Two Adirondack chairs on a wooden dock on lake | staycation ideas spring break
Read time: 10 min

What’s your vacation destination situation? If funds are low or time is short, you may be resigned to not getting a spring break from your regular life. Plus, pandemic restrictions may still affect spots where you’d normally travel. If any of these scenarios apply, a staycation might be for you. 

Staycations allow you to experience your local area as a visitor or explorer would, putting aside your usual routine and embracing discovery. More than ever, people are open to the idea of a staycation as a substitute for a more distant getaway. In a recent survey by CampusWell, 22 percent of respondents said they’d had at least three staycations. “It’s a blast if you plan it and don’t let yourself get stuck in the mindset that it’s just your town and there’s nothing to do there,” says Spencer R., a second-year student at the University of North Dakota.

Staycation to stay well

Several landmark studies have demonstrated the health benefits of travel, which range from decreased stress levels to improved psychological well-being to decreased chances of heart disease. Recent research also points to increased energy and productivity after a vacation, so you might even be able to harness those benefits for better grades following your time off.

Here’s the thing: The destination doesn’t really matter. What’s important is that you make time to disconnect from school and work, relax, and create happy memories. In fact, a 2019 study of adolescents at risk of depression found that simply remembering good times is associated with lower stress levels and better self-esteem—so you can reap the benefits of your staycation even after you’ve “returned.”

Girls smiling over lunch | staycation ideas spring break

5 perks of staycations

1. You’ll save money

That overwater villa in the Maldives can wait. A staycation is generally much more affordable than cross-country or international travel—which means you can afford to do it more often (and won’t be stressed out about the price tag).

2. You’ll minimize travel stress

There’s little risk of flight delays or missed connections. And if the prospect of travel makes you anxious, this is a great way to start.

“The best part is you’re already there, so you just get up, go, and explore!”
—Paula L., first-year student, Clemson University, South Carolina

3. You can easily go solo or social

The logistics, time, and costs of staycationing are not too onerous, making it easy to team up with partners, friends, and family…if you want to. 

4. Your discoveries will enrich your everyday life

Those new eateries, friends, and activities—they’re keepers. 

5. You’ll get to be spontaneous and flexible

Ever felt obligated to visit the ancient relics, or devastated that the volcano you came for was hidden in the clouds? When you’re on a staycation, the stakes are lower.

“My girlfriend and I just decided to take off to the mountains and see how many small little nowhere towns we could visit. It was fun, scary at times, but overall very memorable.”
—Tanner S., third-year student, Metropolitan State University of Denver, Colorado

“During my undergrad in Atlanta, I loved exploring the city to find the urban art murals by street artists. It’s always fun to take a picture in front of it and admire their talent. It’s completely free and gets you out and about. You can do it walking or in a car.”
—Nilza S., second-year graduate student, Clemson University, South Carolina

“[I would do] different types of fitness classes that I otherwise cannot fit into my day, and visit different art museums/studios that I may not want to in my normal weekend routine (since those facilities are too busy on the weekends).”
—Kristen S., second-year graduate student, Hofstra University, Hempstead, New York 

“It was a three-day backpacking trip, and I went with a group of six. We packed all our food and belongings into four large Tupperware bins and canoed out for about three hours to a desolate island in the middle of the Everglades. No phone service, no water, no electricity. It was great!”
—Andrea W., graduate student, University of Miami, College of Arts and Sciences, Florida

“My friends and I went geocaching here in my small college town. We ended up going to a cute little log cabin and actually discovered that there was a movie about the founding of our town. While we were there, a person who was actually born in the log cabin, a historical site, pulled up and took a picture with us.”
—Derick S., second-year student, Texas Lutheran University, Seguin

“My favorite staycation was when my family and I hiked [Mount] Katahdin for my brother’s 24th birthday. It had been a goal my whole life, and although the weather didn’t cooperate, it was an experience of a lifetime. We made memories along the way, and it is every Mainer’s aspiration to be able to say they reached the top of Katahdin!”
—Katelynn C., first-year student, University of Maine, Orono

“My best friend and I used a weekend to visit different tour spots in our hometown. First, we went to a local rafting place we had never been to. It was a blast! After taking a catamaran down the river, we then went to a local putt-putt golf place. We played all 18 holes; I even got a hole in one!”
—Abby B., second-year student, Northern Michigan University, Marquette

Couple smiling at each other while biking in woods | staycation ideas spring break

Tips for planning the staycation of your dreams

Find inspiration

light bulb icon | staycation ideas spring break

Sometimes, our own hometown is more of a mystery to us than the faraway places we dream of traveling to one day. “We often overlook local resources, history, and nature sites,” says Rocky R., a fifth-year student at Palomar College in San Marcos, California.

