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People who engage in staycations usually do it wrong.

Being home is considered the primary destination even though staycation refers to playing tourist in your home city, not sequestration. A great many staycationers rarely bask in the rarefied splendor and sublime satisfaction of staying home and yet getting out of their comfort zone.

People on staycations typically draft up lists of chores involving house cleaning, shelf building, garage emptying or room renovating. Won’t that be nice to clean, labor, haggle and go shopping at the hardware store.

Maybe this is better than going to the office, factory, mall or wherever you work, but it ain’t a vacation.


When people asked where I was going for my vacation earlier this year and I told them about my staycation, they often looked disappointed.It just didn’t get the same reaction as my previous year’s trip to Rio de Janeiro during the World Cup. Instead of enthusiast approvals, people gave me polite smiles and nods of pity. Then in an attempt to make me feel better about my disappointing vacation news, some of them asked if I’d be doing “anything special.” And this I knew was their attempt to recast the crestfallen look of their former reaction by preparing to feign good cheer over my boldly boring not-leaving-home choice.

I was not chagrined.

Local St. Louis celebrities and their favorite places

Actress Kari Ely practices yoga in June 2014 in the backyard of her Richmond Heights home. Photo by J.B. Forbes,

I happily explained my plans for my “Fabulous Spa Staycation”: eight massages, three facials, daily yoga, four personal training sessions and a silent meditation weekend.

Total cost: less than $1,000. Not cheap, but a no-frills 3-day weekend in Miami costs more.

My plane ticket to Rio cost much more, and that’s before the visa application, various fees, taxis, food and accommodation. That 10-day trip was also fabulous, but I returned home with killer jet lag. I’d absolutely do it again (hello, Olympics), but this year I wanted to actually relax on my vacation.


The more spa, yoga resorts and beach vacations I priced out, the more appealing a spa staycation became.I wouldn’t have to pack, unpack or tote luggage. I could sleep in my own bed, shower in my own bathroom. There would be nothing to forget, no stress of getting to the airport on time, no need to stop the mail, hire a dog sitter (I don’t have a dog, I’m just saying) or anything.I’d be home and I’d be on vacation. But I was determined to do this right.

I planned for my staycation a lot like I plan for any other vacation.

• I cleaned the house before my vacation began (but this would be a great time to hire a service for deep cleaning).

• I did the laundry (as if I would be taking it on vacation).

• I wrote out an itinerary of favorite and new-to-me places to eat.

• I wrote out a spa schedule of appointments and classes.

• I selected a vacation book to read.

• I did no chores during vacation.

• I declined any invitations for things that did not sound fun.

• I ignored any home improvement project previously left undone.

• I postponed anything in my routine (paying bills, binge TV watching, dropping off drying cleaning) that did not require immediate attention.

• I avoided social media and whole-heartedly leaped into vacation mode.


Fitness expert

Fitness expert Nancy Cole runs on the treadmill in Coral Gables, Florida. File photo courtesy of Andrew Uloza Miami Herald/MCT.

Instead of sleeping in until noon, I woke up just like I would in an exotic location. I scheduled morning massages and went to yoga classes before lunch.I went to movie matinees, stopped at boutiques, dined at outdoor cafes and enjoyed leisurely dinners with friends.I stocked up on massage and spa service Groupons, but you’ll find similar savings and more consistent service if you patronize your favorite massage therapist or aesthetician and get a package deal or suggest one if one is not already offered.

Yoga might not be your thing, but newcomers generally get a huge break on first sessions or first-time packages. You can find similar plans for Pilates, gyms, personal trainers, dance studios and other fitness offerings. Now’s your chance to meet up with that walking/hiking/biking group that inexplicably meets during office hours on a weekday.

Not interested in fitness. Take a guided tour of a museum, check out author readings at libraries and book stores, get concert tickets, sign up for a cooking class, go to a beer tasting. Take a city tour (play tourist!). And if you’re really at a loss for what to do, wander up to the concierge desk at a hotel and ask.

But honestly, you don’t have to try that hard.


