Oh, sweet vacation. That time when you can escape the stress of your everyday life and get some much-needed downtime. Unless, of course, you spend your holiday frantically running from one “must-see” sight to the next, or you find yourself tethered to your inbox the whole time.
You might have every intention of going on a completely stress-free vacation, but sometimes your long-awaited “holiday” leaves you feeling more frazzled than when you left.
Your vacation is your time to fully relax and recharge — and if you don’t commit yourself to that, your time off may end up being completely counterproductive. There’s no way to control the flight delays, travel mishaps, or those pesky emails from your boss, but there are a few things you can do to ensure you really enjoy your vacation.
Since vacation days always seem to be fleeting or few and far between, here are six ways to amp up the enjoyment factor and make the most of your precious time off.
1. Remember it’s impossible to do it all
One thing that’s guaranteed to ruin any vacation? Cramming as many activities and sights as possible into every 24-hour period. I know the FOMO is real when you travel, but the last thing you want to do is overload your schedule with more than you can handle. To avoid any itinerary-induced anxiety, try to pace yourself. Focus on experiences rather than ticking things off some “top ten attractions” list. Aim for quality over quantity. When you do put that itinerary together, create a list of “must-see” places and another of “would like to see” places. This way, you can prioritise your time without feeling pressure to see and do everything.
2. Keep your vacation expectations in check
It’s only natural to be excited about your vacation, but if you start out with rigid or unrealistic expectations, you’ll always be disappointed — regardless of what does or doesn’t happen. Will the hotel room end up being smaller than it looked on the website? Probably. Will that Instagram-worthy vista look a little less spectacular with dozens of other people crowded around you, vying to capture the same photo? Definitely. Rather than stressing about trivial things, focus on what you’d like to have happen while you’re on holiday instead — whether it’s adventure, connection, or simply total relaxation. These are the kinds of vacation goals that won’t be ruined when plans go awry.
3. Go with the flow
We all have a story about that trip that didn’t go as planned. Maybe you were bound for Italy but your luggage ended up in Idaho. Maybe you spent the entirety of that once-in-a-lifetime holiday in the hotel bathroom, curled up in the fetal position with a horrific case of food poisoning. When you’re travelling, it’s safe to say something will probably go wrong. While you can’t stop unexpected occurrences from happening, you can choose how you react to them. And more often than not, those mishaps and wrong turns offer the opportunity to connect with the place you’re visiting on a more genuine level. If you find yourself in the middle of a ridiculous travel situation on holiday, take a deep breath, remind yourself it will all work out — and then try to think about how funny it will be when it’s all over.
4. Take time to unplug
A vacation is one of the rare times when you can ignore your calls, notifications, and overflowing inbox and actually get away with it, so take full advantage! Disable push notifications, temporarily delete your work-related apps, go to dinner without your phone — do whatever it takes to fully disconnect from the stresses of work and home life. Taking a break from being constantly glued to a screen will only make your vacation that much sweeter.
5. Ease back into work
A fantastic vacation will leave you feeling rested, refreshed, and more energised. That post-holiday afterglow can last for a while, unless you book a red-eye flight with three stopovers and a 7-hour layover on the way home. Transitioning back to work will be difficult enough, so try not to make it any harder by subjecting yourself to stressful travel conditions — especially if you need to be back at the office bright and early the next day. If possible, schedule your return flight so you’ll have a day or two to unwind and decompress before you get back to the grind.
6. Don’t do it for the ‘gram
Lastly, make sure you’re planning a vacation you genuinely want to take. It sounds pretty obvious, right? But, so many of us fall into the trap of booking a trip because it seems like the kind of holiday we “should” be taking, or the kind that will impress other people. Just like anything in life, our vacation choices can be influenced by social pressure, so ask yourself where’d you want to go if no one else knew or cared. Whether you’re keen to lounge on a beach for seven days straight or explore remote corners of the Alaskan wilderness, the most important thing is to make a choice that reflects your interests and desires.
What’s the best holiday you’ve ever taken? Do you have any tips for a stress-free vacation? Share in the comments!