Are you feeling tired, overworked in need of a break to de-stress, relax and re-energise? Can you afford a holiday this year? If you can, is that enough?

Well, here are some ideas for relaxing and fun days out… 

Most of us need some time out and a change of scene through the year to rest, relax and re-energise, in addition to just our typical weekends or non-working days. A week away or even a long weekend break is typically the way to have a good break, particularly over the summer. However, we can’t all always afford a holiday, so what then…? I’d like to share some alternative suggestions for how you might spend your time instead, or in addition, to going on a summer holiday. I run through in this post various day trip ideas and activities to help you relax and recharge your batteries.

Staycation vs holiday costs

Country Park Lake

Croome Park – Worcestershire

I’ve heard people say that staying home and having days out, often termed a ‘staycation’, can end up being almost as costly, if not more, than going away. I can very much appreciate how this can be the case if you choose to have lots of day trips to places with entrance fees, particularly if you have multiple children or a large family to pay for. Travel prices and eating out can bump up the cost too. It’s hard to avoid costs at all, so this is a factor to be mindful of and consider when planning days out. It may mean making carefully considered choices, sticking to low cost options, searching for offers, packing a homemade picnic and staying local. It may mean you choose to have a few significant days out and then save your pennies the rest of the time. I’m going to share a range of ideas and hopefully one will suit you or at least get you thinking about more options.

Day trips and activities 

I’d like to share some suggestions of alternative activities to a vacation, with a focus on helping you to switch off from the stresses and strains of our busy everyday lives. Having some real down time, visiting somewhere new, having new experiences, doing something fun, or just watching the world go by can help you relax, re-charge and re-energise. Some of these daytime activities may be things that you can do on your own, some of these may be for you to do with a partner or a close friend, some may be good to do with the whole family.

#1 A picnic in the park

We are fortunate in the UK to have lots of beautiful parks and green spaces all around the country. If you’re reading this and live elsewhere in the world then I’m sure you can think of some lovely gardens and parkland too. Time surrounded by nature can be a wonderful experience. A day out in a park with lush green-grass, rustling trees, sweet scented flowers, flourishing plants, maybe a tranquil lake or a gently flowing river, can be really relaxing.

Picnic sceneWhy not take advantage of our parks, take a picnic and make a day of it? If you’re not fortunate to have anywhere nice nearby, or want more of an adventure, then you can drive further afield or get public transport. Google maps is usually good at showing local parks. A search on your local council website should tell you the parks facilities.

Picnic Basket Man

You could go on your own, take a book or magazine and enjoy reading and resting, perhaps a little meditation, or just lie down under a tree and observe the clouds floating by. If you just dedicate the day or afternoon to being there; no pressure, no need to do anything, just time out for you, I think you might be surprised how relaxing it can be.

You could take a friend, take a stroll, explore the place, enjoy hours of chatting and munching your way through picnic foods. You could go with a partner, take a nice blanket and pick a romantic spot. Or go in a group or with your kids, take along some sports games and have fun whilst getting some exercise.

Packing essentials:

  • Picnic blanket(s) – Take something to sit on and arrange your food on. You can usually pick up cheap, folding, lightweight, picnic blankets from the supermarket. The plastic-backed ones will keep any ground moisture from seeping through.
  • Sun cream, sunglasses & a hat – Sun protection is essential. Even if it’s cloudy, you still need to protect your skin over the summer and you’ll be more relaxed knowing you have the essentials for weather changes.
  • Layers – I’ve cut picnics short before because the temperature has dropped and I’ve got a little chilly. Take some layers for the unpredictable, changeable weather.
  • A bag – A cool bag & ice pack is a good idea if you are going all day, travelling for a while or not going to eat as soon as you arrive to keep your food cool. However, I’m not going to say you need a special picnic basket or bag – though you can now even get picnic rucksacks! – as in reality you can manage with just a supermarket carrier bag.
  • Cutlery – Some plastic cutlery is usually useful, but it depends on the food you are taking. You can go all out with plastic plates, plastic cups etc, which often can be bought as part of a whole set, but the nature of most picnic food is its finger food.
  • Hand wipes – Leading on nicely, as picnic food tends to be finger food some handwipes / hand sanitizer is a good idea!
  • Water – It’s important to keep hydrated and you can keep costs down by taking some large bottles of water so you don’t need to buy drinks from a park shop if there is one, where they’ll usually be at a premium.
  • Food – but it’s a picnic so that goes without saying! Pick a nice selection and avoid things that will melt like chocolate.

