Yes, You Can (and Should) Take Vacation Days in Quarantine

Photo: Flashpop/Getty Images

In quarantine, vacation days seem like a relic from another era. If you’ll only be journeying from one end of your apartment to the other, why bother? Especially if you had to cancel an actual vacation — your big family camping trip, or that beach getaway with your best friends from college, or the world pastry tour you’ve been planning for months — the idea of taking a day to just stay inside right now can seem depressingly pointless.

But if you’re privileged enough to have a job that offers paid time off, it’s important that you take advantage of it, even now.

Whether or not we’re in a pandemic, Americans are notoriously bad at taking our vacation days. According to a study by Glassdoor, the average U.S. employee uses only about half of their eligible vacation time. But taking time off not only improves your mental health, but it’s also good for your career: A report by the U.S. Travel Association revealed that those who use all or most of their earned vacation are 28% happier with their employer, and 24% happier with their job. Another study by the Society for Human Resource Management reported that employees who took more of their vacation days outperformed those who took less.

And with many people currently feeling taxed not only by the stress of the virus, but also by family tensions, shifting values, and a lack of a clear line between home and work, taking time to reset is more critical than ever. Here’s how to make the most of a vacation day while stuck at home.

Disconnect. No, really.

If you’re taking a vacation day, you need to disconnect from your email, Slack, and all other ways that people from work can contact you. Turn your phone to Do Not Disturb mode, or tuck it away completely. Pretend you’re on an island vacation, and the only Wi-Fi available is the expensive, unreliable connection in the lobby.

Avoid checking the news and social media, too. A day sitting on your sofa while refreshing Twitter will not leave you feeling renewed.

“Pack” the night before

“Pack for what?” you’re probably asking. A study from Cornell University found that people experience happiness from the act of planning a vacation, even if they don’t actually take it. The anticipation was half the fun. So get yourself excited about your day off by gathering everything you need.

First, pick out what you’ll wear. If you enjoy your quarantine pajama pants, so be it. This is your vacation day. But if you’ve been feeling a little grubby lately, it might make you feel better to dress up a bit. Put on your favorite vacation outfit. Shave. Shower. Do your hair. Spray some cologne or perfume. Put on some lipstick. The idea is simply to make this day stand out from the rest in a positive way.

Next, prepare your meals. If you’ll be cooking, have your recipe and ingredients ready. If you’ll be getting delivery, choose your dishes and schedule your order in advance if you can. When your food arrives on your blessed vacation day, you’ll feel like royalty.

Create your itinerary

Think of yourself as a tour guide. Create a schedule for your day, like so:

7–10 a.m.: Sleep in. If you have kids and are raising them with a partner at home, ask them to take on the morning routine.

10–12 p.m.: Enjoy premade or preordered brunch in bed. Take an online tour of the Louvre or go on a virtual adventure with the National Zoo.

12–1 p.m.: Turn your bathroom into a steam room. Have a nice, long shower. Light a candle. Take a bath with a DIY bath bomb.

1–3 p.m.: Read, garden, paint, take a long walk, or do something else you enjoy.

3–4 p.m.: Treat yourself to a charcuterie board with a glass of wine or a yummy smoothie.

4–5 p.m.: Get dressed up in the outfit you’ve packed. Play tropical music as you get ready.

5–7 p.m.: Have dinner on video chat with your best friends. Make yourself a fruity drink. Cheers to making the most of a shitty situation.

7–9 p.m.: Make a kick-ass ice-cream sundae and join a virtual paint nite.

9 p.m.: Go to bed early.

This schedule might sound like your worst nightmare. If it is, don’t use it. Create your own. Think about what sounds enjoyable to you, and do it.

Other at-home vacation ideas

Ultimately, the goal is to take care of yourself and your mental health. By making a plan to disconnect and trying something new, you can get yourself out of the rut you may have been in, and feel more ready to face tomorrow.

Executive Recruiter @ Artemis Canada. Passionate about communication, funny tweets, and finding great leaders to change the world.

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