National Plan for Vacation Day could normally be spent with family, gathered ’round the computer to plan the upcoming year’s travels. For the obvious reasons, it looks a little different this year.

diagram: NEW updated vacay day illustration

© iStock/Washington Post illustration
NEW updated vacay day illustration

We aren’t spending the holiday daydreaming about a kayaking trip to Nova Scotia or eating goulash on the Danube. We’re sitting at home wondering things like, “When can we travel again?” and, “God? Is that you? Have you forsaken us?”


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But a holiday’s a holiday, and we’re going to find a way to celebrate without heading out on vacation now, or anytime soon. Here are six ideas to observe the absolutely real, not made up for marketing purposes, National Plan for Vacation Day using travel planning advice.

You asked: Is it safe to take a staycation during the surge?

Sit at your desk and keep working

Even though it’s a treasured holiday, it’s also another Tuesday in the pandemic. Somewhere in between staring at your computer for work and staring at your phone for fun, recognize this auspicious day and start planning a trip.

Even if you’re not sure we can actually go anywhere anytime soon, trip planning can be an uplifting break in your gloomy January day. We’ve laid out the ways you can do that now, from window shopping for trips, signing up for Scott’s Cheap Flights for future flight needs, and reading books — fiction, nonfiction, go wild — about places you want to travel.

Go through your fridge and see what’s about to expire

National Plan for Vacation Day in the pandemic is just another day of cooking the same things you cook and doing the same dishes you use.

Or is it? Maybe you don’t have to fall prey to the culinary monotony that comes with being trapped in your house. Rummage through your fridge and see if you can cobble together ingredients to make recipes from these travel-inspired cookbooks.

You have a better chance of winning Powerball today than going on a carefree jaunt to Sardinia this season, but that doesn’t mean you can’t eat like you’re there with “Bitter Honey: Recipes and Stories from the Island of Sardinia,” by Letitia Clark.

Editor’s note: Unfortunately this plan still involves doing your dishes.

This pandemic, I’m drinking through the souvenir wine I’ve collected since I was 14

Relive the glory days

That’s not a joke. If there’s a day to whip out your old vacation photos, it’s National Plan for Vacation Day. Psychology experts say that focusing on positive memories makes your brain release the feel-good hormone, dopamine. So do it, feel good! You took those photos for a reason — to look back on them someday and appreciate the time you spent traveling. This is someday. (Actually, this is National Plan for Vacation Day.)

Don’t buy anything online

The pandemic has changed the way we spend money, and if you have the privilege, it can be self-soothing to buy things online — whether it’s something small (candle) or a big, weird splurge (bidet).

Before you click “order” on another questionable purchase, consider setting that money aside for a post-pandemic trip. Go a step further and set up a bona fide travel budget as we explained in this story. Some travelers swear by spreadsheets, and keep track of their spending and saving in their custom Tetris of cells. If the word “Excel” makes your skin break out into hives you don’t have to go the spreadsheet route. Try downloading apps that save your money for you, or coach you on how to save.

Make an appointment at the DMV

Okay this one sucks, but if you have time to kill you might as well get the ball rolling on getting a Real ID. It’s just one of the many travel documents you may want to sort out while you have a sec, but wrangling up the paperwork needed to apply takes some heavy lifting. Even though the deadline to get this important form of identification isn’t until Oct. 1, 2021, consider National Plan for Vacation Day a reminder to begin the process.

Work from your bed

The lines of work and home are already so blurred, just forget about ergonomics and work from bed if you can. While you’re ruining your back, remember all those great beds you slept on when you traveled once upon a time? Vow to make your bed more like hotel beds, then actually make that happen.

In this story about making your bed more like a hotel bed, we actually wrote about missing hotels at a time when we could go to hotels. We were so innocent back then.

If you’re able to, don’t work at all

Are you one of the many, many, many Americans letting your vacation days rot? Are you even less inclined to use vacation days because we’re in a pandemic and you can’t go anywhere? Well, quit it!

Experts say regular breaks from work are essential to mental health, particularly now when the world is a chaotic, dark mess. So if you have the luxury of hoarding vacation days, take one. Take a staycation, or stay at home and catch up on the million other things you no doubt have to do.

Read more on travel during the pandemic:

Tips: Advice column | Coronavirus testing | Sanitizing your hotel | Using Uber and Airbnb

Flying: Pandemic packing | Airport protocol | Staying healthy on plane | Fly or drive | Layovers

Road trips: Tips | Rental cars | Best snacks | Long-haul trains | Rest stops | Cross-country drive

Destinations: Puerto Rico | Hawaii | Private islands | 10 covid-free spots | Caribbean | Mexico

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