#2: A spa day

Enjoy a day or afternoon at a spa to really let go of tension and relax. Find a spa with a thermal suite or range of facilities such as so a pool, Jacuzzi, steam room, sauna and relaxation room that you can spend a number of hours enjoying. You might find at a larger spa there’s also outdoor spaces, such as a garden or roof terrace you can enjoy too. Try to find somewhere that’s going to be relatively easy for you to travel to and from – you don’t want to have a stressful journey either side as that will just counteract the relaxing benefits. What you put in your body whilst at a spa is important too, so see if the spa’s cafe or restaurant has a healthy menu that you would enjoy. Then look for an offer or package to make the most of your time there.

If you enjoy spa trips already I don’t really need to sell this idea to you, other than how you can maybe make it financially viable – I’ll come to that soon. If you’ve never been to a spa and are not sure you could relax at one, just imagine this…

You’re sat in a warm, steamy filled, peaceful space. There is nowhere you need to be right now, nothing you need to do, your only task is to experience the present moment. You feel your muscles letting go of tension and relaxing, you sense your thoughts slowing and your mental train of worries fading into the distance. As your body and mind let go you feel a comforting sense of calm wash over you and at ease with yourself and the world. All you need to do is sit, breath and enjoy that warm, relaxing feeling….

Does that sound good? If you’re not one for sitting still then you can always choose a spa with a gym, tennis courts, exercise classes or get swimming some lengths in the pool. However, my guess is if you rarely relax as described as above then you may benefit even more than regular spa goer from doing so!

Spa PoolMost spas will offer a variety of packages allowing you to use the facilities for different lengths of time, which may or may not include refreshments and food. It’s also worth searching for offers on sites like Treat Well or looking at a spa’s social media channels of their website offer page. Sometimes a spa will have late notice deals, sometimes they have very reasonable day spa prices mid-week, and sometimes their evening packages can offer good value. I’m not an expert, but I’ve done a fair bit of spa research, and booked various packages and noticed a wide variety of prices and options.

You can of course add on treatments to your spa experience like a massage, body exfoliation, facial or manicure. These kinds of things will tend to really bump up the price and cost much more per hour than use of the spa facilities, but it depends on your budget and what you want – you can tailor your spa day to be unique to you. If you can afford it then an overnight stay with a loved one or friend may be just the treat you need to give yourself time to fully relax and enjoy the facilities at a very relaxed pace, with the ease of having a room to retire to and leave your belongings.

Packing essentials:
Firstly, check what is provided in the price and what you can bring in.

  • Flipflops – Take some clean flipflops that haven’t been used outside or have been washed for walking around the spa in. You’ll want to check what’s allowed, some places will give you slippers and not allow your own footwear for hygiene reasons, but it’s usually helpful to take some flipflops even if just for the changing rooms.
  • Swimwear – Take some swimwear you’ll be comfortable in wearing and walking around in. Yes, you’ll have a robe to cover up but there will be other spa users there you don’t know, so think about modesty and your comfort.
  • Towel and Robe – Towels and robes may be provided free or available to hire – as mentioned it’s a good idea to check what’s included. Even if the spa charges for hire of such items, you might prefer to pay this rather than adding to your washing pile when you get home. If you really want to save money though, or perhaps want a spare towel for your hair, then take your own too.
  • Water bottle – Time at a spa can quickly dehydrate you, so it’s important to drink plenty of water. There may be free water provided but it’s always helpful to take a plastic bottle of water too, even if this is just to leave in your locker.

#3: A day at a festival

Yes, going to a festival and staying over could be quite costly with ticket prices and accommodation or camping costs. If you’re a festival lover a weekend at a festival may be your idea of a holiday anyway. However, there are plenty of festivals that you can go to for just the day.

Festival LookMusic festivals usually have day tickets, enabling you to just make a day of it and pick the day with the most appealing line up of acts for you. You might find there’s a festival quite close to home, just a taxi or train ride away. There’s also an increasing number of city based music, theatre and performing arts festivals that are free to attend, sometimes with ticketed options for specific acts and venues.

