What is a Staycation
& How to find the perfect Staycation destination?
At the height of lockdown, I built myself a fort in my apartment. I filled it with pillows and blankets and plants. I poured myself a glass of wine, made some snacks, and watched a movie.
Why? Because I needed an escape, something exciting to break up my usual routine (which at the time involved commuting from the bedroom to the kitchen to my living room), in order to get me out of my day-to-day headspace and to allow my mind and body to switch off.
Sounds like a holiday, right? Something we should all take, but more often than not forego because of time, money, organizational stress. I personally think we should take more time out (but don’t worry I’m not going to just suggest that we all start taking holidays in our living rooms!). What I will suggest, is that we begin making the most of the world on our doorstep: it’s time we all take more staycations!
1. What is a "Staycation"?
Staycation is a word that has used more and more in the last 12 months. The word is a simple combination of “stay” and “vacation”, but to my surprise – it has different meanings in different country contexts. I’m British, and, to me, a staycation means taking a vacation in one’s own country (I’ve recently been told in the US it means taking a holiday in your city, while in German it means having a holiday while sleeping in your own bed). Ultimately, the idea is to give yourself a holiday closer to home. So for me, taking a staycation means taking a holiday in Germany.
I bloody love a staycation. But I wasn’t always a fan of this type of holiday. When I was growing up in the UK, it was something that seemed oh-so-boring. Why would we get the train or drive somewhere just down the road, when we could instead board a plane and end up in a whole new world? And I love adventuring around the globe. I have great memories of meeting new people over a local beer in Malaysia, discovering ancient ruins in the foothills of Turkish mountains, hiking across Iceland’s epic landscapes, and swimming in the crystal-clear water off the coast of Sardinia.
But because I love travelling and because I love our planet, I started thinking: is holidaying like this really sustainable?
It’s staycation season for a lot of reasons:
- The climate is a big one: tourism is responsible for almost 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions (For example, flying from Berlin to Munich produces 0.285 t per passenger, while driving produces 0.199 t per vehicle, and taking the train 0.02 t per passenger)
- COVID has made us more aware of health considerations when travelling
- We have to remember how key tourism is for a country’s economy
Plus the country we live in is pretty amazing: did you know that Germany is the 8th most visited country in the world? THE EIGHT??! More foreign travellers came to Germany than went to Thailand last year…
So that’s why I came to the realisation that we need to – have to – take more holidays closer to home.
This is why I founded The Staycation Collection, to show people that adventure is on your doorstep, and you can have an amazing, stylish, unique holiday even just a few dozen kilometres away: you just have to look for it!
One of the key things we have to remember is that a holiday is a mindset. Why do we take them, really? Most of the reasons I’ve heard are connected to one of these
- To spend time with loved ones (family, a partner, yourself, friends…)
- To switch off from day-to-day life and slow down a little
- To do more of the things we enjoy, whether than be eating, hiking, reading, sightseeing, swimming etc
- To treat ourselves to something indulgent and immerse ourselves in a beautiful surrounding
And society has told us that, in order to get all of these things from a holiday, we have to go abroad, but we don’t. All of these are on offer right here, right under our nose. We just have to switch our brain to holiday mode.
So you see, a staycation isn’t a compromise, it’s another way of travelling. And Germany is an exceptional country in which to travel. The main problem is that we never really look at our home country as holiday territory, so it can be hard to know where to stay or what to do.
So here are my tips and tricks for planning a great staycation, that will leave you feeling refreshed and re-energised, as well as mind-blown by how beautiful and diverse Germany really is.
2. Pick an area that fits your interests
The best thing about Germany? It’s oh-so diverse, which is why it would be foolish to travel somewhere that doesn’t match your hobbies and interests.
The first holiday I took with my partner was dreadful. We were newly together and I’d planned the trip without really asking him what he liked. We ended up staying in a small Altstadt near the coast, and after a few hours, it became very apparent he wanted to be somewhere secluded and somewhere away from the sea. A little more thought into our combined hobbies could have saved a lot of annoyance on both sides!
Identify what your non-negotiable holiday must-haves are, and plan from there.
Do you want to:
- Hike in the mountains
- Swim in lakes
- Laze on the beach
- Spend time in a spa
Eat as much local food as possible
- Sample local wine or beer
- Immerse yourself in culture
Or discover soak some history
Build out a plan from the things you love doing, and you’ll be guaranteed a good time.
3. Listen to your body: what do you need? Exploration or total disconnection?
Connected to this last point, make sure you take the trip that you need!
I – for instance – once spent an entire weekend in Bonn going from denkmals to museums to churches, reading as much about the history of the city as I could. It was fascinating and I usually love absorbing culture, but this time, rather than coming back relaxed and refreshed, I came back exhausted and in need of a break. Due to work, I was burning out, and what I’d needed from my trip was to sleep, not think and breathe in some fresh air away from a city, but I had instead filled my brain with extra information, overwhelming myself and causing me even more stress – very very silly, and lesson very much learned.
