Low energy. Difficulty concentrating. Forgetfulness. Headaches. All the signs pointing to stress and anxiety had been lingering for an entire summer, but I, like so many, chose to ignore them. I just need to exercise more. I just need to try meditating or breathing exercises. I just need to eat better. All worthy ideas, but none equated to the true solution to my overworked body and mind. I needed a break. And not just a personal day or long weekend. Like an actual full, email-free week of rest. But with little desire to hop on a plane and jet set to an exotic locale (even that seemed exhausting), I decided to teach myself how to staycation the right way.
Now, to be clear, I’ve attempted a staycation multiple times. Said attempts typically involved staying in my little Brentwood apartment in Los Angeles, lounging around in sweats all day, eating takeout and eventually gravitating to my work emails out of sheer boredom and paranoia. Considering the past year indoors, I knew I needed to get out, even if it was just for a night or two and even if it was just a few miles away from my little abode.
I decided to take a week off in which I would indulge in a little time at home to do the things I hadn’t had the energy to indulge in for months: cooking, working out regularly, hiking with my dog, wine nights with friends, cleaning out my closet, etc. I just needed to slow down, sleep, and do things that felt like me. That said, to break up my little OOO week, I planned an overnight stay at the picturesque Westlake Village Inn & Spa, which is located about 45 minutes outside of Los Angeles.
The 17-acre property’s lush landscape, complete with a lake, cobblestone walkways, vineyards, and beautiful gardens (not to mention luxe spa and amenities) felt like a quick and affordable alternative to an Italian vacation. And, even better, there was no airport stress involved.
While only a one-night stay, my brief wellness getaway (and week-long staycation in general), worked some magic on my tired brain. It’s amazing what some rest, wine, and French fries by the pool can do for the soul. Ahead, my tips on how to master the art of the staycation.
Get Out — Even If It’s Close To Home
First and foremost, when planning a staycation, do a little research. Look up or ask around about some local hidden gems in your area that would be great for your ideal getaway. Think about the things that really allow you to feel rested and relaxed. Is it a secluded cabin or oceanside beach house where you can be left to your own devices completely? Or maybe you enjoy a cool glamping (or camping) set-up that puts you right in the middle of nature, with great hiking trails outside your door. For me, I love an amenity-filled hotel with a spa, pool, and great restaurants within steps of my room. The Westlake Village Inn checked all the boxes for me in that the property houses a boutique spa, two restaurants, and a winery. There was also a pool right outside my door for lazy bikini-clad reading (and the aforementioned French-fry eating). Yes, please.
The beauty of a staycation is that you don’t need much since you’re probably not venturing too far. While a travel bag is ideal, I found success in a small carry-on suitcase for my overnight stay. I kept my packing minimal: a bathing suit, cover-up, dress for dinner, travel outfit for the next day, pajamas, one versatile pair of shoes I could wear with any of my outfits, small makeup bag, travel-friendly iron (have you heard of the Nori Press? It’s a game-changer.) a book, and a goal journal (more on that later).
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Think About What You Love About A Real Vacation — And Do It
As noted above, the key to a truly successful and rejuvenating staycation is ensuring what you partake in actually relaxes you. Don’t do something you don’t want to do just because someone recommends it or because it’s a trendy thing to do. Hiking not your thing? Avoid it like the plague as you risk it ruining your valuable time. Not into yoga retreats? Ditch them for a locale or practice that actually feeds your mind and body. Again, a staycation is and should always be about you and only you.
As for me, I love a spa day, complete with a massage and/or facial, wine tasting, and a decadent meal (preferably one that includes pasta). So, in turn, my staycation included a deep-tissue massage and Vichy shower at the hotel’s Spa Relais, afternoon wine tasting at the property’s winery Stonehaus, and a three-course meal at its fine dining restaurant Mediterraneo, where I enjoyed a big bowl of pappardelle short rib ragu. My goal was to avoid driving or rushing anywhere, so it was convenient to have all my stops just a short walk from my room.
Do Not, I Repeat, Do Not Check Emails, Slack Messages, Or Anything Else
I have a bad habit of checking (and responding to) emails on vacation ... even when the wifi is bad. Yes, I’m that person. This time, however, the level of anxiety and stress this year had imparted on me left me with no other choice but to take a hiatus from Gmail. So, I activated my default vacation message on my email account, and literally, out loud, promised to ignore any and all messages for a week. If I’m honest, I didn’t stick to this promise 100%. Toward the end of the week, I checked and responded to a few emails, but even a few email-free days felt good for the soul.
If you’re able to fully commit to unplugging, I wholeheartedly suggest that you do. Society’s collective dependency on devices makes it virtually impossible to be unreachable, which we should be sometimes. If cutting out email or texting completely is just not realistic, I suggest designating them to specific times of the day and turning off your phone or putting it on silent while you enjoy your time off.
While vacations in my 20s may have involved late nights out on the town, these days, a great night consists of being in bed by 10 p.m. Yes, at the age of 35, sleeping in and clocking eight to 10 hours of sleep seriously makes my heart take flight. You see, the point of a staycation is to rest ... and rest involves sleep. My little getaway for one allowed me to do just that as I didn’t have to consider someone else’s agenda. I could luxuriate in bed (my own, or the king-sized cloud I slept on at the Westlake Village Inn) for as long as I wanted.
Whether your staycation involves staying home or in a not-so-far-off oasis, I recommend choosing a spot or environment that allows for true rest — and sleep! (So, you might want to cross places like Las Vegas or Atlantic City off your list.)
Do A Little Soul-Searching
One thing I wanted to prioritize during my overnight getaway was some time to self-reflect. The past year has felt like a bit of a whirlwind, with little to no time to stop and truly think about life and the future. With the beautiful, lush surroundings of my hotel setting a peaceful tone, I decided to sit down with myself and jot down some goals and steps I could take to make them happen. For example, I’d love to buy my first home in the near future. So I did some digging into my finances and lifestyle to see what tweaks or changes needed to be made to make that happen. I also created a “goal posts” and a timeline to help me stay on track with my goal. My journaling also included more abstract intentions like prioritizing more time for myself every day (even if it’s a 30-minute walk), exercise more, and spend more time with my family.
I think journaling goals or even just contemplating the things you’re grateful for are a crucial part of rest time. It allows you to center back on yourself and your life and what you truly want to get from it. Now, that is a staycation.