Writing Challenge Day 23: Taking PTO and Going... Nowhere

Pre-March 2020, I was one of those people who always had their next vacation booked and kept a running wish list of future trips. Staycationing was not a thing we did when I was growing up, nor a habit I developed as an adult. My husband and I love exploring the world, and over the years—between business trips and vacations—I’ve traveled to 35 states and 49 countries. Every year my husband and I would sit down and strategically plan out vacations for the following year to maximize our days off, as well as watch for the best airfares and hotel sales.

Then COVID-19 hit full-force, and everything changed. I’ve got asthma and we have chosen to not travel or stay in a hotel for a while. We cancelled a few business trips to SolarWinds headquarters in Austin for me, and vacations to New Orleans, New York City, and Costa Rica (this one was extra rough to cancel as it was to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary).

Although I love my job, I’m also firm believer in taking PTO to recharge and see the world. So we decided to staycation this year. And not our prior form of “staycation”—that would have been us checking into a hotel in DC (we live in Northern Virginia) for a weekend get-away. This would be a STAYcation. In our house. Where we already were staying.

Our first staycation was a three-day weekend and can best be described as a “failcation.” I dialed in for two work meetings, and checked email and Teams messages more times than I’d care to admit. I didn’t come back rested, and there was not a lot of Zen, but I did come out of it with a lot of thoughts on how to do better the next time. Art takes practice, right?

We had a second long weekend in June, where I actually stayed off email except first thing Friday morning, and spent the weekend more properly staycationing—sleeping in, catching up, trying out some new cocktail recipes, and virtual get-togethers with friends.

After that more successful “trip” around our house and finding a bit of staycation Zen, we decided it was time to come up with a list of ideas for future staycations, and to start planning two weeklong staycations. With each staycation we’ve gotten a little bit better, and although we aren’t off in a foreign country sightseeing, trying new food, and meeting new friends, we’re coming back to our home offices refreshed, and feeling like we’d had as close to a “real vacation” as we could get at home.

Our staycationing tips so far:

  • Plan for it as if you were taking a non-staycation vacation: block your calendar ahead of time, ensure you have coverage for your projects, your team knows how to team reach you, etc. All the things you’d normally do before getting on a plane or in your car to go somewhere.
  • Put your work computer somewhere out of sight. Lock it away in your home office if you have one or find an out-of-the-way spot, so it’s not lurking in the corner of your family room like mine normally is evenings and weekends.
  • If your job enables you to not be on call from vacation and you have a separate work cell phone, put that away with your computer. But make sure your team knows how to reach you in case there’s an emergency—you can always go grab it if there is one. If you don’t have a separate work cell phone, log out of your work email and whatever work instant messaging software you use, so you aren’t getting work notifications all staycation long. Or see if you can pause notifications during certain hours if that’s not possible with your job.
  • Make a staycation plan, similar to the way you like to plan your vacations. Some people like to wing it and decide a day at a time what to do. If that’s you, try staycationing that way. We like to make a schedule that’s not too rigid but factors in what museums, restaurants, cocktail bars, etc. are open when, so we have a general plan for each day, but not so structured that we can’t wander and have adventures. Our second staycation we got very into this and made a restaurant grid of what meals we were ordering in or getting to go on which day as if we were making restaurant reservations for a trip. This distracted us rather well from the fact that we weren’t lounging on a beach in Costa Rica celebrating our anniversary (well, mostly).
  • Change things up from your work at home routine—dress differently, maybe even stay in your PJs all day once in a while as you won’t have work video calls. Whatever makes you most Zen for your staycation. Or plan a fancier dress virtual cocktail hour with friends.
  • See what activities you can do close to home that are within your comfort levels during COVID-19. During our summer staycation, we did some outdoor local exploration of the botanical gardens near us. There’s lots of things to do near home most of us don’t make the time to do when we’re busy working.
  • Minimize housework (unless you love it and it’s relaxing, then go for it). You still have to do dishes, take out the trash, get the mail, walk the dog, etc. while staycationing. But if you’re like us and don’t love housework, leave the renovation projects, home repairs, mowing the lawn, and all those things for when you’re back from vacation.
  • Create some staycation rituals or recreate some of your vacation rituals at home. A lot of our vacation traditions don’t quite translate to a staycation, so we’ve been creating new ones. We’ve been saving TV shows to binge watch, and starting our first morning on vacation with Irish Coffee.

Although we’ve been enjoying our staycations, we can’t wait to travel and keep adding to our travel wish list every time we read about somewhere new. Until then, we’ll keep saving our hotel and airline points, and asking people for their staycation ideas for inspiration.

How have you been finding staycation Zen? Any tips you can share?


Top Comments

  • Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you!

    What great PTO planning!  My husband often has time off while I'm still working and then we spend evenings together.

  • Like many of you, I've had incentive to use stay-cations to burn up PTO in recent years--and not just due to COVID-19, although it's an EXCELLENT incentive to do right by my community, family, and myself.

    My PTO started growing pretty quickly due to me staying with the same company for many years.  My wife changed companies a few years ago, and her PTO lagged behind mine.  

    So, I'd take vacations without her.  But they'd be spent in the local area, usually fishing all day on local lakes, and back at home by dark in the evening.  My employer allowed me to carry a lot of PTO hours over each year, and I'd save them up so I could take six or eight weeks of time off each summer--a limited commodity season here in northern Minnesota, and I love to spend the days when the water isn't frozen solid boating & exploring lakes & islands, as well as fishing.

    It was nice to be able to refresh my mental health by being away from work, and not spending a lot of money traveling.

  • Nice write up  

    This year i wont be taking a PTO, since i have a mandatory holiday on 25th Dec and 1st of Jan i would be taking an off on these 2 days.

    Stay home, sleep a little bit more than what i usually do, watch a movie maybe, have some good food and thats it - Hopefully things are back to normal in 2021.

    Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year - have a good one

  •   That sounds like a wonderful place to escape to!

  • bobmarley That sounds like a lovely staycation! 

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