The personal-finance site WalletHub recently rated 182 U.S. cities on their suitability for staycations.
A staycation is a chance to play tourist in your own home area, to visit the sites you normally see only when you’re hosting guests from out of town, to reap some of the rejuvenating benefits of travel without the hassles of travel. It’s a dedicated number of days pursuing leisure activities within short range of home. It may or may not include overnight accommodations outside one’s residence. It eliminates the nightmare of air travel.
“[T]hink like you are a tourist in your own backyard,” advises Stephen Pratt, Department Chair, Tourism, Events and Attractions, Rosen College of Hospitality Management, University of Central Florida in Orlando.
How do you do that?
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Ira Rosen, Associate Professor of Event Management at Temple University’s School of Sport, Tourism and Hospitality Management in Philadelphia, says the key to a successful staycation is “research, research, research. … Treat your staycation as if you were traveling to a destination. If you remove the fact that you are a local and approach your destination as if you were a tourist, it puts you in a different mindset, which after all is the goal of a staycation or a traditional vacation.”
- Check out your local tourism office — online, in-person, or both. They should be able to give you lots of ideas of things to do.
- Search for discounts for locals.
- Consult books. I like to peruse at least two tour books. And consider reading a novel set in your home area; it helps put you in an exploring frame of mind.
Prep your home.
You want it to be at least as nice as a hotel.
- Clean thoroughly or have it done.
- Do the laundry and put it away.
- Set out candles and fresh flowers.
Plan your food.
The more you do now, the less you’ll have to do on your staycation.
Stock up on a variety of easy-to-prep breakfast items, like:
- breakfast breads
- cream cheese
- chocolate spread
snacks and light lunch
Most days, you’ll be eating lunch out, but it’s good to have some light fare at home for when the mood strikes:
- cold cuts
- tuna salad
- hard-boiled eggs
- ice cream
Plan on dining out or ordering in most nights. On your last night, you can heat up a buffet of left-overs and relive the great meals of your staycation.
Buy a special bottle of wine or spirit — an old favorite or something you’ve always wanted to try. Consider a liqueur or fortified wine for nightcaps. Have plenty of bottled water for your excursions. And don’t forget the coffee!
Plan a flexible itinerary.
You can change your plans in the moment, but having a rough idea of what you want to do each day will help you keep momentum. Be sure to make reservations and order timed-entry passes as necessary. Here are some activities to consider:
- Take a tour — a walking tour, a trolley tour, a boat tour.
- Stroll downtown, a historic district, the waterfront on your own. Pop into shops, cafés, etc. that intrigue you.
- Visit museums. Some options:
Major art, history, science museums in your city.
Smaller museums focussed on local history and culture.
Historic homes of prominent individuals, like authors, inventors, statesmen.
Living-history museums — these are good for getting out and walking.
- Do something physical:
Hike a local park.
Go to the batting cages.
- Indulge at a day spa.
- Take a class — cooking, dancing, photography, anything that intrigues you.
- Tour a local winery, brewery, distillery, cidery.
- Visit a zoo or aquarium.
- Take a day trip. Go to the beach, an amusement park, any attraction an hour or so from your home.
- Spend a quiet day at home enjoying a hobby.
- Explore new restaurants — especially those with cuisines you haven’t tried before.
- See live theatre — a major production or a small community-group performance or a free show in a park.
- Go to a sporting event.
- Have a fun night in — play games; watch movies. Order delivery. Eat favorite snacks.
According to WalletHub, these are the best cities in America for a staycation:
I once enjoyed a fabulous five-day vacation (before starting a horrible new job) in the Aloha State’s capital city. The WalletHub study found Honolulu tied with Las Vegas, Nevada; New York, New York; Orlando, Florida, and Los Angeles, California, for the most spas per capita.
I’ve been many times to the City Beautiful, but my favorite trip was when my maternal grand-mother took 26 of us on a week-long family vacation to Disney World. The study found Orlando tied with Las Vegas, Nevada; Miami, Florida; Tampa, Florida, and Gulfport, Mississippi, for most zoos and aquaria per capita and with Las Vegas; Miami; Tampa, and San Antonio, Texas, for most ice-cream and frozen-yogurt shops per capita.
When I lived in Newport Beach, I used to road trip to the Neon City with a friend; now I go back as often as I can. There are countless things to do in Las Vegas; some of my favorites include: tour the Mob Museum, see a Rat Pack tribute show, and enjoy the fabulous restaurants and over-the-top hotels.
I once snuck away from a blogging conference to explore the Beehive State’s capital city. Somewhat surprisingly, WalletHub found that Salt Lake City has the most coffee and tea shops per capita.
I’ve twice spent several days in the Holy City and look forward to going back. The study found Charleston tied with New Orleans, Louisiana, for most museums per capita.
I’ve been several times to the Windy City and used to fly out to meet a friend there early in the Christmas season. Chicago boasts one Michelin three-star restaurant: Alinea, known for “Creative, Modern Cuisine”.
My family visited friends in the Queen City for several days during a road trip. Things to do include: go on a day trip to the King’s Island amusement park and watch the Reds, America’s oldest professional baseball team, play a game.
I’ve been many times to the Big Easy, and am always ready to go back. There’s enough to do in New Orleans to fill a lifetime; classic activities include: pay respects at a historic cemetery, tour the National World War II Museum, and indulge in the fabulous food.
I’ve also been several times to the Peach State’s capital city, and look forward to returning. Things to do in Atlanta include: explore the World of Coca-Cola, tour the Margaret Mitchell House, and visit the Georgia Aquarium.
I’ve stopped in the Rose City while road tripping along the spectacular coast of Maine. Things to do in Portland include: hit the beach, sail on a schooner, and eat seafood.
I’ve been many times to the Big Apple, from childhood visits to my paternal grand-parents’ home to a fun group trip last year. The study found New York tied with Portland, Oregon; Washington, D.C.; Austin, Texas, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin, for most beer gardens per capita.