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The completely correct guide to vacationing at home


(Tara Jacoby for The Washington Post)

The terrible things that have resulted from the coronavirus outbreak seem unending. In addition to taking lives and putting everyone in the world’s health at risk, the pandemic has forced entire populations inside, upended social life, destroyed milestone celebrations, killed jobs and halted travel as we know it.

On Thursday, the State Department announced that all U.S. citizens should avoid international travel, and either arrange to return home now or stay abroad indefinitely. The same day, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) issued an order for residents to stay inside except for essential activities.

In these unprecedented times, a “staycation” may take the edge off. No, not a staycation at a local hotel in your town. A vacation in your house.

We interviewed hotel-industry insiders about how to make your home feel more like a vacation now that an actual vacation is no longer possible.

‘Marie Kondo’ your home

A hotel room is a blank slate. You walk in and, if all goes according to plan, you find a fresh, clean room, free of clutter and chaos. This is not always the case at home, where life often gets in the way of things like fluffed pillows and spotless floors.

Most people don’t fill their homes the way a hotel fills its spaces, according to Anna Beeber, a partner at Champalimaud Design, a firm responsible for designing some of the world’s most famous hotels.

Beeber says that at a hotel, every item has been considered, and there’s a rhythm and flow to each room. Normal people go out shopping and buy something they like, often without considering the entire environment it will be joining.

“We don’t necessarily understand that it’s not in harmony with the rest of our things,” she says.

For your staycation purposes, Beeber recommends walking around your home with a critical eye to figure out why certain spaces aren’t working. Remove the things that are causing a disjointed feeling. That may be getting rid of a weird rug, competing art, or just general clutter and mess.

“One of the great treats of a hotel room is that the closet is empty and you’re starting from scratch,” says Kemper Hyers, the creative director of the Auberge Resorts Collection. “It has two bathrobes, it has slippers, the laundry bag is there ready for you.”

To make your home more like a hotel, Hyers recommends cleaning your closet to get back to the essentials. And don’t just stop at the closet; purge the rest of your home of unnecessary items, then try to maintain that cleanliness. Although this may initially feel like work, the result can be a more hotel-like living space.

Embrace the power of scent

Start your scent search by thinking about the feel you’re trying to create. A Hawaiian vacation may smell like orchids, plumeria, vanilla and coffee. For a bucolic bed-and-breakfast weekend, there’s spring flowers and fresh air.

“Order copal [resin] on Amazon and it’ll take you back to Riviera Maya in three seconds,” says Hyers.

Buy items online like candles, incense or essential oils, or think about plants, flowers or fresh herbs you have on-hand.

“You can literally go cut a sprig of rosemary from our yard here in California, put it in any little tumbler, and totally change the room,” says Hyers. “It doesn’t have to be extravagant.”

Canyon Ranch wellness resorts’ vice president of experience development, Molly Anderson, recommends using essential oils to re-create aromatherapy treatments.

Choose different oils for different parts of your day. Bright scents will be better for focusing on work, while lavender, chamomile and bergamot will be soothing when you want to quiet your stress.

Role-play hotel service

Are you social distancing with a partner or roommate you still like, despite being trapped together for hours? Hyers suggests people take turns reenacting hotel service.

“Start to treat each other with those little hotel-amenity treats,” says Hyers. “We do a great hot chocolate with a little spiked whiskey next to it. Somebody can bring that one night, maybe a massage the next night or a warm cookie."

Quarantining solo? Treat yourself to turndown service by making your bed daily and topping your pillow with a chocolate.

Hyers also recommends staycationers stock a tray with drinks and snacks to re-create a minibar experience.

Beautify your bathroom

A bathroom at a hotel: pampering. Your bathroom at home: functional. Beeber recommends a few easy tricks to making your home bathroom feel more transformative.

“Often, a hotel will have a beautiful tray with amenities in it, and then everything else is put away,” she says. “In our own lives, our personal bathrooms are never that tidy. And we don’t necessarily focus on decorating the vanity surface as we find the coffee table.”

In addition to adding an amenities tray to your bathroom, Beeber’s other tips include refreshing your towels, improving your bathroom’s lighting to be more bright and flattering, and upgrading your hand soap and hand lotion.

“Whether it’s at the kitchen sink, powder room or the bathroom, find something that smells really good and is soothing, something that makes every hand-washing experience feel delightful,” she says.

Complete the full hotel-bathroom experience by stocking yours with a robe and slippers.

Change your playlist

You may be tempted to keep the TV on as background noise or entertainment while you’re sheltering in place. Before you grab the remote, ask yourself if that’s what you’d do on vacation.

Anderson recommends being intentional about choosing music or sounds that will calm you, or opting for silence to enhance your environment during this stressful time.

What sounds do you love on vacation? That could be a Spotify playlist of steel drum music, or a YouTube video of waves crashing on a beach.

Instead of turning on the TV to the news or a random show to play in the background, you can also turn on vacation-esque views, like the couple who had their cruise canceled in the wake of the outbreak. They posted up to the ocean on a screen instead.

Do things you’d normally do on vacation, at home

Is the weather nice out? Grab a beach towel and lay out in your backyard, as long as you practice social distancing and stay six feet away from any other “beachgoers."

At Canyon Ranch, guests to the wellness resort often spend mornings doing something physical. Roll out a yoga mat for an in-room practice, go on a jog outside or follow workout routines streaming online or on Instagram to break up your day at home.

For people who canceled a spring break trip to the beach, don’t put your beach read back on the bookshelf. Sink into reading for pleasure to take a break from the constant media coverage of the pandemic.

For more vacation activities to hold you over while you’re inside, try taking virtual tours of the world’s most famous tourist attractions. Right now, destinations like the Louvre, the Great Wall of China and even national parks are online for your sightseeing pleasure.

Sleep luxuriously

Vacation can be an opportunity to relax and refresh. Getting good sleep is a huge part of that.

Hyers recommends using the time you normally spent commuting to work to catch up on sleep, and installing hotel-like blackout curtains in your bedroom if you don’t have them already.

Channel wellness-resort sleep by creating a ritual around going to bed, Anderson says. Before tucking in, try taking a bath, drinking a cup of decaffeinated tea, lighting candles, practicing yoga, meditating or reading a book.

“Really focus at the end of the day on gratitude,” Anderson says. “Then you can use an app on your phone for any sort of white noise, or use a sound machine to allow yourself that luxury sleep that you typically would get on vacation.”

Read more:

Thinking about canceling your flight because of coronavirus? What to know before you do.

How to use apps like Uber and Airbnb with social distancing in mind