Schedule a handful of things you’ve always wanted to do (or do again). But a little planning is required. For instance, the free docent-led tours at the St. Louis Art Museum begin weekdays at 10:30 a.m. and the museum is closed on Monday. You don’t have to go all type-A on your vacation but you should sketch things out so that you don’t miss out. Don’t wait until your staycation to plan. You want to jump into relaxation on day one. And just like a “real” vacation, planning builds excitement and creates a treasure trail of upcoming events to look forward to.A staycation is a great opportunity to save money, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t spend any money. Develop a vacation budget just like you would traveling out of town. Splurge on a lunch, go out for breakfast, shop for souvenirs.

And whatever you do, stop telling people that you’re “just staying home.” You’re having a fabulous spa/adventure/fitness/art lovers staycation. And it will be glorious.



Brunch at Mud House Cafe, 2101 Cherokee Street, Tofu scramble and rosemary latte, please.

Noon Shop Cherokee Street

Lona's Lil Eats

Village bamboo stew at Lona's Lil Eats. Photo by Robert Cohen,

2:30 p.m. Enzyme Facial at Medical Aesthetics, 39 South Old Orchard, ($45 Groupon). I got a very bare bones, no-frills service. Some providers begrudge the Groupon.

5 p.m. Massage at Rest, ($55, bought as silent auction item at Yoga Buzz event) Enjoyed a bone-melting deep massage in a cozy room with a batik-print cloth-tented ceiling.

Dinner at Lona’s Lil Eats, 2199 California Avenue, A divinely yummy new-to-me venue with the equivalent of Asian soul food. For dessert we went to Ices Plain & Fancy, 2256 South 39th Street, for vegan butter pecan ice cream.


Brunch at Gamblin Whiskey House, 236 North Euclid Avenue.

2:30 p.m. Vinyasa Yoga with Carrie Martens at Urban Breath, 4237 Manchester Avenue, ($30 for 30 days unlimited yoga for newcomers).


9:30 a.m. Vinyasa-Yin Yoga with Jee Moon at Urban Breath, 2812 Sutton Boulevard. We practiced yoga blindfolded briefly to learn a nice life lesson on how our attention can help or hinder. Her classes are always full of deep thoughts and playful banter.

11:15 a.m. Lunch at Foundation Grounds, 7298 Manchester Road.

12 p.m. Reflexology at Indigo Massage, 1901 Arsenal Street, ($40, regular price). Foot soak and foot massage with attention to pressure points on your feet that are said to correspond to your entire body and well-being.

Afternoon movie matinee

5:30 p.m. 90-minute Thai Yoga Massage with Anne Childers at Indigo Massage ($84, discounted price for wellness program members). My first experience with this fully clothed massage in which you are stepped on, twisted and pulled. I immediately booked another appointment.


F.LO.A.T. arrives in St. Louis

Steve Buchheit of St. Louis relaxes into the floating pod during the first few minutes of his float before he closes his lid on April 17 at F.LO.A.T. in St. Louis. He was floating for his third time on Friday. "I feel great for the rest of the day," he said. Photo by Laurie Skrivan,

9 a.m. Faster Fitness, 8204 Exchange Way,, session with Rob Goliday ($49 Groupon for six hourlong sessions). They are sticklers about precise movement, and like all good trainers Rob doesn’t care how much you whine; he will still make you finish your set.

11 a.m. Float!, 3027 Locust Street ($55, also a silent auction item). Don’t call it a sensory deprivation chamber, consider it a tranquil water oasis. After 90 minutes floating in the dark, I walked out feeling taller as if all my limbs, joints and connective tissue had relaxed and expanded.

Lunch at Everest Cafe, 4145 Manchester Avenue. My favorite buffet: Nepalese, Korean and Indian food.


9:30 a.m. Vinyasa-Yin Yoga with Jee at Urban Breath. She included a thoughtful meditation and exercises focused on twisting and releasing.

Early lunch at Foundation Grounds

2:15 p.m Facial and massage at Morgan Ford Salon & Spa, 2027 South 11th Street ($79 Groupon). Both focused on the state of my body and suggested activities or techniques to help my skin and muscular condition.


9 a.m. Faster Fitness session with Rob

11 a.m. Healing Place, 1045 South Big Bend ($45 Groupon). Full of so much delightfully, well-curated shabby chic furniture and architectural elements that I initially thought I’d wandered into a store not a massage salon. This experience was inviting and cozy from start to finish.

