Updated on 03.11.16

Make the Most of Your ‘Stay-Cation’

Trent Hamm

Staying at home over a break can be fun and relaxing, if you do it smartly.

Right about the time you are reading this, I’m waving good bye to my family as they travel a bit during spring break. They’re going to visit my mother-in-law and both of my wife’s sisters on this trip. For obvious reasons, I would be the adult “third wheel” on this trip and there are pets at home that need some care, so I’ll be staying behind.

I have enough writing completed that I can essentially take a few days off, effectively making a four day weekend for myself where I’m home alone. I have no work responsibilities, no child care responsibilities, no husband responsibilities. I just have to take care of a dog, two rabbits, and a fish for a few days.

In other words, this is a “stay-cation” for me.

Let’s back up for a second. What’s a “stay-cation”? A stay-cation is simply a period of time spent at home with minimal work and personal responsibilities, enabling you to have the time to spend on things that you want to do at home but never seem to be able to have the time to complete.

For example, a stay-cation is a great time to spend several hours on a hobby that you have a hard time devoting enough time to. It’s a great time to work on a home improvement project. It’s a great time to sleep in late without an alarm clock. It’s a great time to stay up late playing a game or watching a movie. The options go on and on and on.

The best part? A stay-cation is usually dirt cheap. You’re not staying in a hotel. You’re not driving anywhere. You’re usually not eating out. It’s an incredibly enjoyable way to relax and detach from the stresses of life without adding any money worries to your life.

I personally relish my stay-cations and I try to find an opportunity to enjoy one or two of them a year. I sleep in. I don’t worry about the children (much). I usually don’t worry about work. I just enjoy some free time and get some things done.

For example, here’s what I have planned for this stay-cation.

I’m not setting the alarm on any of the days. The earliest “scheduled” event that I have starts at 10 AM. I haven’t slept in until 10 AM in more than a decade. Still, I’m going to sleep until I feel like waking up.

I’m going to install some wall-mounted shelving. This is my big home improvement project for this current stay-cation. I’m going to take down my current free-standing shelves and install some track-and-standard shelves in that room. I really badly want sturdy but still adjustable shelves.

I’m going to play a few very long board games that I usually don’t have time to play. Some of my favorite games take six to ten hours to play. Those kinds of games are rarely feasible in my normal day to day life. I’m hoping to play at least two of them with friends during this stay-cation.

I’m going to thoroughly clean and reorganize my work space. It’s a mess and has been a mess for a while. Part of this involves pulling almost everything out of my office, getting rid of quite a few things as I do it (either as trash or for an eventual yard sale), and putting everything back.

I’m going to read at least three books. My plan is to spend the mornings installing the shelves and cleaning the office, then spend the afternoons doing relaxing things. When I’m not playing games, I intend to curl up with some books.

I’m going to eat some of my favorite simple foods that the rest of my family doesn’t like. This means dishes with mushrooms. This means copious amounts of hot sauce. This means sauerkraut. I love all of that stuff… but I’m basically alone in my family in loving those foods. This week, I’m going to enjoy all of them.

All of those things sound incredibly enjoyable to me – some of them due to the simple act of doing them and others for the outcome of doing them.

For me, that’s the core principle of a “stay-cation”: Do some things that are enjoyable in the moment and do other things that are going to provide lots of enjoyment down the road. If you do a little bit of both, you’re going to feel incredibly refreshed at the end of your stay-cation.

Here are a few other valuable tips that I’ve figured out after having a dozen or so stay-cations over the years.

Don’t over-book your time. I’m pretty sure I could take care of everything on that to-do list in just two days if I bore down hard on it and approached it with a high intensity. Doing that, though, kind of defeats the purpose. Take on these tasks at a slower pace. Don’t be afraid to be distracted a little or get sucked into the details of a sub-task.

The first time or two that I had a stay-cation, I made up this giant list of things that I wanted to do or get done. I wound up feeling stressed out over the whole thing and felt just as burnt out at the end as I did when it started. That defeats much of the purpose of a stay-cation. Give yourself tons of breathing room so that if you’re feeling overwhelmed or burnt out, you can just go curl up in bed with a good book.

excited guy drinking coffee

A stay-cation is like being at home, but with none of the usual responsibilities – so enjoy yourself. Photo: Regan Walsh

Focus on things you don’t normally have time for in your life. Rather than spending time on things I would ordinarily do at home, I’m instead focusing on things that I normally gloss over because I don’t have the time. For example, the items that I want to put on these shelves are stored all over the place, but because clearing out the space and installing shelves would take such a long time, it’s been something I’ve been putting off. Now’s the time to actually get it done.

Look around your house. What one big un-done task would make you feel really good if it were completed? That’s a brilliant question to ask yourself before a stay-cation.

Do some things that are purely fun and set aside whole days or large portions of days for those things. For me, “fun” means curling up with a good book or playing an engrossing game. So, part of any stay-cation for me involves significant blocks of time for those things. I’m hoping to read an entire trilogy of novels during this stay-cation, and I’m also hoping to get some board games played that are normally too long to play.

What things are purely fun for you? In particular, what fun things do you never seem to really have time for in your day to day life? Make room for that stuff during your stay-cation and you’ll deeply enjoy it.

Do a thing or two that will make life easier when you return to “normal life.” This will often overlap with that big un-done task, but not always.

For example, this “stay-cation” I’m hoping to completely clean up my work space where I do most of my writing. I have a lot of piles of books and miscellaneous papers all over the place and I need to go through the books, put them on the shelves, go through the papers and notes, and either move them to an electronic form or trash them. There are probably good ideas for 100 articles for The Simple Dollar – I just need to find them.

This will honestly be my least favorite task that I take on during the “stay-cation,” but it’s something that will make me happier and more productive virtually every working day thereafter.

Eat well and get plenty of sleep. A stay-cation is the perfect opportunity to get your body back on the right track. For me, that means getting lots of sleep, but that also means eating good meals – and I don’t mean just tasty meals, either.

As a friend of mine used to say, meals are either cheap, quick, tasty, or healthy – choose two of them. Most of the time, “quick” is a choice that’s foisted upon me. During a “stay-cation” I can stick to the two that matter the most to me – healthy and tasty. Yeah, I might have to spend more time doing meal preparation, but the food I eat is going to be both tasty and good for my body. Often, that’s not a choice I can make in daily life, sad as that is.

Similarly, a stay-cation is a great time to sleep until you naturally rise, which is a very powerful way for getting your energy back and feeling better. Take advantage of it.

In the end, a stay-cation is a very inexpensive and yet very fulfilling way to utilize time away from work and from other responsibilities. I actually have come to prefer “stay-cations” for my free time – although we still go on annual family vacations, I find that stay-cations usually leave me feeling far more refreshed and fulfilled at the end than travel does.

The next time you have some time away from work, consider a stay-cation. You might be very glad that you did and your wallet certainly won’t complain!

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