By Tyler Calder and the GNI Team
I’m going to be really honest with you: I love a good portmanteau. If there’s an opportunity to combine two words, I will always (sometimes gratuitously) take it. That’s why it was extra strange when I realized I just didn’t love the word “staycation” –there was something about it that just didn’t feel quite right.
Then I realized why.
In my head, for a long time, I equated PTO (paid time off) with vacation and vacation with traveling. The thought of taking PTO while not traveling just didn’t make sense. That’s why when I heard the word “staycation,” it just did not compute at all. In our collective work culture, the words vacation, travel, and time-off are used so interchangeably that you might actually start to believe that taking time off is only something you can do if you have the means, flexibility, and desire to travel. Here’s what nobody tells you: That’s just not true.
You don’t need to have somewhere to be to take time off; and vacation, travel, and PTO are definitely not one and the same. The day I started thinking of PTO the way I thought of a paycheck (as something you’ve earned!), it all started clicking for me.
And just like that, staycation stopped being a word that “felt weird” rolling off my tongue. If you’re having the trouble logic-ing out the concept (or fighting some inner voices telling you it’s not for you), here are some steps you can take to (finally!) request those days off, no plane tickets needed:
1. Just do it.
Some offices have formal employee-management software that allows you to request time off. Others require an email to your boss. If you’re in a role that requires you to ask for time off, spend ten minutes today with the following questions:
When would be the best time for me to take a chunk of time off? (Consider both your personal schedule and professional cycles. An accountant might not choose March or early April for a staycation, so try to consider your busy seasons too, so you can truly commit to relaxing without any distractions.)
When do you usually feel burnt out? If there are patterns you’ve noticed (for example, I don’t do well with seasonal shifts), you might be able to better anticipate a good time to ~staycate~.
Once you’ve done that, copy and paste this script into an email to your boss for easy asking:
Dear [Insert Boss’s Name Here],
I’m writing to formally request PTO from X/X to X/XX. I’d be happy to create a coverage plan once I know the approval status of this request.
Press send. You deserve this.
2. If you can, plan your staycation for a week that already has a holiday. If you can’t, don’t let that stop you.
If you have to work to accrue your time off, as many people do, those hours and days can feel so precious. You can maximize your time off by requesting four days on a week that already has a recognized holiday. Weekend one + 4 PTO days + 1 Holiday + weekend two can give you nine days for the “price” of four. Never underestimate the power of nine consecutive days off!
3. Stay somewhere you wouldn’t normally stay to get in a vacation frame of mind.
This one isn’t a requirement of a staycation but it can add something new to your time-off experience. Sometimes you have enough in the rainy-day budget for a couple special nights in a hotel, but adding flights and sightseeing to that just isn’t feasible. That’s okay! The key is to work with what you’ve got. Here are some ideas at two price points.
$: Don’t feel pressured to book super far in advance if you’re staying in town – in fact it might behoove you not to! “I like checking hoteltonight because they do a decent job of curating cute hotels and the deals are pretty good.” - Becca B., GNI Team
$$: “Book a hotel or Airbnb in a part of town that you haven’t explored much to serve as your ‘homebase’ so that neighborhood restaurants, shopping, cafés, etc. are more accessible and within walking distance. If you’re taking a staycation, it’s also an opportunity to potentially “splurge” on a nicer hotel room than you would normally book. We did this two years ago and it was great!!” - Alisha
4. Decide beforehand what split of productive and unproductive leisure is ideal for you.
Ultimately, it’s up to you how you divvy up your time on a staycation. The only goal is to emerge feeling better, sharper, more relaxed, and more fulfilled when it’s all over. When we decided to write this guide, we considered making a spreadsheet of all the things you could fit into a week of staycationing and solitude, but then we realized that only you can write your formula.
Maybe you’re desperately in need of a no-screens, no-work week where you can just chill, free from mental strain. If that’s the case, DO IT. It’s also possible that in order to feel your best, you’ll want to cross some items off your to-do list. If that’s the case, also do it (but I hope you’ll spend at least a couple days giving yourself a brain break).
The approach I’d recommend is more of a rest-do-rest sandwich. If you plan to take a week off, challenge yourself to relax for the first 2-3 days, then spend 2-3 days in the middle tackling ~to-do list~ items, and round out your staycation with 2-3 days of unproductive leisure. While you might be tempted to pace yourself and spend a few hours being productive each day of your week, I’ve seen firsthand how great turning your brain completely off for a few days can be, and I want you to feel it too.
As you decide how to allocate your time, consider what we mean by “productive” and “unproductive leisure:”
Examples of productive leisure: Take a new workout class, book a doctor’s appointment or two (if you’re due for an annual), talk to a financial advisor (nice to do on a week when you’re not thinking about work), tackle a deep organization project, hire a service to do your laundry.
