Yes, You Can (and Should) Take Vacation Days in Quarantine
Here are dozens of ways to escape without leaving home
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.
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
- If it’s warm where you are, order a kiddie pool. Put it in your backyard (or maybe your kitchen?) and pretend you’re at the beach.
- If you enjoy visiting historical buildings on vacation, watch a Lost Worlds documentary on YouTube and learn about ancient history.
- If you love sushi, learn how to make it at home.
- If you miss going to the movies, turn your living room into a theater.
- Host your own Chopped competition with your family or on Zoom with your friends.
- If you miss fancy restaurants, turn your living room into one: Light a candle, dim the lights set the table with too many forks, and play your favorite album.
- Play an old video game you haven’t thought of in years (remember Runescape? The Sims?).
- Practice your green thumb and repurpose your veggie scraps into plants.
- Have a picnic in your backyard or living room.
- See if your favorite artist is doing a virtual concert.
- Consider helping your community: Run a mask drive. Sew masks and hairnets for frontline workers. Grocery shop for seniors. Write encouraging words in chalk on your driveway. Host bingo or find other ways to volunteer virtually at a senior home.
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.