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Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada in Toronto. (Nathan Denette/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada in Toronto. (Nathan Denette/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Can staycationing ever feel like a real holiday? Add to ...

The old concept of being a tourist in your own town isn’t made any more enticing by applying the grating “staycation” label. But rather than viewing home-based holidays as an admission of failure, the trick is to be creative.

Even if you can afford an overseas jaunt this year, taking an additional break without leaving your digs is also a restorative way to unplug and unwind. But it only works with total commitment and proper planning.

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“Take care of cleaning, bill-paying and any other work or household chores the week before your staycation,” advises money-saving lifestyle blogger Taya Knight (simplyfrugal.ca). “It puts a real damper on the fun if you’re still thinking about these while you’re on vacation.”

Even more important is deciding exactly how to fill your break. “The idea is to step out of your everyday routine – it’s a good opportunity to be adventurous. Try something you’ve always wanted to do like art classes or visiting local wineries,” says Knight, adding hiking and backyard tenting as further ways to eschew the norm.

I’d also recommend buying a walking guide to your hometown and exploring lesser-known neighbourhoods. Or taking the fully guided route with food, photography or even ghost tours – see Tours by Locals (toursbylocals.com) for inspiration.

“Staycations are perfect for trying those new restaurants you’ve been meaning to get to,” says Knight. While Groupon and coupon books can help encourage culinary exploration, she adds, “it’s also okay to splurge – you’re on vacation after all.”

Budget-conscious blogger Ruth Soukup (livingwellspendingless.com), makes the point that successful staycations can be especially challenging for families.

“Decide exactly when your vacation at home starts and ends,” she says, suggesting possible prohibitions on everything from computers and phones to cooking, cleaning and laundry.

Once the ground rules are set, get the family onboard – especially those eye-rolling teens who’d rather die than be separated from their shiny gadgets. “Hold a family meeting to hear what everyone wants to do. For spontaneity, consider putting everyone’s ideas in a jar, then selecting one activity each day.”

But don’t leave it all to chance. After gathering restaurant and take-out menus – or planning a freezer cooking session for the week – you’ll need a dedicated calendar of events.

“Try alternating something quiet – going to the library or a movie – with something more active like canoeing or paddleboarding,” says Soukup, adding that her family’s staycation faves have included geocaching, factory tours and spectator sports.

Like regular holidays, cherished family time should be the goal, she continues, suggesting that staycationers consider hosting family board-game tournaments or creating day-long film festivals where family members each select a movie based on a theme.

Alternatively, tackle a family project. “Have the kids been begging for a tree house or wanting to redecorate their rooms? Spend the week together working on something to improve your home. You’ll not only bond, but at the end of the week you’ll have something to show for your time.”

If your offspring eventually start to get itchy feet, turn the computer back on for one day only. “Several amazing museums offer virtual tours online, including the Louvre, Sistine Chapel and Smithsonian. My kids really enjoyed the tours of the children’s museums in Boston and Miami.”

OUR READERS WRITE

  • I struggle with the word [staycation]. Always sounds like something questionable ordered off the hotel room’s features list. Nevertheless if in Vancouver, especially in winter, then a visit to the Aquarium’s rainforest room and a walk through a new-to-you neighbourhood. @earnestgirl
  • Book the nicest hotel you can afford and cocoon in luxury for 24 hours. You’ve seen the sights already. @ckjnewberry
  • Make specific plans at scheduled times (e.g. buy tickets in advance) or you could end up wiling away hours doing regular chores. @candicebest
  • Buy travel cards or a week-long transit pass to avoid the temptation to sleep in. List must-see exhibits for all-weather options. @chibeba
  • Pick a week with a major local festival you want to attend. Then you won’t be as tempted to postpone. @OttawaRoadTrips
  • Don’t overplan. Leave a few days open for yourself and let things unfold. @Kmarano
  • Check with your local tourism association to see if they have things like attraction passports for locals. @Miss604
  • I love checking into a local hotel for a staycation. And of course dining out in ’hoods that we don’t frequent. @YashYanthi
  • Begin with breakfast out first morning. Book 1 experience each day – theatre tix, kayaking, food tour. Add beach, hikes, shops. @DearAnnTravels
  • Go offline and stay offline for the staycation, (as hard as that can be). Involve the entire family in activity planning. @travelling_mom
  • Look for hidden gems in your hometown. We live in a busy cottage country town and seek out quiet beaches. On the flip side, play tourist for a day and support local businesses and restaurants – the people watching is always fun. @JenPinarski
  • Unplug from social media, break out the good wine and start with a clean house. @Adventureskope
  • Pick a spot that feels far away but is very close … like say… B.C.’s Sunshine Coast? :) @Mybcbuzz
  • Take a tour in your town with a group like Urban Adventures [urbanadventures.com]. Have done it a few times. Their “beer makes history better” tour in Toronto and the “Bangkok by bike” tour were best – fortunately not at the same time. @NomadicBruce
  • Research deals for locals. @chengsophia
  • Send the kids to stay with their grandparents? @smallandhungry
  • Buy a hammock. :) @JaniceGFraser
  • UNPLUG. @KurtisKolt

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