Food festivals are also popular nationwide. They may be themed around food suppliers from the local area or around a cultural event. Many of these are free to enter, the cost will come from buying food and drink to enjoy there or to take home.

Whatever kind of festival you pick how about wearing something summery, popping on your sunglasses and settling down to enjoy the music, performances, food and happy festival atmosphere. Make a day of it and or use it as an excuse to explore a new place.

Packing essentials:

  • Sun cream, sun glasses & a hat – This is another activity where you’ll be out in the sun, including over the middle of the day, and with the amount of people you might struggle to find a shady spot to move in to. Try to keep covered up and more around into the shade if you can, but always protect your skin and eyes. I know I’ve already written about sun care in this blog, but I believe it is important to look after skin and eyes. If anything, sunglasses make you feel like you’re on holiday and slightly more cool!
  • Handwipes & tissues: Particularly helpful as the toilet facilities at festivals are usually portaloos with some basic hand sanitizer if your lucky.
  • Glitter: Okay it’s not essential! However, if like me you like a little sparkle then a trip to a music festival is a good excuse to wear some facial glitter! Go on…embrace your inner-hippy side!

#4: Time in your garden

FlowerIf you have a garden, when did you last take some time to really enjoy it? In my experience, it can be easy to find yourself spending more time in your garden mowing the lawn, pulling up weeds, lopping down overgrown branches, or planting new flowers, than time relaxing enjoying your outdoor space. If you’re a keen gardener you may well enjoy the process of caring for your flower beds, vegetable patch and alike, which is great – gardening is a great form of exercise and can be relaxing and rewarding. Perhaps you enjoy the creative process of re-designing your garden and creating a landscaped masterpiece. Alternatively, you may see gardening simply as a chore and keep your efforts to a minimum. Whatever size or type of garden, however much effort it involves, how about making more time to really enjoy your hard work?

If the weather is nice give yourself a day in your garden. Take a seat, deck chair or blanket outside, and sit or lie down with a book or magazine. Perhaps play some music or listen to a podcast or audio book. Make up a jug of fruit cordial with ice or just make yourself a nice brew of coffee or tea. Dine alfresco on your patio or just have a picnic on the grass. Move around to different spots in the sun or shade.

If, as I know I’ve done in the past, you find as you’re sat there you just keep noticing garden ‘jobs’ to be done, such as how the grass could do with a cut or there’s weeding to be done, try to imagine whilst in that moment it’s not your garden. You’re there to admire it and appreciate it, but you’re not responsible for it. Imagine your experiencing it all for the first time and focus on your senses, on the sights, sounds and smells you are experiencing in the garden.

Garden Toad FigureWhen you’re in your garden try to tune in to the sounds of nature. Our ears and brains have the wonderful ability to tune in and out of certain sounds. So even if you live near a busy road or in a city, like when perhaps someone is telling you a long boring story and you find yourself (accidentally of course!) tuning out, you can apply that selective hearing. My experience of this has been that the birds become surprisingly loud and you notice how many different pitches and noises they make. If there’s no wildlife at all around your outside space try just listening to all the sounds you can hear.; the rumble of the road, the chatter of people, the sound of building work, the TV in the background, together it all is simply a soundtrack. It may not be the most melodic, peaceful and enjoyable soundtrack, so listen without judging whether you do or don’t like what you can hear, but you can make a mindful experience out of it by just observing the sounds.

One thing I often associate with holidays from camping holidays or staying in an apartment with a balcony, is eating breakfast outside. There’s something about eating breakfast in the morning sunshine that is very relaxing. Perhaps foster that holiday feeling with breakfast, or just your morning cuppa outside, enjoying a more leisurely pace.

The good thing about spending time in your own garden is there’s nothing to prepare or take anywhere, you may just need to take your keys so you don’t get yourself locked out of your house!

#5: An activity day

Cycling in the countryside

Warwickshire Countryside

There’s plenty of more energetic activities you could do. You could see if there’s a decent cycle route with bike hire (or take your own bikes if you have them) or if you like horse riding, if there’s are stables offering group treks. Maybe there’s an old fashioned steam train you can take a ride on and experience how travel across the UK used to be.

