The birth of the staycation

Contrary to popular belief, the term staycation is not a thoroughly modern invention invented by the marketing gurus of the 21st century. In fact, popular culture would have us believe that the use of the word staycation is as recent as 2005 when a US newspaper – the Huntsville (Alabama) Times – coined the phrase as meaning, ‘a vacation where you stay at home and don’t vacate to anywhere else.’

Although this is the meaning we have come to understand and embrace, especially in these times of limited or next to zero travel possibilities, the original use dates back to July 1944.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, as part of the wartime effort to save gasoline, the Cincinnati Enquirer advised its readers that they should, ‘Take a Stay-cation instead of Va-cation, this year.’ And so, with this sound advice, and albeit unwittingly, the word was born into the family of modern language.

This type of word, which combines two existing words, is known in the realms of lexicography as a portmanteau. The creation of the portmanteau is not a new phenomenon but has seen somewhat of a resurgence in recent times, when businesses, PR companies, and marketing departments strive to be the creator of trends and the influencers of consumerism.

Words like glamping, bucket list, voluntourism, mancation, listicle, romcom, labradoodle, and even Brexit have become commonplace in our vocabulary. It’s not unheard of for journalists and influencers to create a mockumentary, a podcast, or a webinar on the subject of Bollywood or the latest cosplay fashions while holed up somewhere in an interstate motel room. 

But what is the real meaning of a staycation? And, why has it become such an important element of our modern lives?

The evolution of the staycation

With its origins in a time founded on doing one’s bit for the common good, the idea of the staycation has evolved as the world around us has changed. In fact, as recent world events have demonstrated, the staycation has been mercifully gifted to us and thankfully it looks like it’s here to stay.

At present overseas travel has been all but stopped in its tracks. Despite that, the fact is, that humans will always find a way to persevere with their passions.

One such way we have found to persevere, and survive, is the rise of the staycation getaway. Far-flung holidays and overseas travel has been put on hold as governments around the world are urging us to stay close to home, and avoid what is deemed to be unnecessary travel. Isolation, quarantine, and near-home travel are the norm now.

From this dictate, people, and businesses – most especially the hospitality and tourism industries – have rushed to reinvent themselves. Local and regional tourist boards and organizations have scoured their locales in an attempt to find those ‘hidden gems’. Destinations and attractions that most wannabe travelers tend to overlook in favour of the tried and trusted, if not overcrowded, traditional tourist traps.

International tourism destinations have abandoned – at least for now – their attempts to lure visitors from abroad. Instead, travel consumers are being urged to embrace the overall staycation experience. To visit local beauty spots, sample the local nature, visit historical sites on our doorstep, stay in nearby family-run hotels, book hideaways in the wild, and support the local economy in any way possible.

The rise of staycation gifts

Many travel-oriented businesses have been quick to emphasise that the hotel staycation is not just a uniquely 2020 experience. The staycation is a trend that has been growing in popularity for some time, perhaps unseen by many. With that in mind, staycation gifts such as vouchers, that can be used to engage in unique experiences around the world, have become the first choice for many. 

The premise is simple; occasions such as weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, or any other occasion normally marked with the giving of gifts have changed. In the past, we gave material gifts, most like things that were unwanted and unnecessary. But modern circumstances have changed that. We now want to give the gift of experiences, and one of those great experiences is the gift of a staycation.

Companies like Tinggly – whose engaging strapline urges us to ‘Give stories, not stuff’ allows gift buyers to choose a complete package of experiences – in hundreds of locations around the world. These staycation gifts allow the recipient to choose the one experience that suits them best, in that experience can even be chosen in a location close to home.

From glamping in semi-isolation, spa treatments and other holistic therapies, local city tours, food and drinks experiences, to courses where the recipient can learn a new skill, are all proving themselves as winners in these unprecedented times.

Rewarding employees with a corporate staycation

Right around the world, many companies are paying attention to the needs of their employees. Many of these employees have had to forego their annual holiday leave while working from home, often with the increased stress of sharing a confined space with their quarantined families. 

This has given rise to the corporate staycation, where employees are being rewarded with the gift of staycations and mini-breaks close to home. These corporate staycation gifts are often geared towards an entire family, rather than the individual. 

Already, employers are seeing the benefits of these corporate staycation gifts during times of unparalleled stress and upheaval. 

It’s no secret that employees who have just returned from an overseas vacation suffer from a form of depression, based on the resumption of routine and normality. This is something that can never be good for productivity or personal wellbeing.

However, when employees are given the opportunity to holiday close to home, in the company of their families – and without the stress that is often associated with international travel – the staycation becomes more than a holiday break. A family staycation experience can become a suggestion for living a better quality of life, far into the future.

Families and individuals have come to realize the real benefits of a staycation. 

One family camping trip in nature can become a regular monthly experience, without the need for months of preparation, the organization of tickets, passports, and other time-consuming chores.  Staycations can happen on a whim. They can be organized quickly, sometimes without even a destination in mind. Just up and go.

How staycations can mean traveling safely

The COVID-19 pandemic has meant that we are all paying much closer attention to health and safety, things we may have taken for granted in the past. 

Previously we booked trains and busses to take us to the airport. At the airport we stood in long crowded lines, shoulder to shoulder with hundreds, if not thousands of fellow travelers. We boarded flights full to capacity, breathing in recycled air, sitting row by row with strangers whose backgrounds we know nothing of. 

Once at our destination we check into rooms without being overly concerned by the level of hygiene employed by the hotelier. In the past, sanitization and adherence to regulations were rarely mentioned. However, all of that has changed.

The staycation has reopened the world of travel to us, albeit a very different world. This brave new era is one controlled by us, and by our demand for safety in everything we do whilst away from home. 

We have found new ways around new problems, changed our habits for the better, reinvented ourselves, and evolved positively and powerfully. We are learning new skills instead of relying on technology for entertainment. We are experiencing every wonderful aspect of the great outdoors, hiking, walking, sailing, capturing the world and its nature in the most wonderful and innovative ways. We are drawing closer to nature like never before. And it seems that we are liking it more than ever.

It is now, thanks to the staycation, up to us to choose what we do, where we do it, and when we do it, all with the wellbeing of ourselves and our loved ones at its core.

Are staycations the future?

It’s a simple fact that most of us want to travel again. To see the world, and to have amazing new experiences among different cultures. And, it’s quite likely that that singular desire may never be replaced by the staycation experience. 

But for now, at least, the staycation is king. And while it may not fully replace international travel  – once the world is free enough and confident enough to take to the skies again – by the time that happens many of us will have truly discovered and will have come to embrace the life-affirming benefits of the staycation.

The idea that discoveries can be found on our doorsteps will have become hardwired in the psyches of many of us. Staycations will become the new norm, and new niches will open up to accommodate that new norm.

Travel and tourism organizations will realize this and in conjunction with a commitment to a cleaner, more earth-aware future the staycation is not just a fad, dreamed up in the mid-forties, but is something beneficial that is here to stay.

There are experiences everywhere waiting to be discovered, take a closer look, those experiences might just be close to home.