How to Fake a Tropical Vacation

You know those unspoken rules about being a decent human being like holding the elevator for someone or not eating tuna in confined spaces? I’ve recently added one to the list: don’t post pictures of Hawaii on Instagram during a polar vortex, even (especially?) if you live there. While I assume a constant feed of tropical posts automatically induces a certain level of eye rolling to begin with, to post palm trees and pool shots when parts of the Midwest are literally colder than the Arctic Circle…well, that’s just insufferable. 

Yet, despite my self-directed silence on almost all social media channels, my inbox has been filled with DMs from nearly frozen friends joking about how nice a Hawaiian vacation sounds right about now. Sadly, even if you’ve budgeted in a tropical escape into your rainy—make that snowy—day fund, it’s nearly impossible to fly in these conditions anyway. And so we’re left with the next best thing: a polar vortex staycation.

To paraphrase the immortal words of Drake, if you’re reading this (there’s a good chance) it’s too late. Meaning, I don’t expect that you have a plethora of island-scented shower gels or shampoos on hand to suddenly whip out and mentally transport yourself to the Hawaiian Islands. And I certainly don’t expect for you to pull out the snow boots and walk to the nearest drugstore. But if you’re lucky enough to still get Amazon deliveries (or are expecting future snowy, cold days), here’s what I’d recommend to conjure up those island vibes. 

First things first…get your house/apartment/bedroom hot. Like really, really hot. If it takes a while for your furnace to kick in, don’t sweat it (sorry, couldn’t resist!). You’re headed to the shower first anyway. This too should be hot—sensing a theme here?—and don’t be afraid to let it run for a while. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about living in the tropics it’s that every day is a constant battle against humidity. Embrace it today. Close the door, leave the fan off, revel in the hot, almost uncomfortable amount of moisture in the air. 

You may not be able to make it to the beach, but you can recreate that toes in the water/you-know-what in the sand feeling with an in-shower body scrub. My personal favorite is Kopari’s Coconut Crush Scrub which is made with a blend of coconut oil, crushed coconut shells, and brown sugar. Of course if you’re willing to put in a little work before your staycation begins, you can always make your own version at home by mixing one cup raw sugar with one cup coconut oil. Follow up with an equally tropical smelling shampoo and conditioner, like H2O+’s Sea Greens Shampoo and Bumble & Bumble’s Creme de Coco Conditioner (or whatever you already have in shower works too.)

Now that you’re in the right headspace—thank you olfactory conditioning—it’s time to look the part. Dry off with a lush, fluffy, hotel-worthy towel before applying the heavenly smelling Noni Glow Body Balm by Kora, a rich balm-turns-body oil made of coconut and cupuaçu butter. With your skin prepped, you’re ready to give yourself what Mother Nature just can’t right now—a beautiful, golden tan. And since tanning beds/tanning oil/prolonged sun exposure are all detrimental for your skin anyway, an investment in a natural self tanner like Vita Liberata’s Invisi Foaming Tanning Water is worthwhile no matter the time of year.

Of course, having a tan body isn’t enough. To truly fake a tropical vacation, you’ll also need to recreate that quintessential out-of-office glow. Start with an exfoliating face mask like Goop’s Instant Facial which, as the name suggests, will instantly smoothen, brighten, and soften skin. Next, add some literal glow with Dr. Barbara Sturm’s Glow Drops, a product that subtly shimmers and hydrates all at once. And since the best part of any island vacation is obviously the sunsets, paint some of your own with Glossier’s Cloud Paint (and maybeee add a swipe of mascara because that’s really all the makeup you need on vacay anyway).

At this point it’s time to take the party out of the bathroom and into the real world…erm, the living room. Set the mood with Homesick’s Hawaii-scented candle (notes of pineapple and coconut) before turning on the Jack Johnson playlist on Spotify.

My biggest tip for feeling like a tropical vacation is to do all the things you’d normally do: reading, sleeping, laying out, not answering work emails…in fact, the more time horizontal, the better. So head to the couch, turn on Blue Crush, and stay a while. Just don’t forget a heavy handed, fruity cocktail—this is a vacation, after all.

P.S. A guide to grabbing some winter sun when temperatures are finally high enough to leave your house.