With 15 weeks of sheltering in place, I got to a point where I was borderline losing my mind. Granted, I took stay-at-home guidelines very seriously. I made, maybe, 3 trips to the grocery store the entire time, and they were all in recent weeks. Outside of short walks down our street, we primarily stayed confined without our own home. We even avoided our neighborhood trails because they seemed too risky.
Yes, I’m a germaphobe but I wasn’t ruled by fear. I truly wanted to do my part in flattening the curve. Although I don’t regret being that careful, mentally, and emotionally it did wipe me out. I spent a decent amount of time in our beautiful backyard but I take full responsibility for not going outside more.
When the county announced that phase 2 was in full effect, I felt ready to plan a small staycation. Before we did that, I dug into the research and found some great pointers for staycations during COVID times. We decided we’d stay within driving distance and seek out a property to stay that had plenty of safe outdoor activities. Some considerations were hotel and Airbnb safety policies, keeping up to date with the current COVID-19 stats on the number of people infected and finding out refund policies related to travel accommodations, rentals, and airfare.
Before we dig into the trip itself, I’ll walk you through how we determined it was time to take this trip and why – per the Anita Yokota Method®.
Travis and I started this thought track with a family conversation, we do these family huddles often. See below for some recommended conversation starters for family trips. These chats help determine your why behind things that impact the family.
- Emotional sentiment: Do you feel like you need a breather individually? Are you so tired of being with each other that you need some space to experience each other in a different way, but still as a family? Are you happy with how things are and just want to experience family time in a new environment? Taking a vacation is sure to help you feel mental clarity and reduce stress – I can’t think of a time we needed both of those things more! Increased mindfulness, improved heart health, and get this-elevated a-ha moment of creativity! I definitely perked up when I read this research fact. It gave me the motivation to set better boundaries for myself. “Neuroscience is so clear, through PET scans and MRIs, that the ‘aha’ moment comes when you’re in a relaxed state of mind,” Brigid Schulte, director at the Better Life lab, says. “That’s why you have your best ideas in the shower or on a walk—or on vacation.”
- Types of places to visit: Once you’ve determined the emotional sentiment of your family, let that guide the types of places you’d consider going. That is what we did. We all decided we loved the beach because it gave us the freedom to do our own thing but still be together enjoying vitamin D, ocean breeze, and the cool refreshing water. We wanted to experience each other, outside our house, and get some individual time so the beach was a great place to get it all!
As a therapist, I was thrilled for a beach vacation because there are incredibly emotional and physical benefits of being near the ocean! Richard Shuster, PsyD, clinical psychologist states that “staring at the ocean actually changes our brain waves’ frequency and puts us into a mild meditative state.” A study published in the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s journal even found that blue is associated with a boost of creativity. Just what the doctor ordered for us.
- Types of activities you want to experience: We decided as a family that we wanted to do more than just transporting our home activities to the beach. The girls didn’t want to be inside playing pretend games, not after being at home for 15 weeks. Playing inside certainly has its merit, like the girls’ celebration COVID, but for this trip, they wanted nothing to do with inside, and I don’t blame them.
Water is so therapeutic! Very few things compare to standing with your feet in the sand and a wave washing over.
- Comfort level of accommodations: Given the landscape around COVID, this question is a little different than usual, but I do recommend always including in your chat, something about accommodations. What’s the vibe of the family – a house where you can spread out, big hotel suite where you are all still together, slumber party style, separate hotel rooms, etc.
My teen expressed high concern around staying outside our own home so Travis and I had to have an educational conversation with her on the current stats and situation. She still felt nervous but understood she could trust Travis and me to make a safe decision. With that, we opted for a hotel that had great communications around their safety and precautions. Trip advisor is our go-to-travel guide for big or small vacations. I researched hotels and found the Inn at Laguna beach!
If you’re struggling to know where to go, where to stay, what to do that will mitigate risk, check out some of these considerations.
Our why: Through this family chat, we determined our why for a beach trip was to experience family time outside of the home, each of us to get alone time, and to experience a safe place to experience the outside world.
Now that our why was established, we could get on to the fun part, planning!
- Duration: Travis and I generally take this part on without the kids and determine how long/short the trip will be. How many days is right for a staycation? By experience, 3 nights 4 days is a minimum because it takes a couple of days to acclimate and start to truly relax.
- Activities: Although we were not far from home, we still wanted to make the trip feel special for our family. I came across this article outlining ways to create a good staycation and one really spoke to me for this trip: create memorable moments. We allow the girls to do things they don’t do at home, eat things they aren’t generally allowed to have, stay up past bedtime, etc to make it feel like a vacation!
Ok, now let’s take a look at what we did and how our planning came to fruition!
