20200523_MET_WILD_BB01

A kayaker paddled into the rapids of the swollen James River in Richmond in late May.

Experts tell us that vacations are important for our mental health. Getting away from the daily routine relieves stress, improves mood and strengthens family bonds.

And most people who have been cooped up under the coronavirus quarantine for the past three months are more than ready to get out of the house this summer.

But fears of traveling to vacation destinations and tight budgets are making many people think twice about taking a big family vacation this summer. The solution: a staycation.

Researchers have found that planning a vacation is one of the most pleasurable parts of the process. But planning is even more important during a staycation. An ironclad schedule of each day’s activities (with alternatives in case of rain or excessive heat) will ensure that you actually get out every day and do things that will refresh you physically, mentally and spiritually.

Psychology Today recommends that staycations combine physical activity with learning and doing something new. Luckily, our region and state offer plenty of opportunities for outside activity while maintaining social distancing. But switch it up.

If you usually jog or ride a bike for exercise, spend your staycation kayaking on the James River or bird-watching along the Blue Ridge Parkway. If your kids have never flown a kite or gone fishing, now’s the time to introduce them to these time-tested pastimes.

Help local restaurateurs recover from the lockdown by ordering a takeout gourmet picnic lunch or dinner. Dine al fresco, and linger over drinks as the sun sets.

And since you’re already saving a ton of money on gas, plane fares and hotel rooms by staying close to home this year, tip extravagantly — and be grateful that you live in such a great place to visit.

— Adapted from the Free Lance-Star, Fredericksburg

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