Go Ape Tree Top Challenge

Go Ape – Sherwood Forest – Nottinghamshire

Woodland adventure courses, such as Go Ape, are becoming increasingly popular and can offer a few hours of physical, fun challenges great for thrill seeking adults and teenagers. You could test your skills at crazy golf or the frisbee equivalent called adventure frisbee (yep, that’s a thing!).

Steam train

Severn Valley Railway – Shropshire

Perhaps you would like to play tennis or badminton – most leisure centres can hire you all the equipment so you don’t even need to own your own racket. If you want a water based activity some leisure parks have pedalos or kayaks for hire on their lakes. A trip to your local swimming pool can be refreshing, or perhaps if you’re brave enough you could try one of the outdoor pools around the country that open just in the summer time.

There are so many sporty activities you could do depending on your interests, abilities and budget so do something you love or try something new.

#6: A cultural day trip

This is a predictable suggestion, but I thought it helpful to add a reminder to not forget about all the visitor attractions there are that can provide really enjoyable days out. There are many attractions that have considerable entrance charges, but there are also plenty of places that are free or very reasonably priced, so a day trip doesn’t need to be expensive. You can keep costs down by taking drinks, snacks and lunch with you and looking for discounts and offers online. Some places will offer family tickets or free entrance for children under a certain age.

Visit a historic property or castle and transport yourself back in time. Go to a museum where you can learn about the lives and culture of other people. When you immerse yourself in history and step into the shoes of other people, the stresses and worries of your own life may seem much further away.

Warwick Castle

Warwick Castle – Warwickshire

National Trust Property

Baddesley Clinton – Warwickshire

Kenilworth Castle

Kenilworth Castle – Warwickshire

 

 

 

 

 

 

Take a trip to an art gallery or sculpture park. You don’t need to have any knowledge of art to enjoy the experience. Just enjoy wandering around and contemplating what you can see. Many museums and galleries will also often have quizzes, trails and interactive exhibitions for younger visitors to keep them engaged and make it more fun.

 Sculptures at YSP  Art Gallery Interior

Have a day out at a zoo or wildlife park, as who doesn’t like animals?! Whether it’s a local open farm or a large zoo, there’s bound to be some cute or curious animals that will make you smile.

Flamingos Orangutan at the Zoo Birds

Pick a town or city you’ve not been to or at least not seen much of before and go an explore. If there’s a tourist information place see what free leaflets and guides you can pick up to help you learn about the history of the place, follow guided trails or discover the hidden gems. Then just wander around at your leisure, taking in the architecture, sights and attractions, perhaps doing a little shopping too.

Chester Clock

Chester Clock – Cheshire

Bath Buildings

Bath – Somerset

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Useful links:
There are lots of regional and local websites providing ideas for day trips. Map and LaptopHere are a few covering wider areas of the UK:

Visit Britain

Visit England

Visit Wales

Visit Scotland

Visit Ireland

Discover Northern Ireland

National Trust

English Heritage

Days Out

#7: Take a walk in the countryside

Yorkshire Countryside

Yorkshire Dales

How about a walk in the countryside. If you’re a city dweller or you work long hours in an office, you may find this particularly refreshing. You could find yourself walking past fields of golden yellow, winding your way through a mossy woodland, admiring 360 views from the top of a hillside, strolling around a tranquil reservoir, or meandering along a canal path. There’s lots of options in our abundant, varied countryside.

Canal locks

Hatton Locks – Grand Union Canal – Warwickshire

Have a look online or at a visitor centre for suggested walking routes and pick one of a distance, terrain and incline to suit your walking abilities and time available. Take a picnic or pick a route that has a nice country pub halfway for lunch. Wear suitable footwear, take some water, snacks and a map or directions, then simply enjoy the fresh air and scenery.

Read more about the joys of walking and some tips, including things to take, in the blog post Walking for Wellbeing.

So, where will you go?

Feeling inspired to get out of the house and make the most of your time off and weekends? I hope so! Whether a picnic in the park, a spa day, a music festival, museum visit, a cycle ride, a country walk or just spending more time in your own garden appeals, there are so many options. Holidays are great, but if a holiday isn’t practical or financially viable right now there are plenty of other ways to relax and have fun!

I’m sure that you have many more suggestions and I’d love to hear your ideas for activities or places to visit, so do please comment at the end of this page.

 

 

About the Author 

Joanna is the creator and main author of Smile Being You – read more on the About Joanna page.


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