It’s summer, and not long ago, we were told that the world was opening up, and we could look forward to traveling, seeing our friends and family, and being protected from COVID-19 with the arrival of vaccinations. It seems, though, that once again, things are changing. The Delta and Beta variants, combined with still low vaccination rates in many states and countries, are complicating things and it looks like it might be safer to put travel on hold again.
All of this comes as a huge disappointment to me and so many of the people I know. I’m fully aware that travel is actually good for your mental health and, with the stress of a global pandemic still affecting all of our lives, the question I keep thinking is: How can we take a vacation in 2021?
The truth is that there IS a way to take a vacation… well, a staycation. A staycation is when you take a vacation while staying at home. The good news is that you can even still travel during a staycation! At least, well, a little. And the best news is that it’s really easy to take a sober staycation this year. Here are 15 ideas so that you can still take a vacation and relax this year even if you’re not keen on seeing other people.
I’m fully planning to do at least half of the items on this list of sober staycation ideas. Especially #15.
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1. Turn off Your Phone
One of the biggest things that makes for a great vacation is not checking your inbox or to see if your college bestie’s roommate liked your Instagram post yet. Instead, think back to how much you enjoy just being in the moment during vacation… and turn off your phone. Take a social media break or a phone break in general, and just allow yourself to relax in your environment without automatically reaching for the device that’s always by your side.
2. Have a Spa Day
Okay, so you might be able to go to a spa, but with the changing course of the pandemic, having a massage while wearing a mask or, even worse, getting a facial without a mask on might be terrifying for some of us. What you CAN do though, is have a spa day at home. Make it a whole event by buying a new candle, getting a face mask, making some tea, and dipping into a bubble bath. This would be a good time to deep condition your hair, give yourself a mani/pedi, and just spend the entire day in your favorite robe.
3. Go for a Hike
This might already be something you’ve been doing regularly since quarantine but if not, a staycation is a perfect time to go on a hike in your town. Even if you go on hikes regularly, this may be the time to check out a new hiking spot. In fact, why not pack up your car full of snacks and sparkling water and go on a day trip to a hiking spot that you can’t usually get to? That sounds pretty heavenly.
4. Order In
One of my personal favorite things about taking a vacation is that I am not responsible for cooking a single meal. As the primary chef of my family, I’m constantly on in the kitchen and sometimes, it can be exhausting to always worry about what I am making next. That’s why for my staycation, I plan to order in at least once a day. Sure, this means spending a bit more money, but it’s going to be great for my mental health to not have to spend my vacation in the kitchen.
5. Netflix Party ‘n Chill
It’s always fun to go to the movies with loved ones but unfortunately, movie theaters are still a source of concern. Instead, why not organize a movie night—or even a movie marathon? Head to Teleparty (formerly Netflix Party) in order to have all of your friends join your movie-watching adventures, and chat about it. It’s the perfect way to bond with your community while still staying socially distant and relax with a good movie.
6. Read for Days
There is little else more enjoyable than reading but, let’s face it, we all rarely have the time for it. Whether it’s a good recovery memoir or a summer novel, having a staycation where you do nothing but read might just be perfect. Personally, I plan to go through at least two books during my staycation but maybe more if I can manage it. After all, what else is a vacation for?
7. Make a Dessert Picnic
A picnic is a summer favorite and thankfully, it’s not too difficult to social distance while you do it. Therefore, this might just be the perfect staycation activity. Spice up that traditional picnic by making it a dessert picnic instead! Invite your friends to make all of their favorite desserts, bring a favorite flavor of sparkling water, and you have a fabulous afternoon figured out. Just don’t forget to save time for an afternoon nap after that inevitable sugar crash.
8. Try Out the New Grill
Okay, so maybe you don’t have a new grill, but why not? Summertime is the perfect time to cook outside, and it’s something you can do during your staycation if you want to try something new. Why not find a few grill-worthy recipes on Pinterest and have at it? Don’t just settle for steaks or hamburgers, either. You can grill fish, skewered veggies, pizza… and have you ever tried grilled pineapple? Trust me on this one.
