No stringent schedule. Eating new, exotic foods. Getting lost in a page-turning novel. Trying a new activity that takes you outside your comfort zone.
These are the types of things that make for a memorable vacation. The problem is, you're not traveling this year and instead are opting for the increasingly popular staycation.
Yes, you're taking PTO and staying put, but that doesn't mean you can't have an incredible time. In fact, many of the activities that make a traditional vacation so wonderful can be emulated while at home.
To help make your staycation feel like a real getaway, follow these five steps. You'll have just as much fun as leaving town, but you'll save tons of money, plus get to sleep in your own bed.
Limit technology: When you travel to a faraway location, you probably have limited-to-no access to your cell phone and email. That disconnection helps you unwind. Mimic that feeling by limiting your technology use during your staycation.
Leave your phone upstairs, turn the computer off and resist grabbing the tablet. You should consider changing your email and phone message to say you'll have limited access over the time you're off, so people who contact you know it might be awhile until you get back to them.
Escape with a destination-specific book: Want to feel like you're leaving town without leaving the house? Historical fiction can transport you to a different time and place, no matter how short or long your time off. For example, New York Times best-selling author Anita Shreve's newest novel, "The Stars Are Fire," vividly brings 1947 New England to life. Based on a real event - "the year Maine burned," when more than 200 fires raged across the state - the book introduces us to Grace Holland, five months pregnant and the mother to two toddlers. As flames rip through the town, Grace must flee into the ocean to survive, spending the night in the frigid sea as the fire sends debris and smoke onto the beach. In the morning, she discovers her husband missing and her home completely destroyed. Amid devastating loss, Grace must rebuild her family's life, and find strength she didn't know she had. The novel asks her, and its readers: What would you do if you could begin again?
People Magazine called the book "original and gripping," the perfect recipe for a staycation. And USA Today gave the book three and a half out of four stars: "Shreve is masterful at creating compelling characters whose inner conversations about love and intimacy are both heartfelt and heartrending ... [this] quiet novel about marriage, duty and passion lingers long after the last page is turned, like the smoke from a wildfire."
Eat exotic and amazing fare: Every corner of the world offers cuisine that represents the culture of the people who live there. When you travel, eating these types of foods enhances the vacation experience. During your staycation, skip standard weekly meals and try new destination-inspired recipes and make a few at home.
Try your hand at a New England clam bake, the Midwest-famous Watergate Salad or chili rellenos from the southern U.S. states. Or, for a more exotic taste adventure, explore ethnic recipes from around the world. Whatever you choose, you're sure to have fun making and eating the unique dishes.
Drink and be merry: While you're expanding your staycation experience with new cuisine, why not drink that way too? Complement your meals with a traditional location-inspired libation, such as a Manhattan from New York, Mai Tai from Hawaii or Vieux Carre from New Orleans.
Of course there are plenty of non-alcoholic beverages to wet your whistle, too. Feel the southern charm with a traditional sweet tea, or sit down with your book and instead of a classic cup of joe, indulge in an Italian espresso or an iced coffee.
Break routine with a daily adventure: You may be home, but that doesn't mean you can't explore areas of your city that you rarely venture to. By doing new things, you'll feel like you're really on vacation!
Visit that museum. Go to that quiet park. Take a hike down by the river. Go to a movie in the middle of the afternoon. Try something new, such as paddle boarding or rock climbing. Just because you're "home" doesn't mean you can't have unique adventures that make for unforgettable memories.
Staycations continue to grow in popularity, and with these tips, it will truly feel like a getaway rather than just bland days off at home.