Highlights & Tips of The Trip
- Despite the June gloom, we stayed on the beach from 11 am to sunset! We invited family friends to come down for dinner on the beach and later enjoyed the hotel spa together. What a breath of fresh air (literally) to see other people outside our immediate family while still social distancing!
Here’s Natalie enjoying the beach when the sun finally decided to shine at 4pm!
And then an hour later, back to partly overcast skies. That’s the beach weather for you!
Nothing beats a beach picnic lunch of our favorites! Turkey sandwich (with a heavy dose of sand), sparkly cold Topo Chico and gourmet chocolate chip cookies!
I could get used to meals on the beach!
- We loved walking about town and discovering new places to eat! It felt like we were miles away from home but really only 20 min!
- Two places we loved were Carmelita’s where the carnitas and churros were to DIE for! And, Brussels Bistro with the tastiest mussels and frites.
We kept our masks on while dining in. It was our first time sitting down at a restaurant since March and it felt odd yet refreshing to come back to somewhat of a normal. We only put down our masks when eating.
- The beer selections were excellent, too! We tried one that tasted so unique and fruity that it almost didn’t taste like beer. I wanted to drink the whole mug. Maybe I was thirsty from being out on the beach all day, ha!
- Sleep in! This is the one time to just let yourself relax and sleep in if you can. The girls went to bed later and we all enjoyed some extra R and R.
This looks like a girl who is enjoying her extra zzzz’s!
- Do splurge for a better view. I used to be so frugal about hotel rooms. But I realized that I am pretty picky about my hotel experiences. They don’t have to be super fancy but two requirements: CLEAN and open view. If the view is blocked by a parking lot or bushes, I feel emotionally blocked. Unfortunately, a pretty open view of a pool, ocean, golf course, mountains, lake, etc are usually more $$$. If you save up for it though, it’s worth it!
There is nothing quite like waking up to salty air and a view!
Social distancing experience and tips:
Masks: It was easy to forget to take masks if you needed to make a quick trip upstairs to your room or get something at a store down the street from the beach. I suggest having a fanny pack (is that what they call it these days?) to keep your mask with you at all times. I went into mini panic modes when I forgot and it was too late to go back and get it. Even a small mask to keep in your pocket is great. I have to continually remind myself that this is our new normal.
We got a few from Anthropologie and it really helped take away the stigma of illness and negativity a bit. I know it may seem trivial but anything helps at the moment to feel more positive about the pandemic.
Hand sanitizer: Speaking of a fanny pack, if you’re going to wear one, make sure you keep hand sanitizer in there too. Strategically place hand sanitizer so that whenever you’re away from your room, it’s easy to access!
In your car console, in your purse, beach bag, kids luggage, fanny pack, jacket pocket, you name it, you put it there. Normally I’d said “you’ll never know when you’ll need it” but these days, we do – always!
- Don’t be afraid to communicate politely about things that make you feel uncomfortable. Truth be told, it got a little too close for comfort at times when people would throw the football around, running around on the beach, etc. I was *that* mom and firmly but politely asked they not play so close to the kids. I probably embarrassed my kids but it made me more comfortable and they were very amenable.
- Things to be flexible with: Restaurants. We dined in at the Brussels Bistro and kept our masks on when not eating. Guess who was the most careful? Little Natalie. She even kept her mask on in the car. I swear a personality trumps the environment. We try to normalize COVID 19 and never go into panic mode or seem anxious even though inside I was freaking out at times. Natalie seems to take COVID quite seriously and has-beens super good about washing hands and wearing masks. For take out, I had to get over the fact that the takeout boxes and plastic bags had germs. I need to lead by example for my girls and control the controllable – disinfect where I can and be cautious but still live my life.
What beautiful smiles they have!! 😉
Aren’t the girls’ Target swimsuits so cute! They were all under $16! The older girls are avid boogie boarders but last summer we used them to its last ride. So we also picked up this $15 boogie board that worked just as well. And no beach trip is complete without sand toys and mesh bags that let the sand and water out. For swim season, these mesh backpacks are a lifesaver!
Look at a great round up of beach toys, swim suits, beach bags, and more right here!
Advice on your staycation WHY
The biggest thing I hope this encourages you to do is identify what is best for you and your family. Try to avoid letting others tell you what you should or should not be doing. Find your new normal and baseline and make it work for your family – be smart and respectful of others, of course, but find a way to continue living your life in this new normal. Be ok and trust yourself on your comfort level within reason. Beating yourself up about whether or not you’re doing the right thing will help anyone because, frankly, there is no rule book for this!
I am not suggesting you be irresponsible and not wear masks in public because you don’t feel like it. Adhere to all the social rules and responsibilities. If you feel like venturing out safely, then explore options and do so for your mental health! Balance is key! The happier you are, the happier everyone will be!
We came home so refreshed and happy with each other! I am grateful we took the time to commit to the planning up front so we could genuinely enjoy the trip!