11 Creative Staycation Ideas When You Need a Change of Scenery

Here's how to have a vacation when you can't travel.

Feeling cooped up, but not ready or able to take a full-on vacation? Enter the staycation, which offers a refreshing break from monotony without straying far from home (or, in some cases, leaving home at all).

With a little creativity, it's amazing how much you can break up your routine and free yourself from the rut of your usual surroundings. From playing tourist in your own city to camping in your backyard, read on for 11 of the best staycation ideas to plan anytime.

A couple sitting in camping tent looking at sunset.
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1. Go camping.

An activity that lets you (safely) explore your local area, immerses you in the healing power of the great outdoors, offers a complete change of scenery, requires learning new skills, and is inherently socially distant? We call that a staycation win. If the pandemic has you and your family stir-crazy, camping is a sure cure to cabin fever. Even backyard (or living room) camping can be a fun change of pace, if you don't have easy access to campgrounds in your area. To help you pack, check out our full list of camping gear to buy before it sells out.

2. Stay at a local hotel, resort, or bed-and-breakfast.

If you're more in the mood to be pampered, skip camping and book a room at a local hotel, resort, or quirky bed-and-breakfast. It's the perfect way to see your town through fresh eyes and play tourist for the weekend.

3. Visit a national, state, or any local park.

Scenic view of Ruby Falls in Helen, Georgia
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If you're lucky enough to have a national or state park in your town or nearby, take advantage and go exploring. Most parks have a variety of outdoor activities on offer, from hiking and biking to climbing, kayaking, and wildlife-watching. A county or local park will also do — pack a picnic and plan some fun activities for your time in the sunshine.

4. Do the touristy things.

You may live in a town that lots of people visit, yet you've never gone full tourist and explored the area's main attractions. A staycation is the perfect excuse to finally check off those landmarks and activities. If you live in a major city, consider purchasing a pass that bundles several attractions at a discount, such as CityPass or Go City. This way, you'll save on admission and have several spots to experience.

5. Enjoy a local museum, science center, or gallery.

What do out-of-towners do when they visit your city? Beyond the big tourist attractions, there are cultural and historical institutions you may have never thought to visit; a staycation is the perfect time to do so. Look for a cultural outing dedicated to local history, area artists, or scientific research for a refreshing change of pace from your usual routine. You may learn something new about the area, the world, or yourself.

6. Rent an Airbnb.

Is there a neighborhood in your city that you've always wanted to explore further, or an area you frequent but never spend the night in? Make weekend plans to visit this part of town and stay in an Airbnb. (You can also arrange for a house swap if it's with someone you trust.) Booking an Airbnb offers a new perspective on your own stomping grounds, and you might even meet a new friend while you're at it.

7. Book a spa day.

Woman getting a tropical massage facial beauty treatment at a spa
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Dedicate a full day to indulgent self-care by checking yourself in at a local spa, whether it's located in a nearby resort or is a stand-alone location. Many spas charge a fee for day pass access unless you've booked a treatment, so spring for a pampering service (or a full day of back-to-back appointments). Tip: Pack some reading material to peruse while you spend the day unwinding — it's a vacation for the mind and body.

8. Try something spontaneous.

Set aside a weekend for spontaneous adventure. A few days before the weekend hits (or on Friday afternoon, depending on just how spur-of-the-moment you want to be), take a peek at the HotelTonight app and book the first great deal you see. You may find hotels in your city (or the next town over) offering empty rooms at rock-bottom prices. During your stay, don't make any plans: Simply meander the neighborhood by foot (or via a rented bicycle) and stop at whatever interests you, whether it's a park, bookstore, restaurant, or particularly interesting architecture.

9. Take a food tour.

For a new, mind-opening experience without having to go far, take a food tour of your city or somewhere nearby. Sign up for a professionally organized trip with a guide if available, or arrange your own tour with multiple stops for small plates or single courses at a variety of restaurants you've always wanted to try. Alternatively, theme your tour and sample various takes on the same dish, whether that's dessert, tacos, or appetizers.

10. Have some hygge.

Transform your everyday surroundings by prioritizing cozy: light your favorite candle, crack open a book, cook a hot meal that reminds of your favorite destination, and break out every blanket you own for a taste of this Danish self-soothing concept. You can also order a loungewear set to really dress for the occasion.

11. Take a virtual tour.

When the pandemic hit, many establishments went digital, offering virtual tours to those stuck at home. And it seems like virtual travel may be here to stay. Explore museums, national parks, European castles, or bucket-list attractions like Machu Picchu without getting off your couch. You can even experience destinations like Tel Aviv and New York City, or go on a stunning train ride, all from home.

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