Staying home is the new going away. Bronwyn Sell looks at how the 'staycation' can be just as fun as a holiday away - and at the same time can save you lots of money.
This is how my next holiday will go: the husband and I will pack the kids into the car at a civilised hour. We will drive for 10 minutes, have a leisurely brunch somewhere new, then drive for another 10 minutes to our boutique hotel.
It will be spotless and private. There will be flowers on the table, luxury toiletries in the bathroom and plenty of toys for the kids. The beds will be comfortable and configured exactly to our needs. There will be a cosy fire and the mini bar will be full of complimentary treats. Our hosts will have anticipated our every desire.
It will be our own house.
It's called a "holiday at home". Which is not the same as a week off work that you spend at home because the bathroom needs repainting. Nor is it (necessarily) a week spent in front of the television.
A holiday at home means you become a tourist in your own city and transform your home (even just in your mind) into a hotel.
That means no work, no chores and no errands. It means abandoning your routine and trying new things: foods, restaurants, parks, attractions.
Yes, it might take a leap of imagination, especially if your home is closer to a backpackers' lodge than a five-star hotel and it rains for the entire week, but if you can pull it off think of the benefits: no expensive airfares, no jetlag, no "are we there yet?", no $9 Mars bars from the mini bar, no need for carbon offsets, no driving in circles in a strange city.
Holidaying at home has caught on so strongly in the US it's got its own buzzword: the "staycation". With the financial crisis and soaring oil prices, staying home has become the new going away.
Like any holiday, a staycation can benefit from preparation. Save for it and set a budget, just as you might for a holiday overseas. Tie up household admin and loose ends before you "go". Use some of the money you might have spent on airfares and accommodation to get gourmet groceries and treats delivered and book a cleaner, a gardener, a lawn-mowing service, a laundry service, a mobile massage therapist and beauty therapist, a dog walker, a nanny - even a personal chef.
Wellington life coach Cassandra Gaisford suggests you pinpoint what you need a holiday from. "What needs to remain the same, what needs to change? If you need a break from walking the dog, or the ageing cat is peeing on the carpet you may want to think about checking them into a pet motel.
"Plan some FTEs - first-time experiences. Rediscover your sense of adventure. Break out of the comfort rut. Your FTEs don't have to be huge - they may be seeing a show or eating something different."
Transforming your surroundings can also help you relax into holiday mode. Ponsonby interior designer Fiona McLeod suggests you ask yourself what it is about a luxury boutique hotel that's appealing.
"For me it's tranquility and minimalism. Get everything off the floor except your furniture and your feet, and completely clear the kitchen bench except for a bowl of fruit. If you have a fireplace, light it, and add to the ambience with candles and aromatherapy.
"Treat yourself. Buy a pile of magazines and fan them out on your coffee table. Buy luxury bath and shower products and splash out on a few extra accessories, like designer cushions, new towels or an ornamental bowl, to make your home slightly different from the norm."
As with any good holiday, a staycation is about eating fun food. If holidays mean lobster and fresh mango, put them on your shopping list. If you regard cooking as a chore, don't do it. Go out for meals at restaurants and cafes you've never tried, or live on "room service" (home-delivered takeaways). If you enjoy cooking, buy gourmet and unfamiliar ingredients and create new dishes.
After our family staycation, we will return home at leisure, perhaps stopping at a cafe on the way to transition out of holiday mode. We will be rested and stimulated. And the bill will be very reasonable.
The rules of a staycation
1. Set a departure time.
To help you make the mental switch to holiday mode, and declare an end date. Get excited.
2. Switch off the world.
No phones, no email, no mail, no internet and definitely no work. Tell your boss you're holidaying in the Sub-Antarctic Islands and can't be contacted.
3. Abandon routine.
Eat when you're hungry, sleep when you're tired, drink whenever you declare it to be cocktail hour. Let the kids play Scrabble until midnight and give them chocolate for breakfast and Weet-Bix for dinner.
4. Hire "staff"to do your chores.
Do not go on errands or do housework.
5. Diet be damned.
If you even touch that packet of mixed veggies in the freezer, you're disqualified and have to go back to work immediately. Daily icecreams are compulsory.
6. Go on day trips and try new things.
Be a tourist: think dolphin-watching, a harbour cruise, a wine tour, a drive in the country, the Auckland Harbour Bridge walk, shopping somewhere new for something fun. Hire a luxury car, do a wine-tasting course, try something creative, go to the theatre or learn a new sport.
7. Avoid familiarity.
Take the children to playgrounds and parks they've never been to before. Play tennis (if you don't usually). Walk or cycle as much as possible.
8. Spend your holiday allowance frivolously.
Buy a good book and new toys for the kids (and you). Turn your home into a day spa.
9. Send postcards.
Take photos, make videos, buy souvenirs.
10. Host cocktail hour.
Serve your friends daiquiris from coconuts. Better still, invite them for the weekend - even if they live nearby.