If you’re not sure where to start, visual inspiration can be a quick way to give you some ideas. Pinterest is a go-to for staycation ideas. (Bonus: You can save them to your own board for reference and take a peek whenever you’d like a reminder of your upcoming adventure). 

Make a wish list

What would bring you the most joy right now? A spa massage, a road trip to the countryside, an afternoon of museum-hopping, or snowboarding with your best friend? Jot down the experiences that would feel the most like a vacation. Even if you can’t afford (or don’t have time for) everything you’d like to do, it can help guide your staycation and prioritize what you plan.

Set a budget

money bag icon | staycation ideas spring breakOnce you know what you’d like to do, estimate costs. Save up the amount ahead of time so you’re not left stressing about funds, skipping activities, or putting things on credit (a surefire way to put a damper on your staycation). “Schedule and plan a staycation the same way you’d plan a vacation—what to have for meals, what to see. If you normally plan out every detail, use that approach; if you prefer a loose itinerary, that works too,” says Megan S., a first-year graduate student at the University of Wyoming in Laramie.

Get creative

“My boyfriend and I were both broke,” says Brittney B., a second-year undergraduate at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway. “We bought disposable cameras and drove around town taking pictures in front of different things or places that started with each letter of the alphabet, like Rockin’ Robin’s Cafe and Ice Cream Parlor for the letter R. It was so much fun and basically free! We got to experience the little town where we grew up in a whole new way.”

person driving with arm out window | staycation ideas spring break

Take public transportation

train icon | staycation ideas spring breakEven if public transportation doesn’t feature much in your regular life, take another look at the routes and schedules (if you have access to them). Buses and trains can deliver you affordably to many adventures, even outside of town.

Get work done ahead of time

Don’t take on more commitments than you can handle in the week or two leading up to your staycation. Try to get schoolwork done ahead of time—you don’t want to risk having unfinished assignments on your plate that might interfere with your ability to disconnect and de-stress during your (well-earned) time off. 

Set boundaries

stop sign icon | staycation ideas spring breakLet your friends and family know you’re switching off so they won’t contact you about anything that can wait. If you need to take time off from a job, let your coworkers know that you’re on vacation (no need to mention if you’re staying in town) so they won’t ask you to cover anyone’s shift.

Sleep somewhere new

If you can afford it, consider renting an Airbnb, hotel room, or cabin for the duration of your staycation—or even just one night—in order to get out of the mental space of your dorm or apartment. National parks often have small camping chalets offered at reasonable mid-week or off-season rates. It’s a luxury that gets you out of your usual routine and lets you switch off from doing household chores or work.

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Article sources

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Askelund, A. D., Schweizer, S., Goodyer, I. M., & van Harmelen, A.-L. (2019, January 14). Positive memory specificity is associated with reduced vulnerability to depression. Nature News. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41562-018-0504-3

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Iwasaki, Y., Zuzanek, J., & Mannell, R.C. (2001). The effects of physically active leisure on stress-health relationships. Canadian Journal of Public Health, 92(3), 214–218.

Robinson, A. (2017, July). Four reasons to take a vacation. https://www.apadivisions.org. https://www.apadivisions.org/division-28/publications/newsletters/psychopharmacology/2017/07/vacation

Smith, C. E. (2009). Students’ beliefs about the benefits of travel and leisure: A qualitative analysis. [Unpublished] http://digitalcommons.calpoly.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1005&context=rptasp 

CampusWell surveys, February 2016, October 2021.

Zucker, R. (2021, August 31). Thinking of skipping vacation? Don’t! Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2020/08/thinking-of-skipping-vacation-dont