in!

Take a Spa day

Option 2: Take a Spa Day

What could be more relaxing than a luxurious spa day? It’s possible to replicate the experience at home, to an extent. Start your morning with some avocado toast with one of Bobby Flay’s “avocado toast three ways.” Visit the nail salon for a mani-pedi, or hire a nail technician to come to you on a house call.

When you get back home, grab your yoga mat and do some yoga with the Daily Burn app (free trial available), or search for a Yoga lesson on YouTube. The PBS Living app also has some yoga lessons for people with arthritis and other disabilities. Water’s critical when you work out, so whip up some of Giada DiLaurentiis’ Spa Water.

Then unwind immersed in a soothing bath with your favorite bath bombs or bubble bath, or some rose petals. Make sure to use a luxurious exfoliation scrub to get your skin so soft and smooth. Have your scented candle going for aromatherapy, and bring your smartphone and turn on some spa music. Dim the lights and let yourself relax.

After your bath, give yourself a facial with a steaming session followed by a luxurious sheet mask. Next, treat yourself to a massage with a personal masseuse gadget. And wrap yourself in an electric blanket cocoon for a few minutes and let the spa music slow your heart rate. Make yourself a healthy and refreshing smoothie. Food Network suggests these recipes. For dinner, take a cue from Giada DiLaurentiis’ “Spa Weekend Brought Home.”

Bring the Aurora lights inside

Option 3: Camp… Inside Your House!

You can turn your living room into the ultimate campground! Starting with a nature backdrop like this one of a waterfall in the woods is a nice touch. Then start setting up your campsite with a great pop-up tent that’s suitable for indoors like this one. Next, add your sleeping bags. A mock campfire with a hearth like this one will enhance the atmosphere. Check out a local place to go for a hike during the day. Just Google “hiking near me,” and get your fresh air and activity in.

After dark and back home, dim the lights, and set up a camping lantern or two. Make a simple camping-inspired dinner on the grill. Put a video of the Aurora lights on your TV screen, like this YouTube video. Light a pine scented candle like “Balsam and Cedar” from Yankee Candle. It smells just like the real thing, and carries throughout the whole home. It’ll transport you to the forest! For the piece de resistance, make s’mores with an electric s’mores maker. If you have a device that can make sound effects (like a smartphone app, or an Echo Dot “Alexa”), cue up the crickets or bonfire sound effects. Play some cards by the campfire, or play a fishing video game! How about placing some glow in the dark stars on the ceiling?

Washington, D.C.

Option 4: Tour Your Hometown

Whether you live in a major city or out in the country, it’s likely there’s a lot of cool things to see and fun things to do right in your back yard! There may even be some you didn’t even realize were there. State and Provincial parks are some of the most underrated attractions around. One of my favorite ways to tour a place is to pick up a City Pass you can order on this site, or do a Viator tour you can reserve here. Get introduced to a side of your city you may not have known!

Getting a City Pass allows you entry to multiple attractions in a city, often with the ability to skip-the-lines, for a much lower price than if you purchased the attraction tickets individually. They often include transportation modes like double decker buses or harbor cruises too. I tend to see a lot more, cheaper and more efficiently, when I have one of these passes. They’re available for most major cities. And Viator is great for those all-inclusive tours, including ones that get you out into the country for more distant attractions. At the end of the day, try a new restaurant. You may even want to book a local hotel. Remember to check out your local tourism agency’s official website. Act like a tourist! You may find you have a completely different perspective of your city in this context!

Cruise cabin, not cabin fever!

Option 5: Recreate Your Cruise

Have any souvenir shirts from your cruise? Good wardrobe choice for today! Make your bed, and then head over to YouTube and search “towel animal tutorial” and find a video with instructions for your favorite animal. (There are many videos on this, and of different animals.) Place on your bed for tonight. If you’re really hardcore, you may want to create and print yourself out a “cruise” newsletter with the activities for the day to place there too.

Then start your “cruise” by putting your TV on ocean or cruise-view scenes. For example, you could put on this Port of Miami live webcam YouTube channel. There’s a second one here. Or an idea I really like, get my cruise ship tours playlist going here! If you have a smartphone, Echo, or similar device with an ambient sounds app installed, bring it out to your patio, turn on ocean sounds, and sunbathe outside (assuming good weather!) Just close your eyes and imagine you’re shipboard. (BONUS: You won’t have to fight for a lounger with people that got up at 6:00, left their towel on the lounger to reserve it, and went back to bed!)

