You can create a relaxing retreat for your household that will speak to the festive season and keep you safe.
family roasting marshmallows over fire pit at home
Credit: M_a_y_a / Getty Images

While the year is nearing to a close, the world is still grappling with the COVID-19 outbreak—and in turn, our holiday traditions are being reimagined. This includes festivities like the vacations you might normally take with friends and extended family. And while traveling isn't recommended, there's good news: You can still celebrate the holidays safely at home. In fact, this could be the best way for you to unwind without the stress of extensive preparation. "This is important due to the unpredictability of the COVID-19 pandemic," says Nicole Harris, the owner and creative director of Dreams in Detail. A staycation will ensure that your plans, as a whole, stay intact for the holidays despite the possibility of surges in cases or restrictions put in place in your local area. "You can use this time to relax, save your money, and explore the beauty and entertainment of what is local to you," she adds.

With more time spent at home, you can also reflect on what the holidays truly mean to you as you plan out your staycation. "For me, the holidays have always given me those feel-good vibes. It's the time where you can temporarily escape from the monotony of life and simply enjoy being fully present," Sharmaine Diaz, the owner and lead planner of iHeart The Details Event Design, says. "Staying at home may not necessarily be your first choice when thinking of how to spend time off away from work (especially if your home has suddenly become your workplace) but, if planned right, it can be exactly what you never knew you needed." Here, our experts offer their advice for ensuring your staycation helps you celebrate the holidays.

Make intentions for your staycation.

Before any festivities can officially commence, you should plan in the same way you would if you were actually leaving your home. This means submitting time off at work if possible, and yes, even writing it in a journal or planner. "If it's not on your calendar, does it even exist? Put yourself on the top of your to-do list and pencil in your staycation dates well in advance," says Diaz. "This makes it official and also helps to create the fun anticipation of knowing that the countdown to your vacation has begun."

Once you have your dates set, then comes time to make your budget and to-do list. "If your goal is to de-stress, unwind, and enjoy the holidays with family, then you should make a list of everything you need to take care of before the staycation (like chores, errands, groceries, etc.)," notes Harris. "It is important to create a list of holiday items to have in the house that will create the festive ambiance and vibe so many yearn for: You can do this by purchasing candles that smell like Christmas or pine, adding lights and holiday décor to your home, and buying hot chocolate and baking supplies so your home smells like baked goods during this time." Don't forget music: Harris adds that a Christmas playlist sounding in the background is just as important for your holiday staycation.

Plan an itinerary.

Speaking of budgeting, making an itinerary ahead of your staycation can help you manage your wallet and your time together. "For these reasons, I recommend creating a 'loose itinerary,'" says Diaz. This planning technique can help create a balance between a go-with-the-flow and thoroughly scheduled retreat. "For example, you can plan to enjoy a fun backyard campfire with s'mores and hot cocoa one night and a special holiday dinner another night," she adds. "These moments won't fill your entire day—and the dates don't need to be specifically set—but it will give you something to look forward to and it will also allow you to budget for the items you'll need in advance."

Another plus about planning your staycation itinerary? It will help you avoid any "routine" activities that you would do on an everyday basis. "You should create your list of fun experiences to do during your staycation—it is about the experience, after all," Harris says.

Enjoy festive activities.

Don't forget to think about holidays past during your staycation—those generation-old traditions are sure to bring back the fondest of memories this year. "Christmas tree decorating has been a tradition that was passed down from my mom, and it's something my boys and I still love doing with her to this day," Diaz shares. "And to add to the holiday décor, enjoy a holiday craft day where you can create handmade ornaments, string garland, and make holiday cards to send to your family and friends that you couldn't be with this year." Also make and indulge in baked holiday-themed goods—like peppermint bark and reindeer-shaped cookies, Harris adds.

Celebrate your community.

While the holidays will look different, 'tis the season to still celebrate all of the beauty that is already around you. And this year, why not take advantage of the extra time at home by taking an active part in your neighboring community? (Socially distanced, of course.) "Go look at the lights together with big warm jackets and cups of hot cocoa," Harris says, who also suggests ordering takeout from local restaurants or embarking on a scenic drive in your surrounding area that you typically take for granted since you live there."

The holidays also serve as a great opportunity to support entrepreneurs and small businesses even more in your very neighborhoods. "As you splurge for those extra-special items for the holiday itinerary, learn about the local shops around you and see if there's something special you can purchase from them," Diaz shares. For instance, if you are having a spa day, shop online to buy signature oils and scrubs from a local spa, she adds. Diaz also suggests buying chocolate or hot chocolate from local vendors if you have a backyard campfire or ordering virtually from your bakery of choice for them to put together a collection of assorted treats. Need some other easy ideas? Make a cocktail bar for your staycation with your favorite drinks from a local liquor store, purchase candles from an online shop to fill your home with holiday scents, add fresh holiday centerpieces to your dinner table from a florist, or create your own vacation-inspired "room service" by getting a delivery of breakfast pastries from a local bakery for personalized breakfast in bed.

Support local businesses virtually.

"Because of COVID-19, we can't just hop on a plane and go abroad or join in on in-person group activities like we used to—without putting ourselves at potential risk," Diaz shares. Since there are more virtual offerings these days, you can now explore some sites that have been on your bucket list. As long as you have a secure Wi-Fi connection, the world will be your oyster. "If you've always wanted to visit the Louvre Museum in Paris or the Great Wall of China, you can—right from the comfort of your own home," she adds. "There are so many things you can experience, from wine tasting classes with the Kendall-Jackson Winery and paella-making classes with a top chef from Spain to a guided meditation class with sheep."

You can also watch your favorite holiday films—or even new ones from your go-to streaming services. "My current favorite is Holidate on Netflix," Harris shares. "The Hallmark Channel will always have a holiday movie playing that will not disappoint. Cuddle up with your family, eat baked goods, and binge-watch some of your holiday favorites."


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