There's no better feeling than realizing on a Sunday evening that, "Hey, wait—I have off tomorrow!" The glory of the long weekend. This year, summer weekends feel especially sweet with many Americans slowly resuming pre-pandemic activities and reuniting with loved ones after spending so much time apart.
To ensure you're making the most of every long weekend made available to you, we've come up with a guide to help you prepare for them all. Whether you're kicking back à la staycation, playing host to friends or family, or getting away yourself, we've got a menu idea, cleaning hack, or trusted product to make it easier for everyone.
Good for you! The idea of traveling a bit more freely again, regardless of distance, is enough to make the heart sing.
And by smart, I mean light. If it's only a few nights you'll be away, carry everything in a sturdy weekender like this one and pare down to just the essentials clothing-wise (sticking to a flexible, monochromatic wardrobe while traveling makes matching quite effortless). Throw in a couple of reusable, water-resistant shopping totes like these for souvenirs and dirty laundry, respectively. Don't forget the chargers and, of course, snacks.
Create a Rental Kit
If a vacation rental is in your future, prepare accordingly. Ward off the inevitable dull knives in the kitchen and bring your own sharpener or mini knife set (chef's knife, paring knife, serrated knife, vegetable peeler)—why not throw in a solid corkscrew while we're at it? If you're particular about your coffee, pack a collapsible coffee press and hand grinder, along with your preferred beans. Don't forget an ultra portable mini speaker for added ambience during deck and backyard lounging. Another didn't-know-I-needed-this product for road trips, especially if a child is in your midst: the compact disposable urinal (yes, really—the reviews speak for themselves).
Make a Food Plan
Most of us won't know the exact state of a vacation rental kitchen until checking in. Assuming basics like salt, pepper, dried herbs, oils, vinegars, and flour are accounted for, set yourself up for success and outline a few loose meal ideas in a Google Doc you can share with the group beforehand.
Think: low-effort, big reward dishes like a simple roast chicken (“Simplest” is in its name!) that can be grazed on from lunch to dinner, and whose leftovers can be enjoyed over rice or greens, or stuffed into sandwiches; a garlicky roasted potato salad that can easily be scaled up for a larger group; sweet and smoky roasted carrots that go well with mains or salads, or even just cold on its own; or a crowd-pleasing baked ziti that is way lower lift than a lasagna.
If sun and sand are on the horizon, you can’t beat a good old fashioned corn salad with cherry tomatoes that you can sneak bites of if you need a little nosh before dinner. You can also prepare something before you leave, like a fancy French tuna salad sandwich that only gets better with time, or a quiche that you can heat it up for brunch on the first morning at your new destination.
Pack some ready-to-go components in your cooler for meals that just need a light touch or minor assembly once you arrive: granola; pizza doughs (or frozen pizza); washed, bagged salad greens; your favorite olives; a loaf of bread; a frozen stick of butter (that can act as a mini ice pack); a couple of tins of good sardines; and my favorites: pre-cooked steamed rice that just needs a 90-second zap in the microwave and trusty cup noodles that are just the ticket when you need a quick meal or snack. Plan to purchase any highly perishable items once you reach your destination. Once you’re situated, tackle any number of vacation rental kitchen-friendly meals .
A vacation rental is usually outfitted with just the essentials. Recreate the feeling of being pampered (if space allows) with your favorite robe or soft slippers. Highly recommend slipping in a few takes-up-no-space Korean sheet masks (I love these) and popping them in your rental kitchen refrigerator or hotel mini fridge for a cool evening facial treat after a long day of exploring.
It may feel like everyone around you is champing at the bit to flee town, but there's never a bad time for me time, and that extends to staycationing in or near your home. The key to making a long “holistay” weekend feel special and different from every other one lies in the details.
Ready the Home
First things first: Begin with a clean home. Frankly, whether you're staying put or spending a few nights nearby, starting a long weekend with (or ultimately returning to) a pristine abode is a true luxury. Treat yourself to a deep clean and outsource this task, or do it yourself the day before. Get the laundry done, empty the dishwasher and sink, go through the junk mail pile, take out the trash and put in fresh liners—take care of all this before Friday. If you're short on time or find yourself with a guest coming around last-minute, whip your place back into shape in less than 30 minutes.
Get Those Creature Comforts
Now that the house is clean, zoom in on the smaller details to make it as cozy and welcoming as possible. Make your bed properly, break out the guest towels (yes, for yourself!), choose one book from the unread pile on your nightstand, light the fancy candle that you spent too much money on, set the table with the wedding china you registered for and never use.
Eat, Drink, Be Merry
Do you have an assortment of cookbooks and food magazines dog-eared or marked with Post-Its? Now's the time to plan a day of leisurely cooking or baking projects that never see the light of a work day.
Then, if you're anything like me, you're perhaps bit rusty with those dinner party menus and generally having people over again. Do yourself a favor and lean on old favorites like a classic pork shoulder ragu that would just as well over pasta as it would over polenta; a homey chicken pot pie you can easily swap the chicken out for with a bevy of vegetables for vegetarian friends; or a comforting vegetable chili (whose spice level you can adjust to fit your crowd) that will simmer along its own while you work on the rest of the menu.
And for dessert, easy strawberry shortcakes are always a winner during the summer months, and I’ve never seen anyone say no to a chocolate cake—this low-key chocolate snacking cake with cream cheese frosting ticks all the boxes. Don't forget to pour yourself a nice glass of something and turn the music or podcast all the way up.
After the year we've had, it might take a minute before we're entertaining the way we used to. Start slow with a backyard hang with make-ahead mains or have a more intimate party with a low-key pizza night or tried-and-true dinner party favorites. End the evening with board games and cake because getting together again truly is cause for celebration.