Lunch at my absolute favorite cafe OR Smoothie & Cafe, 6654 Clayton Road. If the Happy Bowl doesn’t make you happy, seek professional help.

Afternoon at the St. Louis Art Museum,

Dinner at A Pizza Story, 7278 Manchester Road. The eggplant pizza with vegan cashew cheese is astonishingly good.


9 to 11 a.m. 90-minute massage with Anne at Indigo ($84). I thought, maybe I’m scheduling too many massages, how much can I possibly relax. Now, I know, you can relax deeper, and it is glorious.

Meditating under the trees

Anna Toland, left, who meditates alongside her friend Tiffany Scull, both of St. Louis, on May 7, 2014 in Tower Grove Park. The friends say they try to meditate daily. File photo by Laurie Skrivan,

Lunch at Lona's Lil Eats. I went back for a plate of spicy tofu, stir-fried glass noodles and Lona-Q sauce with a side of greens and pickled bamboo stew.

4 to 5 p.m. Yoga Basics class at Urban Breath. A good stretch before an evening of quiet contemplation.

6:30 to 9 p.m. Awakening Joy nonresidential meditation retreat with James Baraz (author of Awakening Joy: 10 Steps to Happiness) of Berkeley, Calif., hosted by Mid-America Dharma, This particular retreat ($80-$120) took place at Maria Center in south St. Louis. This was a first for me. I’m very new to meditating. He talked for a bit and then we “sat” (meditation lingo). Lots of reassurances that meditation is about practice not perfection.


We went home each night of the retreat but remained silent during retreat hours (except for a one-hour group sharing session). Baraz told us that like a staycation, there’s also a benefit to nonresidential retreats. You learn to find relaxation, joy and serenity in your life and in your own home. You don’t have to chart a course to a destination far, far away; peace and happiness is as far away as your next breath. He said that it’s extremely important to realize that you can practice right where you are, no matter what is happening and no matter how sad/angry/annoyed/depressed you feel. Don’t imagine better days, if only you could hop on a plane and escape. Imagine a better day starting now.


10 a.m. Oil change. OK, so I didn’t forgo all reality, but I did pick a location where I could take a walk around the neighborhood and do a little shopping while my car was getting a spa treatment.

Noon Lulu’s Local Eatery, 3201 South Grand Boulevard, Not only do a love that they are among the few restaurants NOT closed on Monday, this place makes a vegan Blue Burger that even staunch meat eaters will love.


Crowds flock to Earth Day in Forest Park

Nikki Floeh, a licensed massage therapist, gives a foot massage called ashiatsu therapy to Char Pfeiffer during the St. Louis Earth Day Festival in Forest Park in April 2015. Photo by J.B. Forbes,

9 a.m. Faster Fitness session with Rob. The day I decide to unconditionally hate side plank.

11 a.m. Facial with microcurrent at So Natural Institute, 8044 Manchester Road ($79 Groupon). An invigorating treat that left my face tingly, glowing and refreshed.

Spa Pedicure ($35, regular price) at Bahama Spa & Nails, 1815 Maplewood Commons Drive

2:30 p.m. Harmony Massage, 6414 Hampton Avenue ($49 Groupon). An unexpected location in a very dated office building but an enjoyable massage.


Breakfast at Half & Half, 8133 Maryland Avenue. If you like Brussels sprouts, you will love their Veggie Hash.

2:45 p.m. Beautiful Body Laser ($99 Groupon for six 10-minute Zerona Laser Treatments with Body Vibration session). All six laser fat-melting sessions occur in one visit, which is a little confusing. This was probably not the goofiest thing I’ve ever done in the pursuit of beauty, but it ranks up there pretty high. Maybe if I bought the four-figure package they try to sell at the end, I’d have seen miraculous results, but after one round of lasers on my thighs and being jiggled strongly on a vibration machine my thighs were sore (like I’d been pummeled by many tiny angry fists), but I didn’t notice any shrinkage.

Afternoon Miracle Green smoothie and veggie spring rolls at OR Juice & Cafe

6:30 p.m. Massage at Indigo with Anne ($59). So glad I scheduled this as the ending to my fabulous spa staycation, but I did have to tell her to go easy on my now tender thighs.