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Staycations

Covid changed all that overnight. Rather than go on hotel staycations, we were all cooped up in our homes in a forced vacation.

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I think the word “staycation” only gained currency in the past decade. In my case, it took me some time for the word’s meaning to sink in.

When I first came across it, I was just getting used to the word “vaycay,” a millennial contraction for vacation. The staff at the travel magazine I was working in then would always talk of going on a “vaycay” to Elyu (La Union) every opportunity they could get. I don’t think I haven’t heard of “vaycay” since — or maybe I now hang out with a different crowd.

I have always considered any time away from home, no matter the number of days, a vacation — whether it was abroad, out of town, or at a hotel in Metro Manila. So, why was there a need to coin a new term?

Blame it on the number of holidays Filipinos enjoy within a year. Somehow, hoteliers decided to attract leisure travelers to stay in Metro Manila for long weekends by offering them packages that mirror those offered in out-of-town resorts.

Many staycations offer pampering packages that throw in not just a massage but a number of other services — facials, scrubs and wraps. The thought that you can just relax in a well-appointed room after your treatment, without having to think of the kids or the daily chores at home, and still be right in the heart of the city, was an attractive proposition. In case of any emergency or a call from your boss, you can just step out momentarily if you need to.

Some staycations cater to holidays that the whole family can enjoy. Quite popular are Halloween packages that throw in a costume party and trick-or-treating for the little ones, all in the comfort of a plush hotel. It’s like going abroad, except you never went to the airport and boarded a plane. It’s the same thing for Christmas and New Year’s Day, where a package throws in a lavish dinner complete with champagne, and on New Year’s Eve, a countdown party.

Someone I know would check in for New Year’s Eve, not for the party, but to get away from the smoke of firecrackers. Her mom suffered from asthma and always had a hard time on that night.

I remember going on a staycation assignment where I had to check in at two hotels, one after the other, on a long weekend. It was not the plush rooms and the bath tubs that I enjoyed, but the fact that they were full board. My stay included complimentary cocktails, dinner and lunch, apart from the standard buffet breakfast. How can that not be fun?

Of course, Covid changed all that overnight. Rather than go on hotel staycations, we were all cooped up in our homes in a forced vacation that lasted for more than a year. With the recent decision to place Metro Manila under Alert Level 3, a number of hotels have reopened to offer staycations. The number of establishments offering staycations — a suitable substitute to a foreign trip, which could be a hassle with the quarantine requirement — is increasing by the day, and the good ol’ days of being pampered as an antidote for the pressures of work are now available.

Of course, a staycation presents a chance to get out of our homes, where we’ve been cooped up for more than a year. It’s an opportunity that’s within easy reach.

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