When I was traveling the country discussing the findings of the Knight Soul of the Community project, I learned as much as I shared. I always say interpreting research findings is a bit like reading tea leaves: you know what the findings indicate, but you still need source input to give it true meaning. Such was the case in some cities where we saw local perceptions of key areas, like social offerings or aesthetics, improve when nothing in actuality had been done in those areas over the past year. I asked residents “what gives?”—how could your perceptions of this aspect of your place change so dramatically over a year when nothing new has been done to improve that feature? The consistent response I received from residents ended up being a very important takeaway for the entire research project.
Discovering the Staycation
Residents said during that time (a time when our national economies were suffering: 2008-2010) they couldn’t afford to leave town for vacation. They had to stay home as part of a staycation, many for the first time. And as residents rediscovered their place through the staycation, their perceptions of their place changed for the better causing them to rate key aspects of their place higher and feel an increased attachment to the place. The important lesson for placemaking leaders was that sometimes you don’t need to “build a better mousetrap” in place, but provide opportunities for residents to (re)discover their place to see what there is already is to offer.
So as the “Place Seasons” are upon us, so is the decision to staycation or vacation. If you’ve never done a staycation, you should try one. Especially if you are still dating your place, have been long-time married to your place, or are starting to feel some disconnection. It may change the way you feel about your place – hopefully for the better – and change your relationship.
That being said, there is an art to doing the staycation successfully.
- Research as you would for a vacation. Go to the library and go online to find travel resources about your place. Go to the tourism page, check out the local travel section in your library, ask friends for recommendations for new finds in your place, and go to AAA and pick up a travel guide for your city. You may be surprised what you learn.
- Unplug. We struggle to unplug on actual vacation so it will be harder when you are still at home. Make a real effort here. None of us are so critical in our work that if we stay off email, etc. for a few days the world will stop. Plan ahead and inform everyone you plan on completely unplugging and follow through. If you don’t, this is the #1 way your staycation will fail and not feel like time off. Worst-of-all: it’s self-inflicted, so knock it off.
- Create your home as a bed and breakfast. Put fresh flowers around. Transform your bathroom into a mini-spa. Buy scrumptious food from a local bakery so you don’t have to cook breakfast. After a day away exploring your place, ensure your home is as inviting as possible so you look forward to returning. A big part of a vacation, after all, is feeling like you’re still on vacation even when you return to your lodgings for the night.
- Plan your time. Just like you would on vacation, prioritize things you want to do and setup daily itineraries. You don’t have to plan everything, especially if that’s not how you usually vacation. You do need to incorporate some structure, however. Otherwise, because it’s your hometown, you may end up binging Netflix while checking your work email and paying bills. Prepay for tickets, make reservations – do whatever it takes to make you hold yourself to the plans you want to make.
- Check Groupon, LivingSocial, and special events for time-limited deals. Until I get my DateYourPlace app up and running (a work in progress), use current apps to find local deals. Everything from spa appointments to local attractions, find offerings and pre-pay to make sure you follow through. Also, remember there are some events only offered the first Friday of the month (free museum admissions or special pop-up markets). There are also theater shows or special festivals that are time-limited. Do your homework in knowing when those things are planned in picking your staycation dates and mark them in your staycation itinerary first.
- Do daytrips. Many vacation spots also offer daytrip suggested itineraries. You should do the same on your staycation. Check local tourism sites for daytrip options and pick one you’ve always wanted to experience. They could be themed-tours (antiques, local artisans, flea markets) that allow you to create a multi-stop adventure. They can also be destination-driven where you travel to a place for the day to enjoy. Who knows—it may even become your Side Place. Also, look at local train schedules to see if there’s an option for a daytrip. That way you can even lose the car and still enjoy the experience of the daytrip.
Spring Break and the Place Seasons offer a unique opportunity to deploy the staycation. Subtracting the packing, TSA lines, airline travel, and expense, staycations are a great way to save money and rekindle the relationship that helps fuel your life: the one you have with your place.
Stay In Touch
Like what you’ve been reading? Be sure to stay-in-touch, and subscribe to The City Doctor Journal, a weekly e-newsletter with exclusive content, my latest blog posts, and more, delivered straight to your inbox.