It’s August 2020 and, in a few weeks, I was supposed to be on a plane and headed to Chicago to visit my sister-in-law with my 5-month-old baby so that he could meet his auntie. However, with COVID-19 still ravaging the world, travel out of my hometown just doesn’t seem like a good idea. But travel is actually good for your mental health and with the stress of a global pandemic still affecting all of our lives, the question I keep thinking is: How can we take a vacation in 2020?

The truth is that there IS a way to take a vacation… well, a staycation. A staycation is when you take a vacation while staying at home. The good news is that you can even still travel during a staycation! At least, well, a little. And the best news is that it’s really easy to take a sober staycation this year. Here are 15 ideas so that you can still take a vacation and relax this year even if you’re quarantining.

Personally, I can’t wait for my staycation next week, when I fully plan to do at least half of the items on this list of sober staycation ideas. Especially #15.

1. Turn off the phone.

One of the biggest things that makes for a great vacation is not checking your inbox or to see if your college bestie’s roommate liked your Instagram post yet. Instead, think back to how much you enjoy just being in the moment during vacation… and turn off your phone. Take a social media break or a phone break in general, and just allow yourself to relax in your environment without automatically reaching for the device that’s always by your side.

2. Have a spa day.

Okay, so you can’t actually GO to a spa right now because having a massage while wearing a mask or, even worse, getting a facial without a mask on is terrifying. But what you CAN do is have a spa day at home. Make it a whole event by buying a new candle, getting a face mask, making some tea, and dipping into a bubble bath. This would be a good time to deep condition your hair, give yourself a mani/pedi, and just spend the entire day in your favorite robe.

3. Go for a hike.

This might already be something you are doing regularly during quarantine but, if you’re not, a staycation is a perfect time to go on a hike in your town. Even if you go on hikes regularly, this may be the time to check out a new hiking spot. In fact, why not pack up your car full of snacks and sparkling water, then go on a day trip to a hiking spot that you can never get to? That sounds pretty heavenly.

4. Order in.

One of my personal favorite things about taking a vacation is that I am not responsible for cooking a single meal. As the primary chef of my family, it can honestly sometimes be exhausting to always worry about what I am making next. That’s why, for my staycation, I plan to order in at least once a day. Sure, this means spending a bit more money… but it’s going to be great for my mental health to not have to spend my vacation in the kitchen.

5. Netflix party ‘n chill.

It’s always fun to go to the movies with loved ones but, unfortunately, we likely won’t be able to do that for a long time. Instead, during your staycation, why not organize a movie night — or even a movie marathon? Head to Netflix Party in order to have all of your friends join your movie-watching adventures, and chat about it. It’s the perfect way to bond with your community while still staying socially distant… and relaxing with a good movie, too. 

6. Read for days.

There is little else more enjoyable than reading but, let’s face it, we all rarely have the time for it. Whether it’s a good recovery memoir or a summer novel, having a staycation where you do nothing but read might just be perfect. Personally, I plan to go through at least two books during my staycation but maybe even more if I can manage it. After all, what else is a vacation for? And if I can’t read on a sunny beach in the Caribbean, at least I can still read.

7. Make a dessert picnic.

A picnic is a summer favorite and, thankfully, it’s not too difficult to social distance while you. do it. Therefore, this might just be the perfect staycation activity. However, I have a tip: Why not make it a dessert picnic? Invite your friends to make all of their favorite desserts and bring a favorite flavor of sparkling water, and you have a fabulous afternoon. Just don’t forget to save time for an afternoon nap after that inevitable sugar crash.

8. Try out the new grill.

Okay, so maybe you don’t have a new grill, but why not? Summertime is the perfect time to cook outside, and it’s something you can do during your staycation if you want to try something new. Why not find a few grill-worthy recipes on Pinterest and have at it? Don’t just settle for steaks or hamburgers, either. You can grill fish, skewered veggies, pizza… and have you ever tried grilled pineapple? Trust me on this one.

9. Take a virtual (cooking) class.

Just like there are tons of Zoom fitness classes out there right now,  you can also take virtual cooking classes. Personally, I love the Zumba classes by photographer Matt Armendariz and the pastry classes by Paris-based pastry chef Molly Wilkinson. While on a staycation when you can’t actually travel or leave the house much, why not take a virtual class like one of theirs? Or explore what else there is to offer out there — like a new hobby.

10. Play tourist.

Okay, so you can’t play tourist in your hometown in a traditional way since most things are probably still shutdown. Still, you can do a little something. If there are any outdoor activities in your hometown, why not check those out? Perhaps a zoo or a botanical garden (so long as you call ahead and make sure that they are taking precautions like encouraging social distancing, requiring masks, and doing extra sanitizing). You can also check out virtual museum tours in other cities. I mean, what could be better than that when you can’t actually make it to London?

11. Go backyard camping.

I’m not a huge camper. It stems from a fairly traumatic experience with a bunch of junebugs when I went camping after graduating from high school. However, backyard camping? Well, that sounds like FUN! This summer, it seems that a lot of people are setting out to go on the open road, whether it be road trips or to the nearby campground. And while that’s an option too, camping in your own back yard can be just as fun (and even easier).

12. Host a board game tournament.

Playing board games is one of my favorite things to do with friends but, unfortunately, my usual board game group hasn’t been able to get together since January because of the coronavirus. Still, for my staycation, we’re planning a board game tournament to take place all virtually. We’ll turn on Zoom and play games on our phones. Of course, you can also plan a board game tournament with just the people that you live with. Plus, you can make it extra fun by also serving snacks and mocktails!

13. Have a theme night.

When I was younger, I used to love having friends over for a theme night. We would pick a movie, dress up to match the movie, and eat food that is featured in the movie or in the place the movie is set. For instance, one day we watched The Birdcage and ate Cuban food since it was set in Miami (and, well, I’m Cuban so it was fun to cook). This is thankfully something that you could easily pull off with the people living with you or even over Zoom, so long as you invite all of your friends to cook dishes that would still match the movie.

14. Tackle a family project.

Maybe it’s not the most fun thing in the world to do chores during a staycation but it CAN make you feel better in the long run. That’s why my husband and I are tackling re-organizing the shelving in our back room as part of our staycation. You can do something similar to spruce up your home. After all, we all have stuff we’d love to tackle and never make time for, right? Plus, the best part is that you can tackle that family project over several days so that you still have plenty of actual relaxing time.

15. Plan a day of ZERO plans.

Okay, this might sound revolutionary but how about you plan a day of… no plans? Instead of saying “Tomorrow I will wake up and do a spa day” or “on Tuesday, we will get together for a Netflix party,” make sure to leave at least one day of your staycation where you do absolutely nothing. Or, rather, you don’t plan to do anything. You can still end up doing some of the stuff on this list, so long as you go where the wind takes you and just do whatever you want at the moment. Even if that means taking your third nap of the day.

2020 is a tough year for a lot of us but, well, taking a vacation has always been good for our mental health. However, with finances a concern for many of us and health an even bigger concern, this is not the year to travel. But we all still need breaks, which is why these sober staycation ideas are JUST what you’ll want to do… while still social distancing and wearing your mask, of course.