Planning the Ultimate Staycation

Ransom Riggs

Ever since my trip to New Zealand last Spring, I'm hooked on international travel. I've been dreaming up new trips left and right, and when I heard that absurdly expensive airline ticket prices were starting to drop, I thought my fantasy vacations to Thailand and the South Pacific were suddenly no-brainers -- but then a quick check of sites like brought me back to cruel reality; I'd still need to pony up about a thousand bucks just to reach any of those spots. So like millions of other Americans, I'm considering sticking around the homefront instead.

According to the neologism du jour, what I'm planning is called a "staycation." So what is a staycation, and how is it different from what I do at home normally?

A staycation is life unplugged. Home is where I'm most connected -- I've got phones, computers, internet-enabled gadgetry -- and the constant temptation to check in is an unwelcome stressor. Unplug them, if you dare. You'll be glad you did. You can certainly do it for a few days -- heck, my undergrad thesis adviser, poet John Kinsella, just announced that's he's going offline more or less permanently: "Some time early next year, I will be going off-line pretty well. I will have to maintain some computer access through my university research fellowship, and to communicate with students, but otherwise I am reverting to snailmail and a much diminished use of computer technology. I have been writing poetry in pen and on a manual typewriter since I was a kid, and once wrote entirely in pen and on a manual typewriter ... Anyway, it's time to step off the techno bandwagon and revert."

Choose an end date to your staycation, just as you would any normal vacation. Otherwise it runs the risk of just feeling like you're suddenly unemployed.

Explore your area. Just because you're not leaving town doesn't mean you can't leave your house. I'll bet there are plenty of things to do in your area that you've never tried -- a great restaurant, a hiking trail, a river to kayak down; this is certainly true of the greater LA area, where I live. I could try something new every day for a year and never run out of new options. And even though some of them may cost a bit of money, think of all the money you're saving on gas, airfare, hotels and not getting pickpocketed by local urchins at the train station.

See movies on the big screen. No, not your 50-inch flatscreen -- an actual theater. 'Tis the season for quality films to be released: awesome movies now playing include Milk, Slumdog Millionaire, Changeling and even the new Bond flick. But you might want to skip the popcorn.

Books! Remember books? How you gaze at them longingly as they sit taunting you on the shelf, wishing you had time to read them? Now you do! If you haven't already, check out John Green's Paper Towns.

Take staycation pictures. Why is it most of the pictures we have of ourselves are taken when we're far away from home, in unfamiliar surroundings, wear goofy tourist clothes? Looking back at my personal stash of photos, I always wish I had taken more slice-of-life pics of everyday things -- my old house, my old school, my old cat, etc. Not some statue in Italy I'll never see again. So get out your camera and use this staycation as an excuse to document your native environs.

Spend a night in a local hotel. It's amazing how you can get away from it all without really going anywhere. Sometimes the best escape is just around the corner, as my wife and I have discovered; pick an inexpensive night to stay at a nice place, get room service, take advantage of the spa downstairs. (Maybe skip the complimentary Botox injections, though.)

Graphic courtesy the Sacramento Bee.

And now for a thematically-appropriate song.