Cropped staycation

How to Holiday at Home

When I was growing up we rarely went away. There was a week in a caravan park, which was painfully close quarters to my family because I was in the bad books for being caught smoking the week before. A camping trip where Mum dragged us out of bed to see Halley’s Comet and instead we saw a couple doing it in the bushes. And a fortnight in a seaside town where, stupidly, I read Jaws and was therefore too scared to go swimming.

We didn’t have much money, so I suppose that’s why, but I never felt the odd one out. In the ’80s people didn’t travel like they do today. Now it’s so commonplace for whole families to fly somewhere fabulous for the holidays that the cool kids online have given staying home a name: staycation.

Maybe that title is supposed to soften the blow of being at home when everyone else is somewhere exotic, but it feels a little like it’s compensating for some kind of disappointment or shame, where there should be none.

In many ways, I prefer a staycation. They can be far more restful and don’t need to be dull. You just need to plan ahead to make sure you don’t spend the whole time tidying up your floordrobe or boring your kids stupid with crafternoons. It can be easy to get sucked into domestic home life, and feel like you’ve wasted your annual leave on running errands and weeding. To avoid this, I like to re-create the feeling of being away as much as possible.

First, turn off your phone. I know there will be withdrawals. You will be convinced you’re missing out on some crucial phone call. I promise you, you’re not. Think about who has called you today. Not President Obama. Not Ryan Gosling. Not even an on-air call from Today offering a cash jackpot. Your partner or kids? Yep, they’re with you on your holiday. Anyone else, no matter how much you love them, is probably going to make some demand on your time. And that’s no holiday.

If you struggle with separation, allow yourself 30 minutes a day to check in with parents and friends, and also to extend your credit card limit. But imagine you’re paying the rates of a call from Iceland and make it quick. You’ve got relaxing to do.

Equally obvious, don’t set an alarm. Holiday time restraints should only ever be about catching flights and the last of the breakfast buffet, and as you don’t have either at your disposal, leave the clock watching for the working version of you. The same working version that always wears a bra. For the staycation version, bras are optional. As are showers, vegetables and exercise.

Don’t get me wrong. You should definitely keep your body moving. But don’t do it in a gym. People on holidays should not be shoving themselves into a hamster wheel. No, for exercise I recommend sandcastle building, dog walking or – my favourite – getting out your dusty, disused exercise DVDs and giving yourself 20 minutes of panting attempts at the grapevine, or New York Ballet Pilates, until you give up and collapse on the couch with a packet of chips and a gin and tonic.

While you’re on the couch, there is one part of your staycation that it is crucial to get right: the Box Set. Obviously, TV viewing will feature highly during a week spent with your bum fused to the couch. Especially on the nights when you can’t think of a reason to go to bed. This is when the Box Set becomes your companion, best friend and, in the case of the Justin Timberlake concert series that kept me going one summer, lover.

Sure you can go to the movies. Have the occasional date night out at Gold Class. Take the kids to a whole day of Disney cartoons to soak up the aircon in a 40-degree heatwave. They’re great things to do. But all it will take is a chance encounter with Sue and Phil from over the back fence and suddenly you’re squarely back in suburbia. I’m sure they’re lovely people, but you wouldn’t see them in Bali, so you don’t want to see them now.

A good Box Set will see you through the holidays and hopefully mean that you have no need for local television at all. After all, a break from the day-to-day should include a respite from the dreadful summer stop-gap TV we’re dumped with. Don’t waste your time with repeats of Two and a Half Men and a few episodes of an American cop series shown out of sequence.

Holiday guides will tell you of museums, galleries, parks and drives you should do, and by all means do them. But do something different as well. When I was little we would pile into Mum’s car, go to a random intersection, choose a colour, and when the first car came along of that colour, we would follow it, just to see where we ended up. I think they call it stalking these days.

One last tip. If you’re staycationing with a partner, make the most of your time together when the kids are in bed. You don’t need the light of Halley’s Comet to get in the mood. What will make it extra satisfying is remembering how the friend you waved off to Thailand is probably – after getting their toddler to sleep in a portacot – making silent ninja love because they weren’t prepared to spring for a two-bedroom villa.

Staycation? There’s no better way to chillax.

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