If taking some time away from work or school may seem like the best way to recharge your batteries, then why do we so often feel like we need a vacation right after our vacation? Whether it’s because of not enough preparation, tight travel schedules or the fact that we never actually unplugged in the first place, it’s easy to fall into the vacation stress trap. But that doesn’t have to be the case.
Before you pack up the car, board that plane, or turn on your out-of-office message, here are some tips to help your R & R be more restful and relaxing:
- Be realistic about the trip’s purpose. A week away with the kids will probably not yield the same vacation vibes as being on a quiet beach alone. Both are significant in their own ways, you just need to adjust your expectations accordingly.
- It’s all about timing. If your vacation coincides with your busiest time at work, your mind may be elsewhere while you’re away. If possible, try to schedule your vacation at a slower time in the office. Tell coworkers what to expect of you (or not expect) so that you feel OK about stepping out.
- Make a list. From batteries to adapters to travel-sized toiletries and currency exchanges, it’s important to write it ALL down. Keeping a list of what you should pack and what you need to do beforehand will help you avoid forgetting anything.
- Prep the home front. Make sure that you stop delivery of newspapers and mail, put timers on your lights and arrange for pet and lawn care, if necessary. Toss any perishable food items, freeze meals for your return and lower the temperature in your home to save on costs.
- Take care of email. From setting filters so you can more easily sort through your messages when you return to setting an out of office message that redirects people to another contact, managing your electronic life while away requires attention.
- Plan for childcare. In the event that you’re traveling with children but may want some time for just the adults, secure a sitter ahead of time so that you don’t have to scramble while on vacation.
- Expect the unexpected. Pack an extra change of clothes, snacks, medications and activities or games in the event of a layover or travel delay, especially if you’re traveling with children. There’s nothing worse than being stranded without resources.
While you’re away:
- Actually unplug. That means not checking email, not constantly being on your phone and not being attached to your tablet. It’s not a vacation if you’re connected the whole time. Try weaning yourself off of devices before you leave by not checking your email or phone messages after a certain time. This will also help others to adjust their expectations for your replies, as well.
- Take your healthy habits with you. If you like to bike, yoga, read or get a full night’s sleep, there’s no reason to abandon these habits just because you’re in a new environment.
When you get back:
- Build in a buffer. Allowing a day between returning from vacation and going back to work means that you won’t be stressed out by jet lag, laundry, unpacking and email sorting. And speaking of jet lag…
- Normalize your sleep. Whether you were in a different time zone or not, try to keep your sleep pattern regulated to your usual schedule when you get home. For this reason, you may want to avoid drinking alcohol on the plane or relying on melatonin, as they may help you fall asleep but not necessarily stay asleep.
The good news? Most of the preparation you do to ensure a restful, relaxing trip happens beforehand. This means that when you return, you’ll have less to worry about while your mind is still in vacation mode.