Mastering the Summer Staycation

fire pit
It’s time to bring back the staycation.

Growing up, I loved the idea of a “staycation.” My parents never really shared my enthusiasm for the idea — we usually traveled to see family or a historical landmark or a national park.

Then 2020 happened and due to COVID-19, I experienced an unexpected five-week staycation. No work, hardly any time with friends, shopping only for groceries — not even church services. No trips to see my grandma, meet my best friend’s baby, or attend a conference I was looking forward to.

Since then, my state’s stay-at-home order has been lifted, but many restrictions remain. Mandatory mask wearing. Distancing recommendations. Interstate travel advisories and quarantines. Who would have thought these would define our summer?

But all is not lost. Amid all the challenges, we can choose to find a way to enjoy ourselves this summer. It’s time to bring back the staycation.

Here are some ideas for your summer vacation, no matter what level of imposed restriction or isolation you are experiencing.

The (local) explorer

Over July 4th, my family and I had hoped to visit relatives out of state, but travel concerns kept us home. Instead, we spent our morning at a local zoo and then ordered some pizza to eat at home. It may not have been a road trip, but we still made some great family memories.

If you’re comfortable being out and about in public places in your city or state, check out these ideas:

Go to a museum. Try a new restaurant. Whether you’ve lived in your area for six months or a couple of decades, I guarantee that you can find something local you haven’t tried before. Look up tourist attractions for your area for some ideas.

Broaden your search a little to include nearby cities or even another part of the state, if you’re able. Take a day trip and shop at a nearby town. Visit a state attraction you’ve never been to before.

Organize a Christmas in July with friends and go shopping together. Set a dollar limit or a theme and see what zany gifts you find for each other.

Think outside the box and be flexible when your plans don’t work out like you’d expected. This is vacation, after all. Nothing ever goes as planned!

One of my Facebook friends wanted to take her grandkids to some places around town, but local restrictions made that plan unfeasible. Instead, she decided to do an impromptu drive-thru progressive meal, driving to a few different restaurants and letting each child choose one menu item from each restaurant. Spur-of-the-moment and memorable. That’s the stuff of vacation memories!

The (small group) party host

Some of us may be trying to stay away from public places and germs but are OK being in and with small groups. There are lots of classic small group party ideas. Bring Your Own Game night. Movie marathon. A campfire with s’mores.

Try some local walking or hiking trails together. Have a picnic with a special theme, like Disney or even a color theme. Do something crazy!

Invite one friend over for a few hours just to be together — whether you end up watching a movie or baking a dessert or just talking. Having extended time together for just the two of you will deepen your friendship.

Two young women from my church stayed at a bed and breakfast in a tiny town nearby that had very little traffic or guests. They could fill their time on their relaxing getaway however they wanted: talking, reading, spending time with God.

The (temporary) Kevin McCallister

A few of us will find ourselves under a stricter version of stay-at-home orders at some point this summer. We can find ways to make the most of our time home alone — even without booby traps.

I was homeschooled, so we took a lot of educational trips when I was younger. If that’s how you vacation, try looking up some virtual tours. Due to corona closures, many museums or historical sites are offering virtual tours, including one of my favorite places ever.

Re-read a favorite book from your childhood. Call someone else who is under quarantine, or a friend you’ve missed and meant to catch up with when you have time. Start a bake-off video challenge with friends. See who can make the best-looking pie, cake or cookie. Play a virtual game over Zoom.

I finally tried out the Marco Polo app during quarantine, and the extra way to connect with an out-of-state friend has been wonderful. Utilize technology to relax and connect with others, but also take a break from your smartphone and other devices. Find something to do without a screen.

A summer for the books

It’s natural to feel disappointed when our summer vacation plans are not what we had hoped. It’s OK if we don’t feel excited about our COVID-19 reality.

But we don’t have to skip all the summer fun. We can choose to focus on what we can do even in this unusual time. For the rest of our lives, we’ll remember what a crazy summer this was. Let’s make it a vacation season to remember, too.

Copyright 2020 Lauren Dunn. All rights reserved.

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