The art of the staycation: Making the ordinary extraordinary


A few weeks ago, my boyfriend, Matt, and I celebrated my birthday with a staycation in our own city. Earlier in the year, I did a window display for a nice hotel in one of Edmonton's popular food/shopping districts, and they gave me a gift certificate for a weekend stay as a thank you. We spent two nights in the hotel, wandered around the neighbourhood, and went out dancing. Friday night we were as excited as we would be for a real vacation, and Sunday I felt relaxed and content, if reluctant to leave our giant hotel bed and amazing view. The joy of staycationning in your own city is that you can do it any time, without any of the hassle (and a lot of the expense) of going out of town, but it still gives that feeling that something special is happening.

Here are some things that I found made our staycation extra special:

  • Plan it ahead of time. I booked this weekend months in advance so we had something to look forward to. Just like with a real vacation, the anticipation is half the fun.
  • Leave the car at home. Our city is pretty spread out and there isn't a lot within walking distance of our home, so we usually drive, take the bus, or ride bikes. This weekend we parked the truck in the hotel parking lot and didn't use it until we checked out. We planned all our activities within a ten-block radius and it was a lot more fun to walk from place to place than to drive.
  • Try something new. We usually tend to visit the same restaurants but for our staycation we decided to try an Italian cafe that neither of us had been to for years. It didn't disappoint. And the fridge in our hotel room meant I had leftovers for lunch on Monday.
  • Make the most of local attractions. There's a beautiful 100 year-old movie theatre on the street we were staying on. They play independent and art-house movies and we usually tend to skip over it when we're choosing from dozens of movies to see. But with our choices limited by walking distance we had to pick from only two movies, and we were treated to something we wouldn't normally have seen.
  • Explore: We had more time than usual to explore familiar stores, and to discover new ones. We didn't need any spices, but that didn't keep me from spending a good half hour browsing the shelves of the Silk Road Spice Store and smelling the various curry powders and barbecue rubs. A couple doors down an old fashioned shave shop had recently opened up and one of the clerks led us around showing us the handmade axes, knives and shaving implements. She made us guess what the handle of one of the shavers was made of - neither of us guessed a 30,000-year old woolly mammoth tusk!
  • Read about the city where you're 'vacationing'. In new cities I always grab the free magazines and newspapers on the street to try to get a better feel for the city, but I've stopped bothering here years ago. I grabbed our local free magazine in the movie theatre and read it cover to cover while lounging in the hotel bed - learning all sorts of things about what's going on in the city.
  • Splurge. We don't usually have drinks with dinner but we did this weekend - and with lunch too! I also bought myself a really nice bar of fair trade chocolate that I'm still enjoying.
  • Take advantage of perks. The free continental breakfast at our hotel was delicious but the real treat was the complimentary wine and cheese tasting they do every night. I also made sure to use the robe they provided, and filled up on free teas and lattes.
  • Get up early. We were up and done breakfast before the shops opened Saturday morning and it was nice to take our time and experience the quiet streets before the bustle started.
  • Bring Netflix. Matt pointed out that hanging out and watching Downton Abbey in the middle of the day is not something we would do on a real vacation because we would be worried about missing something in a new city. In a city we've both known for 3 decades, we were okay with escaping for a couple of hours while we rested for our big night out.
  • Invite your friends. The great thing about staycations that you often don't get with a real vacation is that all your friends can come too! We invited our pals out for an Indian buffet dinner, then to come dancing. The best part was that some of the people we invited had already planned to be at the same place, so we all got to hang out together.
  • Stay out late. We went to a blues bar a few blocks from the hotel and listened to live blues music while catching up with friends and dancing. Then at the end of the night we didn't have to worry about getting a cab, we just strolled back to our hotel. It felt pretty good.
  • Dress up. Special occasions call for special outfits. Even if you're not celebrating anything in particular, it's still nice to mix things up with an outfit you wouldn't normally wear. I curled my hair and wore my sparkliest top. When we arrived at the bar a friend's sister thought I was in the band because I was so decked out.
  • Sleep in. Sunday morning we got up just in time for breakfast (though we did miss the bacon and had to settle for sausage) and took our time leaving by the 12pm checkout time. The whole morning felt very luxurious!

Overall I would say the key to a successful staycation is to break out of everyday patterns and do things you might not normally do. Even if the environment is familiar, the way you behave in it isn't. And isn't that the whole point of travel anyway? To shake things up and try something new? You don't need to go far away to create special memories or have new experiences. They might be waiting for you just around the corner.

Have you ever taken a staycation in your own town? What did you discover?