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The Ultimate Late Summer Staycation Guide

People & Places
August 24, 2020

A staycation is a beautiful thing. With time off work and a map of your immediate surroundings, you can satisfy your abiding curiosity for external experiences and your desire for rest all at the same time. You can do it without having to buy a ticket, pack a bag, book a hotel, tip the concierge or haggle with a taxi driver.

It goes without saying that we at Unbound Merino love to travel. The world is a smorgasbord of high thrills, unseen gems, rich cultures and spectacular nature – and we can always make a case for jet-setting. However, with the ongoing pandemic restricting global movement, we thought we’d take an article to set aside the international travel aspirations and focus on the brilliance of a well-planned staycation. Hopefully, this article can be both prescient – giving you great, safe ideas for late summer 2020 – and evergreen.

We emphasize “well-planned” because there are two ways to do a staycation: the tedious way, and the way we're about to discuss. When some people picture a staycation, they envision melting into their couch for a week while ordering takeout and watching all nine seasons of The Office. That’s not quite what we’re talking about here.

Defining the Staycation

When we think of the ideal staycation, we think of honouring both words that make up the portmanteau: "stay" and "vacation."

On the “stay” side, a staycation needs to be close-to-home; it needs to be easily accessible, whether you have a car or not; and it needs to be somewhat relaxing, offering welcome decompression from the stresses of work and social obligation.

On the “vacation” side, however, a staycation needs to court new experiences, even if those experiences are close to home. It needs to have the hallmark features of a great vacation: an escape from the regular routine, an indulgence in life’s pleasures and – like above – a chance to decompress.

Further down in the article, we'll discuss a few concrete ideas for an awesome staycation. We’ll offer suggestions that we believe strike a balance between the two ways you can staycation: by allowing new experiences into your home, and heading out into the world around you in search of excitement.

Why Take a Staycation?

With those parameters established, lets’ talk about why you should take a staycation. Assuming the alternatives are a) you just keep working, relinquishing your vacation days, or b) you take your vacation days, but sort of just bum around the house, then it's easy to see why we'd advocate for a staycation.

But here, as extra encouragement, let's list a few of the several reasons you should take a close-to-home vacation.

Health

This one is for all those workhorses who waive their vacation days. Employee burnout is a real and severe problem, with the World Health Organization classifying it as a significant occupational phenomenon. It can cause ongoing fatigue, cynicism, irritability, health problems and – ironically – decreased ability to do your job properly. In short: if you want to be a healthier person and a better employee, take time off.

Humans weren’t meant to work all the time. Leisure time is vital, both for your physical health and mental health. Life is lived in between work, when you experience the world on your own time and according to your own whims and inclinations.

And when you don’t take time off, it sets a subtle precedent in the work culture – making it more difficult for colleagues to take time off by establishing year-round work as the norm.

Cost

Money is a key reason people opt for staycations instead of vacations abroad. With the money you save on flights, hotels and transportation, you can redouble your spending on things like food, experiences and clothing – like Unbound Merino, for instance!

The closer you stay to home, the further your dollar travels. For those who travel for activities, food and shopping, it’s a sensible way to get the most bang for your buck.

Experience

Let’s discuss a main (mostly valid) objection with staycations: you don’t get the same breadth of experiences in your home city as you would get abroad.

That’s mostly true. One of the reasons we love to travel is that it opens us to new cultures, new experiences and new ways of seeing the world. But there’s a partly-wrong assumption people make in this line of thinking. Just because new experiences can be found abroad, doesn't mean they can’t be found at home.

No one has seen every single corner of their home city. No one has experienced every experience their surroundings have to offer. If you live in New York, chances are there are about 1,000 city blocks you haven’t wandered down. If you live in San Francisco, there’s a good chance you haven’t trekked south to visit Mussel Rock Park, Mori Point or the Sweeney Ridge Trail.

Armed with curiosity, openness and a desire for discovery, you will find that there are many new experiences to be had right in your backyard.

Ecological Footprint

You can travel abroad responsibly, taking care to minimize your ecological footprint by using reusable drinking vessels and dishware, staying at sustainable hotels, biking, taking the train, disposing of recycling correctly, etc. But you can't cancel out the ecological footprint of the flight over.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t travel abroad – on balance, it’s still an entirely noble endeavour, as it fosters cultural awareness and supports local industry. But if you’re concerned with your ecological footprint, consider mixing in a staycation every once in a while. Instead of taking three trips abroad a year, make one of them an exploration of your immediate surroundings.

What to Do

As mentioned above, there are two ways to staycation: at home, or out in your city. Ideally, you want a mix of the two.

For your homebound adventures, check out our list of 14 items you can order to make life at-home easier. And for your on-foot treks around the city, be sure to wear a comfortable pair of merino wool socks and a few other breathable basics (more on "packing" below.)

In this section, we’ll offer a few suggestions for activities and experiences both at home and around your stomping grounds.

At Home

At home, it’s all about bringing the wide world to you. You may not have a flight booked to Bangkok or a Greyhound ticket to New Orleans, but that doesn't mean you can’t craft authentic, engaging cultural experiences from home. Here’s how.