Another thing that will help? Make your favorite cruise line drinks! Royal Caribbean has posted several of their recipes on their blog here. And Carnival Cruise Line has several of their recipes here. Planning dinner? Cruise Critic has posted several cruise line recipes in this article. Take some time to set your table up nicely, using your memories of the Main Dining Room table settings as a guide. Or go out to a restaurant that reminds you of your favorite cruise ship specialty restaurant, like a steakhouse or Italian place.

At the end of the night, put something on your TV that will bring back cruise memories, like a soccer or tennis game (which always seem to be on TV on the cruise ships!), or a concert or Broadway show, like “Hamilton” now streaming on Disney+. I like to order cookies and cocoa room service at the end of the night when I sail on Carnival, so I’d cap off the night with those. When you’re ready for bed, your towel animal will be there to greet you. Remember to sleep in for your “sea day” tomorrow, OR get up and take an “excursion” in your hometown on a tour from a site like Viator here!

Off to the races!

Option 6: Have a Casino Night

There are many ways to transform your home for a casino night. Set up the card table for a poker session, and “comp” your guests with great cocktails, a delicious buffet, and/or a night in your guest room. Don’t forget a chocolate on the pillow! Cue up some pro or college sports or horse racing on the big screen TV, and hand out betting slips. (What you’re betting for is up to you…!) Gather up all the iPads or other tablets you can get your hands on (ask guests to bring theirs). And then line them up in a row on stands along a long table or counter, and place a chair in front of each. Then install and and open up a different slot machine app on each one. (Most of these slot apps are free downloads.)

Get some table games going, like this Bingo game (come up with fun prizes!), Blackjack, or Roulette. Make sure you have plenty of poker chips and playing cards, and someone who’ll be designated the dealer. Keep the “comped” drinks flowing! Go old-school and play some smooth jazz music in the background, or go modern and play the same pop music the casinos play these days.

For dinner, consider your favorite casino celebrity chef restaurant, and visit Food Network to recreate that chef’s recipes. Or head out to a fancy restaurant that reminds you of your casino favorite. Browse ideas for casino-themed cakes on Pinterest, and have your baker whip one up for you, or, if you’re crafty in the kitchen, bake one up yourself! To cap off your evening, watch some old videos of the show “Las Vegas” with James Caan. Alternatively, enjoy a casino movie like “Casino” or “Casino Royale.” Another great idea would be to digitally downloaded a concert or magic show, just like you’d see in Las Vegas or Atlantic City.

Sequence of a Race Horse Galloping – Public Domain

Option 7: Host a Film Festival

Can’t go to Cannes? Why not host your own film festival? Start with a tour of Cannes with Rick Steves in this video. Then get in front of the big screen (TV) for a marathon of great films. The theme is up to you – whether it’s “Classic Hollywood” or “Brand New Blockbuster.” You can now stream movies that are still in theaters at home these days. While the $20 rental cost is steep, if you’re having several people over it’s a bargain compared to buying tickets at the theater. Or let your guests browse your film collection and each choose one.

If you want to go glamorous, you can ask people to dress up, serve champagne, and give out gift bags to “attendees.” You can include goodies like Netflix gift cards, 3-D glasses, movie-themed card decks or mugs, and those boxes of candy you can get in grocery stores that look like the ones you get in theaters. Dim the lights like the real theater, and offer all-you-can-eat popcorn in old-school popcorn containers. Surprise your guests with a variety of flavor shaker choices. You can decorate your living room with movie-themed throw pillow covers, and a decorative backdrop. At the end of the night, hand out ballots and vote for the Palme d’Or (or best movie!)

Are airlines in your future?

Option 8: Plan for the Next Real Trip

If you don’t want to plan a staycation, plan the next REAL trip! I have to admit, while all of these options are a lot of fun, they don’t replace the feeling of embarking on a REAL trip. But sometimes planning your real trip is part of the fun of travel. And if you haven’t been traveling much (like in the case of a pandemic lockdown), you may have set aside a budget to finally tackle that bucket list that’s been collecting dust. Exploring your options for the next trip can be exciting, appealing to your natural desire for anticipation. Better yet, once you can travel again, you’ll be ready to go right away!

Don’t suffer from cabin fever. Plan a staycation today, and get away! With a little imagination and a few inspiring resources, you can replicate a vacation in a fun, convincing way! Remember, if you missed Part 1, you can read that post here. Caring is sharing, so please share this post on Twitter and Facebook to help others out of their lockdown funk!

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