Taking a vacation—whether it’s a staycation or a trip—is all about taking a break from your everyday activities to rest, relax, and get refreshed. As things continue to reopen, it’s fun to think about ways to make the summer season special. And of course, Jane always provides me with special inspiration! (This article originally appeared on Jane Austen’s World blog.)
Here are a few activities you might like to try this summer, whether you prefer to keep closer to home or you are ready to set out and have an adventure. These “Jane-cation” ideas are designed to fill your cup and put a pep in your step! Most of these activities can be done virtually, with your family, or in small groups.
#1 – Take a Book Lovers Day Off
- Clear your calendar—just like a regular vacation day
- Plan your meals ahead of time
- Select your books
- Read books you want to read (not something you have to read)
- Set up a cozy spot indoors (or create an outdoor reading nook)
Read Like Jane: Read the books Jane Austen read in her lifetime. You can select some of your titles from this list from Jane Austen in Vermont: Jane Austen’s Reading List.
Jane Austen on Reading:
“The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.”
―Mr. Tilney, Northanger Abbey
“I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of anything than of a book! When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.”
―Miss Bingley, Pride and Prejudice
“If a book is well written, I always find it too short.”
―Kitty Percival, “Catharine, or the Bower”
#2 – Host a Small Garden Party
- Plan summer fare that’s light and fresh
- Invite guests to bring a favorite tea cup
- Provide a selection of teas, lemonades, and sparkling waters
- Don’t forget a pretty dessert such as Strawberry Shortcake Trifles
- Decorate with fresh flowers, tea cups, and stacks of books tied with ribbon
Party like Jane: Ask your guests to bring fresh flowers and create your own bouquets or nosegays. You can read this JAW article about Regency bridal bouquets for inspiration. Learn how to make Georgian ices here!
Jane Austen on Parties:
Our party went off extremely well. There were many solicitudes, alarms, and vexations beforehand, of course, but at last everything was quite right. The rooms were dressed up with flowers, etc., and looked very pretty.
―Jane Austen’s Letter to Cassandra, 25 April, 1811.
You know how interesting the purchase of a sponge-cake is to me.
―Jane Austen’s Letter to Cassandra, 15 June, 1808.
The Orange Wine will want our Care soon. –But in the meantime for Elegance & Ease & Luxury . . . I shall eat Ice & drink French wine, & be above Vulgar Economy.
―Jane Austen’s Letter to Cassandra, 1 July, 1808.
#3 – Plan a Picnic or Fruit-picking Excursion
- Meet up with family or friends for a picnic
- Explore a new park or picnic area
- Bring a pretty basket, delicious food, drinks, and a blanket
- Play games or provide riddles for guests
- Try a new recipe
Picnic like Jane:
Take cushions, flowers, and other items to make it comfortable and picturesque. You can read this JAW article on Box Hill and Regency picnics. Or plan a Regency picnic menu courtesy of the Jane Austen Centre.
Jane Austen on Excursions:
“We are to walk about your gardens, and gather the strawberries ourselves, and sit under trees;—and whatever else you may like to provide, it is to be all out of doors—a table spread in the shade, you know. Every thing as natural and simple as possible.”
―Mrs. Elton, Emma
“To sit in the shade on a fine day, and look upon verdure, is the most perfect refreshment.”
―Fanny Price, Mansfield Park
The pleasures of friendship, of unreserved conversation, of similarity of taste and opinions will make good amends for orange wine.
―Jane Austen’s Letter to Cassandra, 20 June, 1808.
#4 – Take a Home & Garden Tour:
- Explore a local public garden
- Tour a historic home
- Volunteer in a community garden
- Revamp a corner of your own garden or patio
- Take a gardening class
Garden like Jane: Try planting flowers like Jane might have had in her garden. Read this JAW article on Jane Austen’s garden when she was living at Chawton Cottage. Or enjoy this Pictorial Visit to Chawton by Tony Grant.
Jane Austen on Homes & Gardens:
Pemberley House . . . was a large, handsome stone building, standing well on rising ground, and backed by a ridge of high woody hills; and in front, a stream of some natural importance was swelled into greater, but without any artificial appearance. Its banks were neither formal nor falsely adorned. Elizabeth was delighted.
―Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
Some of the flower seeds are coming up very well, but your mignonette makes a wretched appearance. …Our young piony [sic] at the foot of the fir-tree has just blown and looks very handsome, and the whole of the shrubbery border will soon be very gay with pinks and sweet-williams, in addition to the columbines already in bloom. The syringas, too, are coming out. We are likely to have a great crop of Orleans plums, but not many greengages—on the standard scarcely any, three or four dozen, perhaps, against the wall.
―Jane Austen’s Letter to Cassandra, 29 May, 1811
Two . . . hedgerows radiated, as it were, from the parsonage garden. One, a continuation of the turf terrace, proceeded westward, forming the southern boundary of the home meadows; and was formed into a rustic shrubbery, with occasional seats, entitled “The Wood Walk.” The other ran straight up the hill, under the name of “The Church Walk,” because it led to the parish church.
―James Edward Austen-Leigh, A Memoir of Jane Austen (Description of Jane Austen’s childhood home)
#5 – Take a trip to the seaside or mountains:
- Go to the seaside
- Drive to the mountains
- Take a day trip
- Rent a house or cabin
- Camp out
Travel like Jane: Looking for something literary? Explore one of these Literary-themed Day Trips. Or check out some of the Best Literary Places to Read and Eat around the world. Want to stay closer to home? Visit your local independent bookstore, buy a book, and show your support.
Jane Austen on Travels:
“A little sea-bathing would set me up forever.”
―Mrs. Bennet, Pride and Prejudice
“What delight! what felicity! You give me fresh life and vigour. Adieu to disappointment and spleen. What are young men to rocks and mountains? Oh! what hours of transport we shall spend!”
―Elizabeth Bennet, Pride and Prejudice
The Cobb itself, its old wonders and new improvements, with the very beautiful line of cliffs stretching out to the east of the town, are what the stranger’s eye will seek; and a very strange stranger it must be, who does not see charms in the immediate environs of Lyme, to make him wish to know it better.
―Jane Austen, Persuasion
We had a little water-party yesterday; I and my two nephews went from the Itchen Ferry up to Northam, where we landed, looked into the 74, and walked home, and it was so much enjoyed that I had intended to take them to Netley to-day; the tide is just right for our going immediately after moonshine, but I am afraid there will be rain; if we cannot get so far, however, we may perhaps go round from the ferry to the quay.
―Jane Austen’s Letter to Cassandra, 24 October, 1808.
Wishing you all a summer filled with bookish plans, dear Jane Austen’s World readers! If you could choose any “Jane-cation” (if travel/health restrictions did not exist), where would you go? – Rachel