Bring the World to Your Table

Food is an easy avenue to a cultural experience. Taste a paella like the one you had in Valencia, and you’re all of a sudden transported back to those salty, seaside restaurants in Alicante. Scoop a crisp saltine into a lime-heavy, cilantro-specked ceviche, and you’re whisked away to Nicaragua.

To start, check out one of our favourite research websites for global food: Taste Atlas. A vast resource for hyper-local dishes, it allows you to scroll and zoom on a world map, zero in on a specific city and find its typical dishes. From Waakye in Northern Ghana to Bouillabaisse in Southern France to Dan Dan noodles in the Sichuan province of China – wherever you want to travel, the website can tell you how to eat like a local.

Then, it’s just a matter of cooking. Find ingredients online, follow YouTube tutorials or online recipes and serve yourself a plate of wanderlust. Or, if you prefer (and if your city has access to an array of multicultural restaurants), just skip the kitchen and order in.

Bring the World to Your Living Room

Movies can’t fully replace the living experience of travel, but they can be transportive all the same.

Especially if you had travel plans dashed by COVID, a one-two punch of destination-specific dinner and a movie can serve as a fine (albeit less exciting) substitute for the real thing. Not sure what to watch? Here are a few recommendations for immersive travel films:

  • The Trip series: The series, directed by Michael Winterbottom and starring the hilarious Steven Coogan and Rob Bryden, is like travelling with good friends. In the original, as well as The Trip to Italy, The Trip to Spain and The Trip to Greece, the two crack jokes and do (sometimes) spot-on impressions, while Winterbottom’s camera picks up the dramatic scenery around them. They’re breezy, fun movies, and they make you feel like you're along for the ride.
  • Roma: Alfonso Cuarón’s intimate and epic look at the life of a maid in 1970’s Mexico City is the rare example of an American distributed film that portrays a non-English speaking country as an insider experience, rather than from an “exotic” outsider perspective. Shot in beautiful black and white, with an unhurried pace that lets you spend time in the streets and homes, it’s as close to being in MC as you’ll get on the silver screen.
  • The Farewell: Another recent entry, this is the story of a Chinese American woman (played with humour and honesty by Awkwafina) who goes to visit her extended family in Northeast China, following her grandmother’s cancer diagnosis. It’s an honest, profound and often funny portrait of the Chinese and Chinese-American experiences, complete with vivid footage of the city of Changchun.

For more ideas, check out The Guardian’s recent rundown of their 20 favourite travel movies

In Your City

If you live in a big city, there’s plenty to experience in a five-mile radius of your home. In smaller cities and towns, push it to a 10-25-mile radius, and you're bound to reach corners you’ve never travelled.

A valuable part of any staycation is squeezing as much experience as possible from your immediate surroundings, finding enclaves you didn’t know existed and visiting cultural and tourist hotspots you never thought to visit. Here are a few ideas.

Visit New Places in Your Hometown

Is there a neighbourhood you’ve never been to? A trail you’ve never trekked? A beach you’ve never visited? Travel is about new experiences, so when you think about planning the perfect staycation, consider the roads not travelled.

Take a Cultural Tour of Your City

If your city is big enough and multicultural enough to encompass communities around the world, celebrate that by taking a cultural tour. Grab a morning coffee in Little Italy, sample some Baklava in Greektown, gaze at the arches around Chinatown, go shopping in Le Petit Sénégal or cap the night off with karaoke in Koreatown.

More than ever before, the world is small. With mass global immigration, cities are no longer homogenous and siloed – they are sprawling celebrations of human diversity. That’s a beautiful thing, and one worth dedicating a day to on your staycation.

Do the Tourist Thing

How many Torontonians have never been to the top of the CN Tower? How many New Yorkers have never visited Liberty Island? How many Houstonians have driven past the Space Center without ever stepping inside?

It's a strange thing about living in a city. Sometimes, the features and monuments for which your city is most well known are the ones primarily attended by tourists. Why is that? On your next staycation, be a tourist in your own town. Finally get around to seeing all those landmarks on the postcards!

What to “Pack”

You're not "packing" per se. But, whether you’re relaxing with dinner and a movie or heading out to see the cultural sites and landmarks of your city, you want to be comfortable, stylish and prepared.

For comfort and style, Unbound Merino has you covered. Our black boxer brief goes anywhere you go, whether it’s hiking up a mountain on a hot day, or kicking back on the couch on a cold day. Our best sellers are sophisticated enough for a night on the town and casual enough for a night in.

All of our clothing is made from merino wool, which is capable of insulating in warm weather and staying breathable in the heat, and features timeless, polished styles. Plus, they stay fresh for days, so you won’t have to interrupt your staycation to do laundry. Unbound Merino wool clothing is the exact marriage of wearability and style a staycation deserves.

To be prepared when venturing out, it’s always wise to pack a day bag. Be sure to include a water bottle, sunscreen (if you’re staycationing in summer,) a fully charged phone, keys and wallet – essentially, what you would leave the house with normally!

Back in June, we discussed how the travel industry will change – how, in light of the ongoing pandemic, people might have to get creative with their vacations for a while. Staycations are a terrific way to think outside the box (or, rather, inside the box) about vacations, allowing you to experience new things without spending the time or resources on international travel. Until we can all travel safely and happily again, it’s one of our best options.