Social connection improves physical health and mental and emotional well-being. We all think we know how to take good are of ourselves: eat your veggies, work out and try to get enough sleep. But how many of us know that social connection is just as critical?
One landmark study showed that lack of social connection is a greater detriment to health than obesity, smoking and high blood pressure. On the other hand, strong social connection : leads to a 50% increased chance of longevity; strengthens your immune system (research by Steve Cole shows that genes impacted by loneliness also code for immune function and inflammation); helps you recover from disease faster; and may even lengthen your life!
People who feel more connected to others have lower levels of anxiety and depression. Moreover, studies show they also have higher self-esteem, greater empathy for others, are more trusting and cooperative and, as a consequence, others are more open to trusting and cooperating with them. In other words, social connectedness generates a positive feedback loop of social, emotional and physical well-being. A family unit can take advantage of school breaks to forge and fortify social connectedness.
I have the honor of featuring an article by Hannah Simpson of AbleCrafty who shares some pandemic-friendly travel tips as well as a few staycation activities that can prove fun for the whole family!
Making the Most of Your Family’s Vacation Time—Whether You Leave or Stay
Authored by Hannah Simpson
If you want to get the most out of your time together, your family needs a plan in place. Sure, your kids could sleep in, play video games, watch TV, and nap all day. But that’s not going to benefit anyone in the end.
If You Travel
So, you want to get out of town and create new memories with your loved ones. It’s going to look a little different than it did before the pandemic, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a blast! Just keep these tips in mind to plan for a great experience:
Take time to research.
As we mentioned already, traveling is a lot different than it used to be. Before you get too deep in planning your destination, research COVID restrictions in any area you wish to visit.
Some places will expect visitors to wear masks and maintain social distancing while others will not. Likewise, certain places are encouraging tourists to come, and others are closing their communities to visitors. Along with checking guidelines, be sure to make any bookings and reservations in advance.
Choose the right location.
Once you’ve done a little research, narrow down your choices for a destination. Taking a road trip is one of the most pandemic-friendly ways to travel. Are there mountains within a few hours from your home? What about beaches? Maybe you can visit a national park for a few days. There’s no shortage of incredible, scenic destinations in the United States!
Stay at a rental.
Wherever you choose to go, you can save money and add privacy and convenience to your travel experience by staying at a vacation rental. There are a plethora of affordable, top-notch rentals in the Pacific Northwest. Choose one with a full kitchen, and you can buy groceries and cook delicious, healthy meals so that you don’t have to dine out so much.
Take the test.
Anytime you travel these days, it’s a good idea to get a COVID-19 PCR or rapid test. Ensure everyone in your family tests negative before setting out on your adventure. Additionally, you may want to take one when you get back home to ensure you did not contract the virus during your travels.
Leave margin for the unexpected.
Interruptions to your plans can be expected these days. Fortunately, many agencies offer more flexible cancellation policies. But you’ll want to make sure you read all of the fine print on anything you sign. And while you’re at it, be sure to pack extra clothes, food, games, and sanitation products.
Go local when possible.
Restrictions from the pandemic have crippled businesses in virtually every sector. Times have been particularly difficult for the hospitality industry and local small businesses.
During your trip, consider supporting local businesses wherever you stop and at your destination. In many areas of the country, it’s now common to see surcharges on restaurant tabs, as this helps businesses to cover some of the costs incurred while being shut down or suffering limited capacity. Just keep these things in mind and plan accordingly.
With the above topic in mind, also try to have patience and show respect to the hospitality professionals you meet on your trip. Remember that they are doing their best to keep everyone safe and provide their customers with the best experience possible. And even if there is a surcharge involved, consider leaving a little extra for tip.
Respect local guidelines.
As previously mentioned, each state, county, and city have its own set of COVID-19 guidelines in place. If you know that you will be stopping or staying in a specific area, research for any relevant local or regional updates on your way. As the impact of the pandemic remains unpredictable, tourism boards and municipalities are regularly making changes to their rules.
If You Stay Home
You don’t have to leave your home to make the most of your vacation time. Here are some activities you can do during your staycation:
Have a themed dinner.
You can go international without leaving your home by having your kids help you to plan a themed dinner. Choose a dream destination, research details like regional food, décor, and music, and put together a dinner experience that can transport the entire family. Here’s to crepes and traditional French music!
Camp out in the backyard.
Camping out is a classic family activity. But, as The Dyrt notes, you don’t need to go far to get a superb camping experience. In fact, all you have to do is walk out of your backdoor!
Make sure you have all the equipment necessary, clear a spot out in your backyard, pitch a tent, bring out the fire pit, and make some s’mores. You can get cozy, read ghost stories, play board games, or do any number of other activities before falling asleep in your sleeping bag amid nature.
If you don’t have a fenced-in backyard, now’s the time to consider having a local fencing company come out to install either a privacy or chain-link fence. This is especially helpful if you have younger children or pets, as they will be kept safe and secure while you spend time outside. According to Angi.com, the average cost of fence installation is $4,500, a figure that varies depending on the type of fence and size of your yard.
Plan an outdoor movie marathon.
Here’s something else you can do in your backyard—watch a movie on the big screen! All you have to do is invest in a projector screen and a high-quality portable speaker, set it up in your backyard or driveway, and assemble the family for a marathon of your favorite movies. While you are at it, you can bust out the popcorn, candy, and any other snacks that will sweeten the deal.
Try meal delivery.
Here’s another cooking activity that can be fun for the whole family. You may even be able to integrate this activity with your themed dinner!
Research meal delivery services to find one that will minimize prep work and cooking, and have your kids help you shop for groceries. Involving everyone in the family will make this food preparation activity a blast while yielding a healthy, delicious meal at the end!
Unplug from technology.
This might be the most challenging activity to pull off on this whole list. During your staycation, Growing Organic suggests shutting down all of your electronic devices and enjoying a few days without any technology. This can provide a wonderful opportunity to spend meaningful time with each person in your family as well as significantly reduce any stress in your household.
Don’t worry, there are still plenty of things you can do that don’t involve a screen. Read books, play board games, set up scavenger hunts, assign art projects, and get creative with some ideas of your own!
If any year calls for a fun and relaxing vacation during school break, this is it. And with a little planning and flexibility, your family can have the time of your lives, without spending a ton of time and money. Consider the advice above for pandemic-friendly traveling and enriching activities that can be done at home, and keep researching to find other ideas for keeping your family entertained, healthy, and relaxed as you spend time together.
If you would like to connect with Hannah, she can be found at AbleCrafty .