9. Take a Virtual (Cooking) Class
Just like there are tons of Zoom fitness classes out there right now, you can also take virtual cooking classes. Personally, I love the Zumba classes by photographer Matt Armendariz and the pastry classes by Paris-based pastry chef Molly Wilkinson. While on a staycation when you can’t actually travel or leave the house much, why not take a virtual class like one of theirs? Or explore what else there is to offer out there—like a new hobby.
10. Play Tourist
Okay, so you might not be able to play tourist in your hometown in a traditional way since COVID-19 cases are on the rise. Still, you can do a little something. If there are any outdoor activities in your hometown, why not check those out? Perhaps a zoo or a botanical garden (so long as you call ahead and make sure that they are taking precautions like encouraging social distancing, requiring masks, and doing extra sanitizing). You can also check out virtual museum tours in other cities. I mean, what could be better than that when you can’t actually make it to London?
11. Go Backyard Camping
I’m not a huge camper. It stems from a fairly traumatic experience with a bunch of June bugs when I went camping after graduating from high school. However, backyard camping? Well, that sounds like FUN! This summer, it seems that a lot of people are setting out to go on the open road, whether it be road trips or to the nearby campground. And while that’s an option too, camping in your own backyard can be just as fun (and even easier).
12. Host a Board Game Tournament
Playing board games is one of my favorite things to do with friends but unfortunately, my usual board game group hasn’t been able to get together since January 2020 because of the coronavirus. Still, for my staycation, we’re planning a board game tournament to take place virtually. We’ll turn on Zoom and play games on our phones. Of course, you can also plan a board game tournament with just the people that you live with. Plus, you can make it extra fun by also serving snacks and zero-proof cocktails!
13. Have a Theme Night
When I was younger, I used to love having friends over for a theme night. We would pick a movie, dress up to match the movie, and eat food that is featured in the movie or in the place the movie is set. For instance, one day we watched The Birdcage and ate Cuban food since it was set in Miami (and, well, I’m Cuban so it was fun to cook). This is thankfully something that you could easily pull off with the people living with you or even over Zoom, so long as you invite all of your friends to cook dishes that would still match the movie.
14. Tackle a Family Project
Maybe it’s not the most fun thing in the world to do chores during a staycation but it CAN make you feel better in the long run. That’s why my husband and I are tackling organizing our garage as part of our staycation. You can do something similar to spruce up your home. After all, we all have stuff we’d love to tackle and never make time for, right? The best part is that you can tackle that family project over several days so that you still have plenty of actual relaxing time.
15. Plan a Day of ZERO Plans
Okay, this might sound revolutionary but how about you plan a day of… no plans? Instead of saying, Tomorrow I will wake up and do a spa day, or on Tuesday, we will get together for a virtual movie party, make sure to leave at least one day of your staycation where you plan to do absolutely nothing. You can still end up doing some of the stuff on this list, so long as you go where the wind takes you and just do whatever you want at the moment. Even if that means taking your third nap of the day.
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It’s been a tough year-and-a-half, and so many of us were looking for the mental health break that comes with taking an awesome vacation. However, with finances a concern for many of us and health an even bigger concern, it looks like 2021 still might not be the year to travel. But we all still need breaks, which is why these sober staycation ideas are JUST what you’ll want to do… while still social distancing and wearing your mask, of course.
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About the Author: Irina Gonzalez is the Content Marketing Manager at Tempest. She is also a freelance writer covering parenting, recovery, and Latinx culture and host of the Pandemic Mama podcast. Her work has appeared in over 50 publications, including The Washington Post, O! The Oprah Magazine, Parents, and more. She is a new resident of Denver, where she lives with her husband, spunky toddler, and their fur babies. Follow her on Instagram at @msirinagonzalez.