Examples of unproductive leisure: Take a bath, lounge by a pool, read a good book (one that’s been on your list forever!), have breakfast in bed, step away from your screens if possible, stay in bed until a time college-you would approve of, do your nails, buy some flowers because they make you happy, wear the comfiest clothes you own – or better yet, a robe!, go for a leisurely drive, STRETCH. Definitely stretch.
5. Do something indulgent (and no, this doesn’t have to mean expensive).
Spending a full day just working on how you F E E L is something I can’t recommend highly enough. People often associate indulgence with spending money, but truthfully you can get lot of physical care done by being indulgent with your time. Start your day with a full body soak, spend longer than usual exfoliating, do a conditioning hair mask because WHY NOT spend an extra 15-20 minutes in the tub?!
Pay attention to what your skin needs, your hair needs, your body needs. Moisturize it all, then do it again. What are the foods that make you feel best? Eat those. Where is your skin dry? Take care of it. Do your feet hurt? Soak them. The thing about indulgent physical care is that it requires time that we don’t necessarily have on any given Tuesday. Bask in the extra time a staycation offers.
$: Make some DIY bath scrubs (you’ll get to enjoy them long past your staycation!) and commit to spending a full day unplugging, lounging, and luxuriating at home. Put on a show you’ve been dying to bingewatch. You can also DIY some wax candles to put by the tub to ~set the scene.~
$$: Schedule a massage or even spend a day at your local spa. Book it ahead of time on your first day off. Let it set the tone for your days ahead.
6. Enjoy the things in your hometown (or the nearby area) that are you usually too crowded during peak hours.
This includes but is not limited to: museums, Tuesday matinees, that nail place that always has a 40-minute wait, booking a time with your hairstylist that gives them enough time to dry your hair too. The best perk about staycations is that you have access to the things you love most about where you live at times you usually don’t see them. Don’t forget to take full advantage.
$ Start a morning at a nearby coffeeshop, movie theater, or museum. Explore a new neighborhood. Find your way to a library. Spend time there with no agenda, see what you find.
$$ Take yourself to a full-on fancy solo dinner. I could wax poetic about the bliss of sitting solo for a meal where you don’t have to share, split, compromise on, or wait forever for a large table. It wouldn’t be my everyday choice, but that’s what makes it special – it’s a rare bliss. Extra points if you’ve been dying to go to the restaurant for a long time.
7. Explore fitness opportunities you normally wouldn't be able to.
If the idea of a completely horizontal week is not your cup of tea, find new and fun ways to move your body that just don’t fit into your usual routine. Sign up for classes at off-peak times you’d normally never be able to make and enjoy the one-on-one attention from a group-fitness instructor that you might not get during the post-work gym rush.
$: Try a morning running route that’s out of the way of your usual morning routine. Try this Classpass deal and fit a bunch of classes into your week for just $10 .
$$: Treat yourself to a three-class pack at the fancy boutique fitness place everyone’s been talking about. Whether it’s spin, kickboxing, or barre, it’ll feel a little bit special (like a vacation adventure!) – a well-earned treat on a week off from work.
8. See where you can integrate your people.
Taking a staycation doesn’t have to mean committing to a week alone. There are a few ways you can take care of your social wellness while you’re off:
• Take your staycation with a partner. If you want to take time off with a significant other, coordinate your staycation for the same week, so you can get in a ~vacation~ frame of mind together. It might feel silly at first, but the key to staycation success is to stop judging yourself so harshly. Just do it! The more you commit to it, the better it will be.
• Take mostly-overlapping staycations.
If you want the perks of alone time and a together vacation, consider staggering your days off so you each get alone time on the front or back end of your ~PTO.~
• Organize some friend dates. Since you’ll have freedom to move about as you please, put some coffees, lunch dates, and evening activities on the calendar (even if your friends aren’t also staycationing. This is the perfect time to grab lunch with a friend near their office, or something that you’d never be able to do on a normal day!
• Like to host? Make a point to do it! If gathering your friends in your home is the type of thing that brings you energy, calm, and fulfillment – plan to do it! Since you’re on ~staycation~, you can even make it themed, special, or different. You’ll have more time and mental bandwidth to devote to making it the type of event you want. Just remember not to take on more than is enjoyable. This is your staycation, after all.
At the end of the day, your staycation will be what you make of it. The biggest advice we have is to try to lean into it. Don’t downplay or shrug it off – it’s important! If you commit to taking time for you - and set some intentions for what you want it to look like, you’ll be able to come out of it sharper, more refreshed, and the best version of your self – and isn’t that what taking care is all about?
Images via @caraizzle.