Park all the housework, it’s pandemic staycation time. Here’s how to make your time off feel like a break from quarantine, even from home

For most people who don’t have a cabin or cottage to safely retreat to, a traditional summer vacation isn’t likely on the horizon. Certainly, this will save money. But many Canadians are desperate to have a change of scenery so they can feel recharged and less frazzled.

If you’re looking at a staycation (or even camping locally), keep one thing in mind: no matter how much money you throw at it, unless you make a pointed effort to make your staycation feel like a vacation, you’re not going to get the rejuvenation you need.

Here’s a financially and mentally healthy staycation framework you can work within, and it all starts with making your staycation feel different from just another day in quarantine.

Avoid the chore trap

Possibly the worst thing you can do for your mental health at this point in the pandemic is use your staycation to work your tail off. Park all the housework, homework, home improvements, courses, errands and the like. It’s called a break for a reason; you need to pause your work to recharge your batteries.

Set an ideal staycation budget that keeps you well under the 10 per cent spending average, and out of credit card debt.

Even staycations need budgets. To derive the greatest satisfaction from this break, you should spend the money joyfully on what matters most to you, and without the guilt of overspending. The average person in Canada spends about 10 per cent of their annual take-home pay on vacations every year. Stats show that this is too much, leading to a vacation hangover credit card balance of about $ 1,100. That excess debt is stressful.

My budget recommendation is twofold; first, spend five per cent versus 10 per cent on your staycation so that you won’t have unnecessary credit card debt. This should be easy to do because you won’t be booking airfare. Second, earmark a little bit of savings for a 2021 break (you probably have some from not paying for gym fees and dinners out over the past few months), when you’ll hopefully have more vacation varieties to choose from.

Unlike previous years, you may have fewer deals

The law of economics states that very few bargains will be found once restrictions are fully lifted, and that’s because just about everyone will be taking a holiday, booking activities and more. Demand surges lead to higher prices. When you’re budgeting, don’t bank on getting a deal on a camping spot, park passes or a vacation rental. But, you may be able to split some costs with other people, such as booking a barbecue in a safe outdoor public park (you’ll need a permit), and that will offset some costs. Using travel points to pay for your staycation expenses, like a car rental, is another method to reduce costs.

Make a list of staycation luxuries and activities

Define what luxuries matter to you; hiking, biking, renting a motorcycle, drinking wine, pampering yourself, suntanning, restaurants, wine, super crisp bed sheets, theme parks, U-pick farms, fishing, beaches, reading and more. You’ll want to incorporate as much of this into your staycation as possible, and still stay within budget.

For me, the idea of not cooking for an entire week, after having cooked nearly every meal at home since mid-March, sounds luxurious. And that’s exactly why I’ll be scheduling daily takeout, delivery and patio dates when our staycation happens in July. For you, it might be meaningful to kick off your staycation with a clean home, by having a cleaning service whip your house into tip-top shape on the first day of your staycation (practising social distancing, of course).

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If you keep within budget you won’t feel any financial guilt when paying for these staycation luxuries, which is relaxing in and of itself.

I know that staying home for vacation after staying home for COVID-19 might seem awful, but it can actually be relaxing, very safe and great for your wallet. But, as with most things in life, it’s up to you to set the pace of relaxation, relative to your norm, so you can feel satisfied.

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