Home for the holidays: How a Whitecourt couple planned the perfect staycation

The COVID-19 pandemic changed a lot of plans for many people. For Jim and Sandra Harris, it meant cancelling their annual Mexico getaway.

“We usually fly to Manzanillo, for the last five years or so,” said Sandra.

So, they brought the Mexican vacation experience to their Whitecourt, Alta., home.

“We got our Tiki bar, we got our pool area, we’re on the beach area now, and the dinner area is over there,” said Jim. “Living the good life as much as we can.”

Using decorations, an inflatable pool and lots of imagination, the couple turned their basement into their usual Mexican vacation.

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They enjoyed beachside golfing, ocean view dinners, drinks in the pool and even a fiesta night.

“As we go along, we come up with other little ideas to sort of add to the whole experience,” said Sandra.

Usually, they’re on vacation with two friends, John and Debbie. And of course, they didn’t want them to miss out on this one.

Jim and Sandra printed pictures of their friends’ faces. They have dinner John and Debbie, as well as beach John and Debbie.

“The beach John and Debbie have sunglasses on. That’s the big difference,” explained Jim.

Jim and Sandra Harris of Whitecourt, Alta., turned their basement into the Mexican vacation they missed this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Courtesy, Jim and Sandra Harris

One of their excursions included a visit to Sandra’s work, but she renamed it to keep with the staycation theme.

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“I call that the local prison. I’m hoping I don’t have to go there,” laughed Sandra.

But, some things can’t be re-created in an Alberta basement.

“I miss real sand. There was none in town so I had some brown sugar I had to substitute, but it’s not quite the same,” said Sandra.

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And like anybody on vacation, they have been posting pictures and videos to Facebook. Friends and family have been leaving excited comments, wishing they had done the same.

“I guess it’s bringing a little joy to more than just us, so that’s good to hear,” said Jim.

As staycation experts, the couple’s advice is to give it a try for yourself.

“We’ve quite enjoyed it. I’ve had lots of laughs doing it. It’s been lots of fun,” said Sandra.

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So much fun, that Jim has already started making plans for next year.

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“I say we can do it every year and not pay the money to fly and everything, but it’s not getting past the Mrs. just yet,” said Jim.

Jim and Sandra Harris of Whitecourt, Alta., turned their basement into the Mexican vacation they missed this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Courtesy, Jim and Sandra Harris
Jim and Sandra Harris of Whitecourt, Alta., turned their basement into the Mexican vacation they missed this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Courtesy, Jim and Sandra Harris
Jim and Sandra Harris of Whitecourt, Alta., turned their basement into the Mexican vacation they missed this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Courtesy, Jim and Sandra Harris
Jim and Sandra Harris of Whitecourt, Alta., turned their basement into the Mexican vacation they missed this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Courtesy, Jim and Sandra Harris
Jim and Sandra Harris of Whitecourt, Alta., turned their basement into the Mexican vacation they missed this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Courtesy, Jim and Sandra Harris
Jim and Sandra Harris of Whitecourt, Alta., turned their basement into the Mexican vacation they missed this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Courtesy, Jim and Sandra Harris

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Jim and Sandra Harris of Whitecourt, Alta., turned their basement into the Mexican vacation they missed this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Courtesy, Jim and Sandra Harris
Jim and Sandra Harris of Whitecourt, Alta., turned their basement into the Mexican vacation they missed this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Courtesy, Jim and Sandra Harris
Jim and Sandra Harris of Whitecourt, Alta., turned their basement into the Mexican vacation they missed this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Courtesy, Jim and Sandra Harris
Jim and Sandra Harris of Whitecourt, Alta., turned their basement into the Mexican vacation they missed this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Courtesy, Jim and Sandra Harris
Jim and Sandra Harris of Whitecourt, Alta., turned their basement into the Mexican vacation they missed this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Courtesy, Jim and Sandra Harris

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