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8 essential staycation tips tailored for first responders

Even if you can’t travel out of town for a vacation, you can still make the most of your time off; here are some tips to help responders enjoy a staycation right at home

Summer is just around the corner and most folks are eagerly awaiting their fun-in-the-sun vacation plans, whether they’re traveling a few states away or embarking on an adventure abroad.

However, as a first responder, taking time off for an extended summer vacation isn’t always feasible due to your irregular and unpredictable work schedules. Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean you and your family cannot benefit from time off, it might just look different from your friends’ vacations who don’t work in public safety.

Enter the staycation.

Taking just a day or two away from work can significantly reduce stress and prevent burnout. First responders can recharge by spending quality time with family and friends, and they can do this right at home, without the need for extensive travel.

Understanding that this approach to vacation might be new to some, we have put together eight tips for planning and enjoying a fulfilling staycation. These tips include affordable options to help you maximize your time off and rejuvenate yourself effectively.

1. Maximize your days off by scheduling them consecutively, turning even a three-day weekend into a mini vacation.

You don’t need a long, extravagant vacation to enjoy the benefits of time off.

With a three-day weekend close to home, consider exploring local museums, parks and new restaurants, or take a day trip to a nearby town or city. Spend a day outdoors enjoying activities like hiking, biking, kayaking, playing pickleball or having a picnic in a scenic spot.

Unsure of how to make this a reality?

Using a planner can help you visualize your schedule, plan effectively and coordinate with family or friends to make the most of every moment off duty.

  • Use the daily to-do list, top 3 tasks and guided prompts to get organized
  • Plan ahead by establishing your goals for the upcoming week
  • Keep track of your monthly goals, important dates and budget

2. Be intentional about your time off. Don’t fill your days off with errands or chores.

To enjoy your time off, complete chores and errands before your staycation begins, ensuring your home is tidy and laundry-free.

And because most cannot afford a regularly scheduled cleaning service, consider investing in a robot vacuum that can handle the cleaning for you.

  • Self-drying, self-washing, self-emptying, self-refilling and self-cleaning
  • Vacuum and mop floors at the same time
  • Detects and avoids objects on the floor so you don’t have to move anything

Instead of household tasks, engage in activities like meditation, a round of golf, exploring a new hobby such as Jiu-Jitsu, or planning a day out with your spouse, partner or children.

3. Create a relaxing environment at home by transforming your living space into a sanctuary.

Creating a relaxing environment doesn’t require a sound machine or essential oils, although if you enjoy those, feel free to use them.

Simple adjustments like rearranging your furniture for comfort, adding soft throw pillows and blankets, and utilizing natural light can brighten your space. Additionally, consider setting up a reading nook to catch up on the book you’ve been meaning to read or create a home theater with a projector and screen for a cozy movie night. The options for creating a chill vibe are endless.

  • Projector is portable with built-in dual speakers
  • Support Bluetooth speakers, soundbars or headphones
  • Projector supports desktop/ceiling/tripod placement

4. Limit your screen time by designating specific times to check emails or messages. Outside of that time, only engage in offline activities.

This approach is essential for managing stress and maintaining a work-life balance, especially crucial for first responders.

First responders can engage in hobbies such as gardening or woodworking, take dance lessons, practice mindfulness through yoga or meditation, or simply spend quality time with family and friends. These activities not only provide a break from work-related stress but also enhance first responders’ ability to effectively manage on-the-job pressures.

Here are a couple of Amazon buys to jump-start this goal:

The book covers:
  • Technique development
  • Projects designed for the beginner
  • Expert advice on using hand tools, joinery, finishing and more
  • Set includes a total of 8 tools and 1 storage bag
  • Non-slip wooden tool handles
  • Stainless steel tools are rust-proof

5. Embark on mini adventures to explore local attractions, try new restaurants or participate in community events.

These adventures, typically nearby and requiring minimal planning, can provide an escape to help decompress from work-related stress.

