December 2, 2015

Is a Staycation a Real Vacation?

Photo courtesy of Mike Licht via Flickr.

“This is a perfect place for a staycation,” Max said as he looked around the room my husband and I had just checked into at the Centara Grand Hotel at the Central World Plaza downtown Bangkok.

As the bellboy brought in the posters, banners, books and suitcases, the five of us stood at the window transfixed by the Bangkok skyline. The view was spectacular, even to Max and Dusanee who have lived here for years. Justin, my husband’s son visiting from Seoul, commented on the marked differences between these two Asian mega-metropolises. We stood inside, separated from the dripping humidity, congestion of noise and swarms of people only by a single glass window. That window made all the difference to our comfort and our perspective.Staycation — the word resonated within. It is fairly simple and captures the idea without needing much explanation. If I lived in this gigantic city of flashing billboards, traffic jams and masses of people, my first thought would be to plan a getaway, not a stay.


Still, I could visualize what he meant. I would be curled up on the cozy couch with a good book (or a movie, given the humongous flat screen), Bangkok at my feet, dazzled by the lights and the movement outside while surrounded by the comfort of this beautifully appointed room. The minimalist décor contrasted the visual overload beyond the window. The soft Asian touches —white orchid, deep orange silk throw and rice field sunrise painting — invited relaxation.

When I felt like venturing out, I could pop up to the 26th floor to lounge around a large swimming pool with 180 degree views of the city. Sheltered from the heat by beautiful landscaping, I could rehydrate on a coconut mocktail from the spa. I would end my day with a Thai massage before heading to the 54th floor outdoor restaurant for dinner. Why bother fighting traffic, airport security check-in and travel hassles when an oasis awaits in the midst of this city?

According to the “Online Etymology Dictionary,” the word “vacation” was first used in the late 14th Century with the following meaning

“…freedom from obligations, leisure, release” (from some activity or occupation), from Old French vacacion “vacancy, vacant position” and directly from Latin vacationem “leisure, freedom, exemption, a being free from duty, immunity earned by service…” (

The concept of “staycation” derives naturally from the origin of the word “vacation.” The concept of travel does not appear as a mandatory component of the early definition.

However, when consulting the “Miriam Webster Dictionary,” the first element of the definition provides that a vacation is:

“A period of time that a person spends away from home, school, or business usually in order to relax or travel.” (

To my mind, “away” involves travel. Perhaps not by plane nor train, but at least some form of trip or journey.

A few days after our return to Philadelphia, we were invited for a belated Canadian Thanksgiving dinner celebration. In the midst of our conversation, one of the guests joked about binge-watching old James Bond movies during his recent “staycation.”

Photo courtesy of Adam McIver via Flivkr.

Photo courtesy of Adam McIver via Flivkr.

There it was again. This idea that time away from work could consist of staying put. When I pressed him for the details of his “staycation,” he told me he travels overseas extensively for work. The idea of spending a few days at home not going anywhere was a perfect vacation.

Amused by the discovery of what I assumed was a new hip word, I looked up “staycation” in the “Online Etymology Dictionary.” To my surprise, I discovered I was behind the times when it comes to new vacation trends. The concept of staycation has been around since 2008. The word has been borrowed from the “Great Recession.” (

When I was a little girl, vacation always meant summer and winter breaks. My family did not often travel nor did we take long car trips. But my time was filled with exploring the woods near our house and imaginary places in books. As I grew older, vacation quickly became a synonym with traveling. Once I graduated and no longer needed to sacrifice my vacation days to school or studying, every vacation included travel. No matter how meager my budget was, there was always a destination that I could reach.

I thought back to Max’s comment as my husband and I chatted on our rooftop deck enjoying the Philly skyline. I still have great difficulty imagining myself checking-in to the Ritz-Carlton in Center City for a staycation. My bicycle, motorcycle or suitcase would be calling too loudly.

I know someday the adventurer in me will once again have to turn to books and movies for travel, but until then, I still prefer to lace up my hiking boots, strap on my cycling helmet or grab my suitcase. Vacation means travel to me.

As for those who have discovered the joy of creating “staycations” for themselves, I cheer them on. In the end, what matters is that we have a period “away” from our usual routine to nourish our creativity and our soul.


1 Comment

  1. William says:

    As I reflect on your topic, I realize a Stay Vacation has escaped my non travel plans . I like the idea. I also realized when travelling incessantly during my career, my weekend time at home was a vacation from planes and hotels.

    Today, I travel by choice and Away Vacations are longer, not stuffed into a week and with less distractions.

    Stay Vacations will find their place with me but not for sometime.

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