As summer rapidly approaches, do you have a desire to travel? COVID-19 may impact your ability to travel very far from your assigned duty station. Instead of feeling down about the situation, bring your vacation to you. Thus a “staycation” could be just the right fix!Changing the atmosphere around your home may be just what the doctor ordered. With some creative thinking, you can put together the next best thing for summer relaxation. Here are a few ideas to get you started.Were you dreaming of an African safari? Take your backyard and set up a unique architectural canvas (tent). Establish a theme on the inside of the canvas with African tribal bedding. Outside your canvas, set up speakers and play night sounds from Kruger National Park (or another location). Talk to your family about sounds they may hear, such as a coucal, reed frogs, lions, leopards and ground hornbills. During the day, you might “hunt” for animals in your backyard using binoculars. Research and discuss animals you might see in Africa that are similar to the ones in your backyard.Family members could make replicas of African animals and hide them around the backyard. Everyone could take turns hiding their replica animals and challenge others to find them on a makeshift safari. On another night, the family might choose to listen to an audiobook about African folktales such as Tales of Wonder, King’s Crown (Nigeria myth), The Lion’s Whisker, and the Elephant Tusk all of which often can be downloaded free from your local library. Comparing and contrasting those stories with ones you are already familiar with is a great way to learn about other cultures.On the third day, have each family member make, share and discuss their African exhibit. The exhibit could showcase African Art deco, statues, weaving textiles or recorded African music. Poster board exhibits could include African animal habitats including warthogs, aardvarks, honey badgers and onyxes. A good place to research African customs and culture is https://www.arts.gov/NEARTS/2014v1-opening-world-international-art/influence-africa-us-culture and https://www.state.gov/bureaus-offices/under-secretary-for-political-affairs/bureau-of-african-affairs/.The last night may include making an African cuisine together. Suggestions may include mogodu, ugali, mkatra foutra, couscous, kirsa, and African stews such as waterblommetjiebredie. Keep in mind you may have to substitute different ingredients for meals. After the “holiday,” family members could reflect on what they learned and what things they are most grateful for regarding the experience.Another staycation idea may include the beach. Make a decorative and creative background, and turn your living room into a “surf’s up” beach theme. The discount store has some great backdrops and shower curtains. If you’re more of a hands-on family, get some paint and use some old sheets to create a background. Pull out your swimwear and wear it. Have a scavenger hunt for things found at a beach (shells, sand pail, sun block, picnic basket/cooler, sunglasses, umbrella, surfboard, towel, family photo at a real beach, etc.). Discuss what you found over some homemade boardwalk fries and lemonade. There are different templates online for people to print and color their own surf board designs too. Music is always a great way to connect, to get everyone on their feet and moving to the beach vibes.Planning for your staycation theme takes effort. It is recommended you set a day-by-day itinerary beforehand and have all accessories available for activities, as well as food ingredients. This way you don’t have to stop the vacation fun to go pick up things at the store.Remember spending time together making memories is invaluable. If you cannot have the vacation you want, love the vacation time you have. The good news is you will be saving money by staying home. After COVID-19, you should have built up your leave days. The Department of Defense is allowing Soldiers to carry excess leave up to 120 days until Sept. 20, 2023.Now get out there and get planning your own staycation!The Army Public Health Center focuses on promoting healthy people, communities, animals and workplaces through the prevention of disease, injury and disability of Soldiers, military retirees, their families, veterans, Army civilian employees, and animals through studies, surveys and technical consultations.