For anyone that loves to travel as much as my daughter and I do, a few annual vacations peppered throughout the year doesn't always cut it. So, we've developed a plan to have fun adventures without straying too far from home. That's right; my 11 year old daughter and I have successful staycations.
Making the most out of a staycation is simple: the key is to go outside your neighborhood, and your comfort zone. We like to choose a theme—food from a country like Ethiopia or India, or modern art—and build a day or whole weekend around that.
We live in New York City, so one day might find us hopping on the subway to eat hand-pulled Chinese noodles in Flushing, Queens, or spending the afternoon lazing in a Korean day spa. No matter where you live, the point is that you're exploring communities you're not usually in with the eyes of a curious tourist.
There's something oddly liberating about pulling out a map in the city you live in, discovering new places, and, actually, even getting a little lost. In the same way that we do on a long distance vacation, we always bring home souvenirs from these outings: bright Indian bangles, museum posters and exhibition catalogues, colorful foreign candies.
Of course, a staycation like this is meant to be much less expensive than a road trip or weekend getaway. But even staycations can be splurge-worthy. If we're feel like getting extra pampered, we'll tack on a hotel stay, usually over a weekend so it really feels like we're getting away. For most of those overnight staycations, we'll try to stay somewhere that's far from our neighborhood and the places we frequent. Nothing brings you right back to reality like the waiter at your neighborhood joint asking if you'll have the usual.
One of our favorite staycation hotels is the Soho Grand, since it's in a wonderfully vibrant neighborhood that's great for afternoon strolling, with loads of boutiques and restaurants. (The hotel also offers some charming amenities, like a goldfish to borrow for the room during the stay, which Mini-Me loves.) Properties in business-orientated communities often offer great rates on weekends; so sometimes we'll book the Andaz Wall Street, which is nestled in the financial district and is an easy stroll to bustling and somewhat touristy places we don't typically get to, like the South Street Seaport.
Our last tried-and-true technique involves hotels, but not staying overnight; sometimes we'll have a leisurely afternoon tea or breakfast one morning in a swank hotel restaurant. To make it feel extra special, we hunt down fancier spots than normal. Places like The Surrey and The Mark, both on New York's Upper East Side, are elegant and a touch European. Mini-Me and I have been known to even get dressed up for the occasion.
One thing is for sure, not matter where you are—allow plenty of time to enjoy your staycation and order a few indulgent items. You may not be far from home, but as soon as that chocolate éclair and silver teapot (or glass of champagne) hit the table, it feels like a holiday. Plus, hotels offer the added vacation element of foreigners, suitcases, and families in flux (without you having to cart any of your own luggage around).
And we know we don't have to say it, but better safe than sorry—no work emails or conference calls when you're staycating.
Photo credit: Little Italy via Shutterstock