Planning a Successful Staycation

A Counsellor’s Guide to Planning a Successful Staycation

Sometimes it’s nice to just get away!  

Rest, refresh, recharge, recommit to your goals. Taking a timeout can be just what the doctor ordered to get back on track. Trouble is, it can feel like all of the options for getting away have been taken away – our freedom to explore and unwind has been revoked!

This new normal can be simultaneously boring and stressful, can lead to cabin fever, and can produce a general funk that feels impossible to remedy. Of course, there are many unhelpful habits and behaviours that we can lean on to help with these feelings, though you and I both know that any temporary reprieve gained will tend to be outweighed by the costs.

If you notice yourself crawling up the walls with no place to go, it might be the right time to plan a staycation. Simple as it may seem, a successful staycation is usually the product of at least a little deliberate planning – no different than a traditional vacation.

When planning your staycation, you will have some decisions to make. In fact, while the idea of filling your staycation with activities may have first felt like trying to grasp at straws, you may find yourself overwhelmed with the seemingly endless amount of options and decisions to choose from if you don’t first break the planning process into steps.

So, here are three simple steps that can help guide you to a memorable staycation!

Step 1: The tough questions

The first step is to explore some important questions that lay before you. By answering these questions you will have a framework to guide the rest of your planning:

  • Who will be taking this staycation?
    Is this a solo journey, or do I want to be joined by any loved ones?

  • Where will the setting(s) of my staycation be?
    Do I want to explore my city/community, or is my own home the right destination?

  • When will I be staycationing?
    Is this a single-day affair or a weekend-event? Or, should I be carving out a more significant chunk of time?

  • Why do I want to take a staycation, anyway?
    Am I hoping to discover something new? Do I want to learn something about myself or my community’s history? Do I long for adventure? Or, do I just really need a chance to recharge my batteries?

  • How much am I comfortable spending on my staycation?
    This one is pretty self-explanatory!

Depending on your life’s unique circumstances, there may be other important preliminary questions that need answering. There are no wrong answers, but you will be disappointed if you are thirsting for adventure and instead spend the weekend watching Netflix. You’ll also be disappointed if you want to rest and give yourself a break but plan your days full of challenging excursions.

Step 2: Take Inventory

Now is the time to do a little bit of research. Actually, you have at least two research assignments. To make the most of your staycation, you will need to create an inventory of both what your area (or home) has to offer that seems interesting, as well as an inventory that comes from brainstorming your own mind for ideas about activities that have been floating around somewhere in the back of your brain.

A. Remember those old brainstorming assignments in school?
You know, the ones where your teacher would instruct you (and a group that you most definitely would not have chosen to stick yourself in) to write down anything that comes to mind about a particular topic? Well, please allow me to now take the role of that teacher! Grab a piece of paper or the nearest whiteboard (a note-taking app is a passable substitute) and start jotting down any activities that seem the least bit interesting to you!

As your teacher probably once said – nothing is off limits! Reading, skydiving, eating watermelon, learning to croquet, mastering the art of sumo-wrestling, and silent retreats are all equally welcome on your brainstorming list. Get creative; you’re not committing to anything yet.

B. How much do you really know about your hometown?
If you’ve lived in your area for a while you are probably already familiar with its offerings. Still, you may surprise yourself with what you learn if you talk to a few local friends, search a tourism website or even type activities that interest you into your search bar. Go ahead and write down anything that seems remotely appealing to you – you’re not making any decisions yet; you’re just taking inventory!

Since you won’t be flying to an island paradise, it is important to also spend some time thinking about what some things are that you want a break from! One way to help ensure that your staycation remains focused on what you want it to be about is to eliminate the things you don’t want to take up space in your mind! Here’s a common list of things that you may want to distance yourself from, even a little bit, to give you some ideas:

  • Phone
  • Work email
  • Certain chores (cooking, cleaning, changing diapers?)
  • A boring or unhelpful habit you may have
  • Social Media
  • Alarm clocks!


Step 3: Put the pieces together

Okay, now you’re armed with most of the information you need to put your fabulous staycation together. You know what you like. You know what you don’t like. You know what’s available. You know how much time you want to spend, and where and with whom you want to be spending it. And most importantly, you know your purpose and budget.

Will you be enjoying a quiet weekend retreat camping in the backyard with your family? Or, will you be a solo tourist in your own town for a week, submerging yourself in the culture that’s been hidden under your nose all along? Mix-and-match as you see fit, and enjoy!

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Cameron is a Registered Clinical Counsellor in Vancouver. Having completed a Masters’s degree in Counselling Psychology, as well as additional post-graduate training in performance psychology, his work focuses on helping clients discover and live the best versions of their lives. Cameron’s therapeutic approach utilizes the extensive mindfulness training that he is involved with, integrated into a framework of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. When not assisting clients with their goals, Cameron can be probably be found searching for unique ways to push his own physical and psychological limits.