The word “staycation” first cropped up in 1944 when American newspaper the Cincinnati Enquirer wrote about this novel alternative to taking a vacation. Don’t leave, they said, stay put, it’s the newest thing. While it took a while for this to become mainstream, it’s now a de rigueur way to decompress without the stress of flights, vaccinations, and distant hotels.
For the luxury and boutique hotel industry, the trend was a godsend, opening up a new market they could target — no longer just tourists, but locals who craved escape without the travel time. Staycations are now popular PR fodder, a great way to fill hotels during their off-seasons with guests who can be enticed purely by fancy facilities and the promise of calm. It also speaks to the unfortunate reality that people are often forced to look outside of their homes to find peace, as the home space becomes just another stress-filled arena to manage. We staycate because if we stay put, we’ll end up plugging into screens, looking after kids, and washing up. We staycate because it’s become harder to wind down and disconnect, so we seek out a safe third space that isn’t the office or home.
With the emergence of Airbnb in 2007 came another staycation trend. Not only were we happy to stay in town for a break, but we were happy to do it in other people’s homes. No room service, no little hotel luxuries, but — importantly — escapism from the reality of life and responsibility, living in an alternate reality where home could be red wine, candles, and peace.
Staycating speaks to “Generation Anxiety,” where even holidays are treated as a source of stress. As Stephen Nett writes in The Startup, holidays take time and considerable money, both of which are luxuries we can’t afford to waste.
Think about it. You’ll usually burn two full days in transit, for each end of a trip, plus hours scouring hotel reviews, packing, and unpacking, jet lag, waiting in line. Instead of trudging through crowds, you could be spending that time enjoying the people you want to be with. And instead of spending money on lodging, tips, transportation, parking, rentals, and mediocre meals, wouldn’t you rather have that money to spend on yourself?
In London, where there are some pretty picturesque Airbnbs listed, even locals are checking into homes in other parts of town to escape, much the same way you might do with a night at a hotel for a special occasion. As one Londoner put it, “A couple of times a year we check into a new interesting home for an occasion like a birthday or NYE, make dinner, share some wine and properly relax. It is an easy escape and break from routine while experiencing something more homely than a hotel.”
And it’s not just Airbnb we flock to. Plum Guide — launched in 2015 with an initial focus on luxurious London homes — curates the most beautiful properties available to hire at relatively accessible prices. Known as the “Michelin Guide for Homes,” they have a rigorous 150 point criteria (including rating shower pressure and ability to “hang out” in the living rooms), only suggesting places that are an impossibly chic version of Airbnb offerings.
So with that in mind, here are our top 5 Plum picks for a London staycation, for looking for something undeniably escapist, at home:
White Rabbit Penthouse
Grab some friends and book this three-bedroom penthouse in the heart of Bloomsbury, a stylish and modern high-end home minutes from the British Library. This is the perfect option if you have theatre matinee tickets in Covent Garden, followed by dinner party plans back at the flat, with cocktails on the terrace area outside.
£549 a night.
If you’re looking for an evening of Boho vibes, red wine, and a good book, this is the magical London staycation for it. Located in Battersea, the eccentric property is covered in artwork, with plush seating, cosy nooks, and a zen outdoor area. Sleep in late and then head to Battersea Park for morning walks and coffee.
£418 a night.
Fly Me To The Moon
It’s all about the bed in this Shoreditch apartment, a cocoon-shaped piece of art, complete with Simba mattress and mood lighting. It’s close to the City so perfect as a bolthole from which to explore the sky-high bars, and also has a terrace for those rare warm nights or chilly mulled wine moments.
£216 a night.
The Fig Leaf
If you’re a fan of Scandi design — the clean lines, the minimalism — this is the place to retreat for a calm and chic London staycation. Equipped with yoga mats and river views, you could quite easily spend the whole evening contemplating by candlelight. If that gets dull, head out to Chelsea for a nightcap and then dine at the breakfast bar the next morning.
£500 a night.
Kensington Coach House
This home has all the right elements for a London staycation — a quiet mews house, big bathtub, squidgy sofa, and picturesque alabaster interiors. But if you get bored loafing around, it’s minutes from South Kensington’s museums, from the V&A to the Natural History and Science museum.
£429 a night.
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