If you’re off during the week, consider scheduling your mini adventures during less crowded times, like weekday afternoons or early mornings. To find activities, check your local community calendar for upcoming festivals, community theater performances, charity golf tournaments, 5K races, new restaurant openings, and both adult-only and family-friendly activities within driving distance. Don’t forget to track your steps with a wearable device during your adventures!

Key features :
  • Body energy monitoring and Pulse Ox sensors
  • Tracks over 20 biometrics for heath data
  • Up to 8 days in smartwatch mode
  • Up to 6 hours in GPS and music mode

6. Get creative by organizing themed days based on interests or places you would like to visit in the future.

Is the Amalfi Coast on your must-visit list?

Organizing themed days can be a fun way to delve into activities connected to places you dream of visiting. For an Italian-themed day, consider making homemade pasta, pizza and gelato, transforming your kitchen into a mini Italian eatery.

Enjoy preparing these dishes as a family while playing Italian music or watching travel documentaries about Italy. This can provide an immersive way to “travel” to Italy without leaving home.

  • 7 different thickness options from 2mm to 6mm
  • Perfect for spaghetti, linguini, fettuccini and lasagna noodles
  • Stainless steel machine
  • 7 one-touch programs
  • Choose between ice cream, sorbet, gelato, milkshake, smoothie bowl, lite ice cream and mix-in
  • Prep your base, freeze overnight, process and enjoy

7. Prioritize rest and self-care to maintain balance and wellbeing.

Sleeping in can be a crucial self-care practice for first responders, who often face irregular or lengthy shifts that disrupt standard sleep patterns. Prioritizing sleep during days off might involve turning off the alarm to ensure deep, uninterrupted rest.

Self-care routines can also involve physical and mental health activities, such as taking a long bath, applying a facial, reading a favorite book, or relaxing in a peaceful outdoor setting while practicing yoga or deep breathing. Here are some options on Amazon:

  • Reads like real paper, even in bright sunlight
  • Single charge lasts up to 10 weeks
  • Adjustable warm light and auto-adjusting front light
  • Evenly weighted for deeper sleep
  • Machine-washable
  • Choose between 10, 15 and 20-pound options
  • Lavender and nighttime sleep support
  • 15 aromatherapy packs
  • Lasts longer than standard shower bombs
  • 100% Polyester and machine washable
  • Blocks out 85%-99% of sunlight
  • Reduces outside noise

8. Need a change of scenery? Try a staycation swap, where you exchange homes with a friend or family member for a weekend.

You don’t need a Vrbo or Airbnb to get a change of scenery.

Your colleagues or friends might also be feeling burnt out and in need of a change from their usual environment. These swaps provide flexibility, allowing first responders to align their staycations with their work schedules. They also offer convenience and cost savings, as there’s no need for long-distance travel or dealing with non-refundable bookings. Additionally, a new environment can significantly reduce stress without the complications of typical travel logistics.

If you need a longer staycation, ask colleagues if they’re open to a shift swap. This could allow you to extend your time off by adjusting work schedules mutually, providing a more extended period to relax and rejuvenate.

Here are some essentials to buy if someone is staying at your house for an extended period to ensure optimal relaxation:

  • Brews multiple cup sizes: 4, 6, 8, 10 and 12-ounce
  • Strong brew button increases the strength and bold coffee taste
  • Iced setting gives user iced coffee
  • 8 designs available
  • Built-in handles on both sides of boards
  • UV clear coating and UV direct printed graphics
  • Dual support bracing to ensure no bounce
  • Airflow system yields low smoke and less ash
  • Large, robust flame with a 4-foot heat radius
  • Measures 24.75" x 24.75" x 18.75"

Sarah Calams, who previously served as associate editor of and, is the senior editor of and In addition to her regular editing duties, Sarah delves deep into the people and issues that make up the public safety industry to bring insights and lessons learned to first responders everywhere.

Sarah graduated with a bachelor’s degree in news/editorial journalism at the University of North Texas in Denton, Texas. Have a story idea you’d like to discuss? Send Sarah an email or reach out on LinkedIn.