The Break Debate: What actually is a 'staycation'?

Ed Grenby
·4-min read
Is your trip to Cornwall a holiday or a 'staycation'? - Getty
Is your trip to Cornwall a holiday or a 'staycation'? - Getty

The last year has asked many questions of us as a species – but none, of course, more pressing than this: is a ‘staycation’ a holiday in your own country, or a holiday in your own home?

For half the population – let’s spice things up a bit by calling them Remainers, shall we? – it’s absolutely clear that a staycation is a holiday housed strictly under your own roof (“I am prepared to die to defend this point,” said reader Mike Taylor when completing our Twitter poll on the subject).

To view this content, you'll need to update your privacy settings.
Please click here to do so.

For the other half of the country, however – and shall we just call them The Rich? – anything that doesn’t involve crossing a border or two can’t really count as a holiday, and must thus be deemed a staycation.

On the side of the latter is the logic that if you just stay at home, it’s not a holiday, it’s... just staying at home. And we already have plenty of words for that, thanks (Sunday springs to mind. Or Tier 4).

To Remainers though, the arguments are moral as well as linguistic: it’s spoiled, show-offy and borderline-treasonous to suggest that a week in Cornwall doesn’t deserve the word holiday, downgrading it to mere staycation status. (And referring out loud to your trip as a staycation is the equivalent of those old ‘My other car is a Porsche’ stickers: my real holiday, you’re telling everyone unfortunate enough to hear you, is a fortnight in the Seychelles thank you very much.)

The moral high ground isn't much of a place for a holiday, mind (nice views, disappointing facilities), and those claiming exclusive ownership of the word staycation on the basis that they were 30 before they ever went abroad should remember that it’s all relative.

Humblebragging that they ‘only ever went to South Wales’ might, in turn, sound pretty pampered to a previous generation for whom the word ‘beach’ conjures mainly images of Omaha, Gold or Juno, and a rather different definition of ‘wild swimming’.

Wherever you stand in the great staycation debate though, one thing on which everyone can surely agree is that it’s a ghastly new word made up by advertising executives to ‘rebrand’ something at a higher price, right?

Mais non, as they may or may not say in South Wales; such cynicism is utterly unwarranted – because it’s actually a ghastly old word made up by advertising executives to ‘rebrand’ something at a higher price.

Its first documented use, in fact, was on the pages of the Cincinnati Enquirer, in an advert for beer – back in 1944. But advertising executive is arguably the world’s second oldest profession (or is it the first? Hard to tell them apart sometimes), so we can safely assume that back in the Stone Age some smart Homo Erectus was trying to charge a few extra pebbles on their holiday rental by renaming the seasonal migratory movement a ‘cave-cation’.

And there’s the real issue. We could all probably just about live with the word staycation if its SARS-like spread hadn’t spawned a legion of similarly silly travel trends and annoying neologisms through history – from glamping (“Tell them there’s no room at the inn, but they can upgrade to one of our locally-sourced artisan mangers in the eco-barn out back for only 150 shekels more”) to babymoon (“Tell them it’s totally Insta-worthy, and all the big Millennial influencers have stayed there, but they can skip the queue for our secret pop-up Portakabin for only 150 dollars more”).

And then there’s the direct descendants: in the last couple of years we’ve seen holiday companies attempting to cash in with – and we’re not making these up, though they clearly are – daycations, sleighcations, gourmetcations, gaycations, praycations, haycations, weighcations, croquetcations, Maycations, chezcations, neighcations, straycations, railwaycations, reggaecations and even x-raycations (best not to ask).

After this year of delaycations and dismaycations, it’s enough – however you choose to define the s-word – to make you yearn for an actual awaycation.

How do you define ‘staycation’? Comment below to join the conversation