When you’re planning a staycation, take the time to feel what it is you actually need. If all you want to do is hide out in a cabin in the woods, that’s ok! If you just want to cook local food and sleep, that’s ok! And if you want to hike all day, that’s also ok! Make sure your holiday works for your brain and your body.
4. Where you sleep is important
It is, of course, a huge plus to stay somewhere special. Why? Because it will add so much positivity to your trip. For instance, it’ll make long, lazy holiday breakfasts or cozy evenings with a glass of wine, much more enjoyable and memorable.
Remember, staying somewhere special doesn’t have to cost the world. My work with The Staycation Collection is to highlight these super stylish but very affordable places to stay that are often a little under the radar. Plus, one of my ‘please-do-not-ignore tips’ is to stay somewhere independently run, not only because you’re supporting the local economy, but because it will ensure you get genuine insider tips to the region, and have and have a more unique experience.
When I travel, I don’t really go with a plan, just an idea of what the destination has to offer. I always make a point of sitting down with the owner and asking for their tips and advice on what to visit.
Earlier this year, my partner and I went to stay at this striking water tower in the Müritz National Park. We knew we wanted to cycle through the forest and have Kaffee und Kuchen, but had no real itinerary. We sat with co-owner Paul, in the garden over a cup of coffee, and asked what he’d suggest. He told us about a cafe only accessible by bike, hidden in the woods, the perfect swimming lake, and where we could get a huge slice of Streuselkuchen. These were all places we’d have unlikely discovered by ourselves, but were exactly what we’d hoped to find!
5. Leave home stuff at home
For some reason, when we take a holiday “just down the road”, it’s harder to disconnect. As I mentioned earlier, vacation really is a mindset, so make sure that when your staycation starts, you stop answering work emails and put your phone on flight mode.
I once took a work call while staying at this beautiful hotel in the Havelland with a friend. When I got back from the 30-minute call, she was napping by the lake. As she slept, my brain buzzed with ideas for the project, and all the relaxation I’d created vapourised. It defeated the whole point of going away and switching off.
For most of us, we need to remind ourselves that the world won’t end if we take time off work. Set boundaries, focus on the present, and let yourself fully disconnect from the real world!
6. Treat yourself
Remember holidays are for us to take time out, reconnect with people and ourselves, and do what we want. How often do we really dedicate time, energy, and resources to ourselves? When we feel energized and inspired, we are better in our day-to-day. It’s powerful to be a bit selfish from time to time. Don’t feel guilty about splashing out on the things you love. I can promise that when you look back, you won’t miss that extra €50, but you will be overjoyed with the memories of the experience.
Last year I went on a mini-staycation to Spreewald, to go canoeing and enjoy the autumn colors by the water. On my way back to Berlin, I took a spontaneous trip to the Spreewald Therme and spent a few hours floating between the sauna and open fires relaxing. Just thinking about that spontaneous treat makes the muscles in my back soften and my heart rate slows down.
These are simple, almost-obvious steps, but they’re one’s people taking staycations so often overlook. Follow them, and you’ll have an incredible experience and come home feeling enriched.
7. Favorite Staycations in Germany
Before I finish up, I just want to share with you some of my favorite German staycations from the last few months, each of them totally unique:
1. Swimming in lakes in Northern Brandenburg
Wild swimming is one of my favourite things, and Brandenburg has so many beautiful lakes.
Two of my favorites are Hellsee and Webellinsee. Hellsee is part of a lake chain formed by the last ice age, and as a result, it has crystal-clear water. It’s the perfect place to take a long walk, as it’s surrounded by thick forest, and really allows your mind to slow down. When I want an afternoon of swimming and sunbathing, I head to Werbellinsee, which is surrounded by forest: the water is cool but oh-so-clear. Normally I find a little pier, plonk myself down and unpack my picnic.
2. Saxony: Leipzig
I fell in love with Leipzig at the tender age of 14, and have visited countless times ever since. This summer I took a city break to the wonderful city, which is buzzing with energy and creativity.
To get a true taste of the place, I’d recommend you take a walk in Clara-Zetkin Park, have lunch in the Plagwitz district (and explore the artist studios at Spinnerei), visit the Völkerschlachtdenkmal and Thomaskirche, and go for a drink along Karl-Liebknecht-Straße.
3. Berlin: Mitte
I took my staycation very literally and stayed in the city. I checked into holiday apartments around the corner from Checkpoint Charlie and spent a few days wandering by the Spree, eating in German restaurants, and visiting art galleries.
One evening, as I cycled back to my holiday apartment, with my holiday brain and open mind, looking at the bubblegum-colored sky, I really fell in love with Berlin all over again.
So remember: the world on your doorstep is full of adventure, inspiration, and excitement, you simply need to look at it as such. Staycations are here to stay, so here’s to making the most of them.
About the Author
I’m Emily, the founder of The Staycation Collection, a travel club that helps you find stylish and affordable places to stay in Germany, as well as giving you insider tips and expert advice on what to do while in the area.
If you want any travel tips or where-to-stay inspiration, check out The Staycation Collection, or get in touch with me directly!
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