In a recent column, I discussed how to avoid the post-vacation blues by being proactive. I've heard from many of you, however, that between hectic schedules and tight budgets this summer it's been impossible to plan a vacation in the first place.
In light of this, it occurred to me to write about taking a "staycation" -- in other words, trying to create the feel of a vacation while not really taking one.
Here's the conundrum: Most of us haven't figured out how home can possibly be a haven. In fact, clients often report that their own backyard is the last place they'd think of as Shangri-la.
But there are ways to vacation without ever leaving home. Here's a roadmap for some staycation preparation:
Rather than taking off a large chunk of time from work, rearrange your family's schedule enough to set aside three long weekends.
Between now and the first long weekend, take time to consider household projects which, once completed, will help you experience your home in a more relaxing way. Perhaps it's landscaping, a fresh coat of paint on the patio furniture, or resurrecting those lawn games from a bygone era. Maybe you just need to reorganize your kitchen or dining area so that you can host a leisurely weekend with friends or family.
Plan out the targeted projects in terms of timing and budget, aiming to have them completed before the last long weekend you've set aside.
Use the first long weekend to tackle as many of these projects as possible. Determine what you can realistically accomplish so as not to set yourself up for undue stress. Devote another 30 minutes each weekday to these projects to maintain your momentum.
Meanwhile, use your time commuting to work or relaxing around the dinner table to daydream about the perfect weekend staycation. Is your whole family there? Maybe the couple from down the street, or some old friends? Or is it just you and your partner unencumbered by the chaos of life and children?
Put your vision on paper and consider the steps needed to make it a reality. Maybe you'll only need to plan for a few celebratory feasts. Perhaps your aspirations are bigger and your staycation involves going to a concert or a ball game. Talk to your family, see how their dreams could augment your plans, and delegate the necessary steps to implement them.
Now use the second long weekend to finish up these projects and get all the elements from the above step in place -- maybe even set aside what you'll wear that weekend, almost as if you were packing for an actual vacation.
Finally, on the third long weekend, rest, relax, and enjoy the fruits of your labor with your closest friends and family around.
Much of the negativity we experience after traditional vacationing is due to the fact that usually we return home to a pile of responsibilities. Taking a vacation without having tackled these responsibilities, especially if we're spending money we don't have, only adds to the stress.
By flip-flopping the stress and the reward, however, and staycationing only once you've accomplished something, you'll absolve yourself of guilt, feel refreshed and rejuvenated, and discover that you've been surprisingly productive in the process.