I’ve never really understood the concept of a staycation, going so far as to poo-poo the idea for years thinking they were rather lame. I always felt that in order to get the benefits of a vacation you must first travel some great distance that requires you to complain at length about the journey. Then, and only then, will you reap the rewards of a holiday. Oh, and let’s not forget that the journey home must also be as arduous, meaning that by the time you arrive home, you’ve lost much of your vacation glow. We don’t say we need a vacation from our vacation for nothing.
Let’s face it, it’s a fallacy many of us have fallen for, and it remains the number one complaint we have about travel. Whether it’s the long, dangerous drive on the highway, or the modern day torture chamber known as the airport, we are convinced that in order to get the best of travel we must somehow be inconvenienced in the process. Spoiler alert: this leads me to my first key takeaway of staycations.
You Don’t Have to Travel Far to Reap Vacation Rewards
The mental and physical benefits of vacations are scientifically proven, so we’re right to pursue them regularly. Staycations however remove the biggest headache of travel – the journey. Now that I’ve had my first true staycation at the iconic Fairmont Chateau Laurier in downtown Ottawa, I have seen the light.
It took me exactly 20 minutes to drive to the Chateau—no security line ups, no stress about luggage overages, no disgustingly early wake up calls.
I spent the entire week eagerly anticipating our weekend escape, and arrived back at my door rested with zero stress from the travel there or back. Talk about squeezing every mental health benefit out of a holiday. Pre and post holiday glow with no horror stories to share about the journey. Staycations 1, Vacations 0.
There is No Wrong Way to Staycation
When we first planned our staycation at the Chateau Laurier I figured we would be running around downtown Ottawa, participating in Winterlude activities, roaming through the Byward Market, and taking in the sights. After all, why wouldn’t we, it’s within walking distance to just about everything anyone would want to see in Ottawa.
But you know what? Been there, done that.
I live in Ottawa, and over the past 20 years, I’ve done a lot of touristy things. It was cold out, the Chateau was warm, and I decided that my staycation would involve a lot of cocooning. Instead I slipped into my comfy pajamas, ordered poutine from room service, and ordered a movie. At first, I felt guilty about not going out to take in all the wonderful things happening around me but then I realized it’s my staycation I’m going to do it how I want to do it. Key takeaway: it’s your staycation. You do you.
It’s Okay to Relieve Yourself of Responsibility
I am tired. Tired of picking up and folding, of making dinners, and frankly of making a million tiny little decisions from the time I wake up every day to the time I go to bed. The best part is I know I’m not alone because my friends suffer from the same affliction. It’s that damn mental load we drag around and it’s utterly and completely exhausting. So hear me ladies, it is worth the price of admission to go somewhere and let someone else pick up the towels, make the bed, and take your dirty dishes away.
For 48 hours, I put my Type A, control freak personality away and didn’t make the bed. I also left the dishes on the table (the horror), and looked the other way when my teen daughter didn’t pick up her towel. It was liberating, and a powerful reminder that I didn’t always stress about stupid things like that. Key takeaway: staycations are the equivalent of mental health days, and I’ll be planning more of them.
Change The Scenery and Problem Solve
Sometimes we’re so busy reacting to all the things life throws at us, it’s difficult to step back and assess how we could be doing things differently. My stress levels have been high the last year as I work my way through a separation, parent two teenagers, and hustle to find work as a self-employed person. What I’ve lacked is the time to clear my head and assess how I could be doing things differently.
I had wanted to do a vision board for a long time, to help me focus my energies on the things that matter and clear away the clutter. I packed Bristol board, glue sticks, scissors, and a ton of magazines for our weekend. My daughter and I spread out our material on the floor and got down to the business of cutting and pasting our vision boards together. This process opened the door to some amazing discussions about how we saw the future, what we wanted for ourselves and for each other. It was something, that probably wouldn’t have happened at home.
Released from our every day duties and the distractions that are always around at home, we were able to let our imaginations run loose. Key takeaway: change the scenery to view your life through a different filter.
I recently lost 20 pounds and so I’ve been quite diligent about keeping the weight off but I’ve learned that one of the most important things you can do is to allow a cheat every once in awhile, otherwise life is kind of boring. Staycations are a great time to let your hair down and eat all the pastries, enjoy the teatime, and order panzerotti (deep fried pizza) to your room.
Staycations are also a great time to let go of everyday stresses if only for a short time and laugh. I’ve been making a concerted effort to practice being in the moment more, even going so far as to download a mindfulness app and starting to learn how to meditate. Honestly, I don’t even know who I am anymore. All of this is to say that a brief reprieve from the everyday can give you the space you need to embrace new things. I know I sound like a broken record here, but change the scenery, change your outlook. Yeah, my first staycation came with some pretty powerful revelations. Key takeaway: use your staycation time to live in the moment.
Location, location, location
The most important part of any staycation is to find a place that makes you happy. You’re not going to get the same kind of experience if you booked yourself in at your local airport hotel, so make sure the hotel you pick is aesthetically pleasing to you and offers lots to do both within the hotel, and close by.
The Fairmont Chateau Laurier is a castle that sits beside Parliament Hill in the heart of downtown Ottawa. One of Canada’s original grand hotels, it’s easy to get swept up in its rich and storied past. Walking the hallways here you’ll find pictures of royalty, famous politicians, and celebrities that have visited through the years lining the walls.
Chateau Laurier has an incredible pool to relax in, and a state of the art fitness centre. As with all the Fairmonts, The Chateau Laurier is known for their famous afternoon tea. Located in the recently refurbished Zoe’s Lounge, it’s a throwback to a less hurried era, and a great way to spend an afternoon whether you’re staying there or not.
I’m normally the first person to pass on breakfast buffets, so it’s worth noting that the breakfast buffet in Wilfred’s Restaurant is by the far the best I’ve ever seen. You can order off the menu but I’m not sure why you would.
No matter if you visit the buffet a couple of times, or enjoy something off the menu, you’ll be able to take in spectacular views of Parliament Hill from your table.
If you’ve never enjoyed a staycation before, there’s no better time than the present to take the plunge. The Fairmont Chateau Laurier routinely has offers that are perfect for families. Enjoy the hotel with your family, or take advantage of the free pass to one of three of Ottawa’s family friendly museums.
Looking for a more bucket list travel opp? Check out my article on The Rocky Mountaineer, a once in a lifetime luxury trip for two.