8 Holiday Staycation Ideas That’ll Scratch Your Travel Itch

“Finding activities that excite, challenge, or bring joy is really important in helping us stay afloat.”

by JR Thorpe
Originally Published: 
A woman in a yurt works on a laptop. These holiday 2020 staycation ideas will scratch your travel it...
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The holidays in 2020 will look and feel very different — not least because, well, traveling isn't a great idea, public health-wise. Looking longingly at holiday posters for far-flung places and flicking through travel magazines miserably? With 2020's holidays all about the 'staycation', it can be difficult to deal with your desire to be somewhere — anywhere — else.

"People get the urge to travel for many reasons," therapist Heidi McBain L.M.H.C. tells Bustle. "They want to see family and friends living afar, to visit new places, to create new adventures and memories, or to go back to a special place year after year because that’s their family tradition."

Itchy feet can affect some people more than others, Cynthia V. Catchings L.C.S.W-S, a therapist at Talkspace, tells Bustle. "Boredom and COVID exhaustion have set in," she says. "The more we think about being stuck in our daily routine, the stronger the itch becomes." Travel, she says, makes us feel a part of something, and fulfills the brain's love of novelty.

If you're feeling rebellious right now, that might contribute to your travel itch, too. "We get restless and frustrated with restrictions placed on us," Catchings says. "For some, the more we hear or read that we should not travel, the more we want to do it."

Right now, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) regards all unnecessary travel as unsafe, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't take the rest of your PTO. McBain suggests using your time off to focus on the positives: with COVID vaccines on track to come out soon, next year's holidays will look very different to this one. If you're still experiencing restlessness and claustrophobia, here are some ways to make a 2020 holiday staycation rewarding and fun.

Have A Self-Care Day

"Prioritize your own self-care so you can be the best version of you as you navigate these hard times," McBain says. Over the past months, you've likely become an expert in what does and doesn't work for you, so make the holidays a bonanza for relaxation. Watching anime for four hours and then ordering a pie via Postmates? A steaming hot shower while singing the hits of the Backstreet Boys? It's all a possibility — just make time and space for it.

Throw An International Pod Party

"Come up with a plan that helps you experience the essence of traveling without having to actually go anywhere," Catchings says. "Whether alone or with people in your bubble, prepare international dishes eaten during the holidays." Experiment with recipes from the places on your bucket list. You can even practice speaking in the language of a country you planned to visit, Catchings says. How do you say "This cake is amazing" in Italian? ("Questa torta é fantastica!" is the answer.)

Identify What You Miss Most About Travel

"One way to cope with not being able to travel is to tune into what your intention of traveling usually is," Naiylah Warren L.M.F.T, staff therapist for mental wellness providers Real, tells Bustle. "Are you looking to have fun? Relax? Meet new people? Try a new cuisine?" Once you identify that, she says, try creating experiences that meet that need.

Travel across town to try a new take-out in a COVID-safe way, lie under a SAD lamp to get some sunshine, attempt a new recipe at home, or join a new online club or game night to meet new people. Warren says you should manage your expectations — it's not going to be the same as traveling for real — but it'll help feed whatever hunger you've got.

Start Saving For Next Year

Maybe this year you can't go anywhere — but that could mean saving up for a blockbuster vacation in the future. "This might give you time to save enough for that big adventure you’ve always wanted to experience," McBain says. Start a holiday savings fund, and get satisfaction from putting your would-be 2020 trip money in there and plotting exciting adventures for the future.

Take A Visualization Trip

"Use creative visualization," Catchings says. "Brain imaging research shows that imagining something lights up similar regions as experiencing it does." That means imagining going on a trip can be almost as powerful as going in real life (and less expensive). "Visualize yourself in other places, with people you love, doing what you would be doing if you were there," she says.

Your brain might tell you that it's not the same, or not real, but Catchings suggests reframing your thoughts to look at the positives of not traveling this year, and then going back to your visualization.

Theme Your Vacation Around Thanking People

Holiday season celebrations are, at root, about gratitude — so your staycation could be themed around helping others and expressing thanks. "Come from a place of gratitude and being thankful for all you do have in life right here and now," McBain says. You could show that through volunteering, donating, or writing notes to people who've shown you support in 2020.

Create New Traditions

So you can't go to your mom's for her trademark roasted yam with marshmallows. Maybe it's time to come up with your own version — perhaps swapping the marshmallows for maple syrup. "Create new family traditions at home, and start planning them now, so you have something fun to look forward to," McBain says. Zoom party while watching The Muppet Christmas Carol, anybody?

Say Goodbye To 2020 With Style

2020 has been a strange year, and Catchings says it could be helpful to think of this as an odd outlier holiday, with new experiences to boot. "This is not an easy time for many of us, but it will not be this way forever," she says. Maybe in a few years you'll look back on 2020's staycation with affection and nostalgia — or at least with a bit of distance. Say goodbye to 2020 during the holiday season, release all the feelings of anxiety or misery you've felt over the course of the year, and maybe burn your calendar in the fireplace.

"Of course many things about this time falls short of actually seeing the world," Warren says. "But finding activities that excite, challenge, or bring joy is really important in helping us stay afloat during such a challenging time."

"Take care of yourself, give to others when and where you can, and focus on the present," Catchings says. And by the 2021 holidays, maybe this will seem like a fever dream, only with more delicious Italian cake.


Cynthia V. Catchings L.C.S.W-S

Heidi McBain L.M.F.T.

Naiylah Warren L.M.F.T,

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