The country is starting to reopen, but we’re still living in a pandemic—and the CDC’s official guidance is that staying home is the best way to keep yourself and others safe.
But after months of being cooped up at home, you and your loved ones may be dealing with a serious case of cabin fever.
If you’re desperate for a change of scenery but not ready to leave home, there are plenty of ways to add novelty to your space and create an appealing “staycation.”
“With less traveling occurring due to the coronavirus, planning a staycation is an ideal way to create memories and allow for self-care,” says Jessica Salomone, owner and principal interior designer at Lotus + Lilac Design Studio.
We talked to experts about what you can do—on any budget—to turn your home into an escape from your usual routine. Check out these clever ideas.
1. Upgrade your outdoor space with cafe lights
Photo by Flores Artscape
Quick, inexpensive, and instantly gratifying: What’s not to love about café lights?
“Use some string lights to create a starry-night effect,” says Hope Teel, an agent with Re/Max Posh Properties in Austin, TX. “String them along the fence line, through the trees, or around the perimeter of your porch, and your evenings outside will have a totally different feel.”
You can take your lighting to the next level by adding a few glass jars with battery-operated or solar string lights around the yard.
“This little touch is always a hit with kids, especially if you create a story around it for them, like telling them it is where the fairies live,” Teel says.
2. Plan a theme night
If you’re bored with board games, and you’ve watched everything in your Netflix queue, mix it up with a theme night.
Each week, task a different member of the household with choosing the theme, then plan your menu, outfits, and décor accordingly.
“Don’t be afraid to decorate, dress up, or to do things you normally wouldn’t,” Teel says.
“You can tour the museums of Rome from your couch, have the kids take the virtual rides of Disney World online, take an online cooking class to make that delicious homemade Italian pasta dish you can’t get out of your head. Think outside the box.”
3. Turn your backyard into an oasis
Photo by Shehan Pools
Think beyond lawn chairs and bistro sets. Whether you want to spend $50 on a basic fire pit, or thousands of dollars on an above-ground pool, there are plenty of ways to turn your yard or patio into an outdoor oasis.
“Folks are putting in pools, adding sandpits and volleyball nets, fire pits, and creating outdoor living space with bricked-in gas grills and bars,” says Christopher Arienti, broker/owner at Re/Max Executive Realty in Massachusetts.
“Each of these can provide the feeling of being at a resort without leaving home.”
If you can’t afford the in-ground pool or granite bar of your dreams, opt for an inflatable pool or an outdoor bar cart—you’ll still get a vacation vibe without blowing your budget.
For some at-home, waterpark diversion, “The kids might also enjoy a sprinkler and slip-and-slide,” Salomone says. “Add a bubble machine to the mix for extra fun.”
4. Escape into nature
“Connecting with nature is an essential part of regulating our nervous system,” Salomone says. “It can help with the stir-craziness many have experienced during the stay-at-home orders.”
Whether you’re working with a small patio or a full yard, adding more plants to the space can increase your home’s Zen factor on a staycation, or even as you unwind at the end of each day. Involve the kids by creating a sensory garden where they can explore and play.
5. Rearrange the furniture or swap rooms
If you’re not ready to commit to a new paint color, small changes to the scenery can make a big difference.
“Move around your living room furniture to set it up for a game day or movie night,” says Rebecca West, author of “Happy Starts at Home.” “Lucky enough to have a guest room? Go sleep in it! Prep it just like you would for a special guest, with your fluffiest towels, fresh flowers, maybe some vacation snacks.”
If you don’t have a spare room, let the kids trade rooms for the day, or go “camping” in the living room.
“Order ‘room service’ from Uber Eats, then stay under the covers or in your PJs all day,” West says.
6. Create a game room or build a fort
Photo by Pinnacle Architectural Studio
For a rainy-day staycation, transform a room or corner of your house into a game room.
People “are creating game room areas and outfitting them with everything from board-game tables to full video-game setups, with large, high-def TVs,” Arienti says.
If you don’t have the space for a dedicated game room, pull out your biggest blankets and sheets and make a good old-fashioned fort over the sofa and coffee table.
“With a fort all set up, you can relax with some feel-good movies or do some crafts with your children, for some bonding time,” Arienti says.
7. Paint a wall
An easy home renovation project like painting a room or an accent wall offers a double benefit: It can make your space feel new again, and you’ll get to enjoy it long after your staycation ends.
“A fresh coat of paint is one of the easiest things you can do to make a big difference in the feel of a space—even if it is just an accent wall,” Teel says.
8. Go backyard camping
If the weather is nice, trade the living room fort for a tent in the backyard.
“Creating a fire pit or purchasing a ready-made fire pit or chimenea can create a gathering place for singing, listening to music, roasting s’mores, and ultimately making memories,” Salomone says.
“Even if camping outside at night isn’t your thing, tents or teepees can be a fun way to spend time with your kids during the day. Layer the tent with blankets and cushions for snuggles and reading.”
9. Plan a getaway for each of your senses
Don’t get hung up on the fact that you can’t leave your home. Instead, West suggests crating a staycation that satisfies all of the senses—or at least some of them, if you have to be choosy.
For touch, “Pull out the softest blankets you have, and put fresh sheets on the bed,” she says.
For smell, light a candle or use a bath bomb to infuse a pleasant scent. To create a soothing staycation soundtrack, West suggests asking Google to play the sound of a thunderstorm. Then turn off the lights and imagine yourself in a cabin.
For sight, clear away the clutter—“or just turn down the lights, so you can’t see it,” West says—to reduce stress.
And of course, don’t skimp on your taste buds.
“Vacations are often about indulgence, so buy the best French cheese and wine you can get your hands on,” West says. “Or order food to be delivered, but make it food you would normally only have on vacation. Handmade ice cream, anyone?”