You may not associate the words “summer” or “vacation” with stress, but the truth is in order to take real time off from our jobs, responsibilities and everyday lives, there’s a lot that needs to be done — and that pressure can cause stress.
Whether it’s the anxiety of tying up every loose end at work (impossible) or figuring out how to pay for all the activities and food you and your loved ones will be consuming, vacations aren’t always the purely fun, worry-free periods we wish they were.
In fact, a recent survey of 1,037 American adults revealed just how stressed many of us get about vacations. Commissioned by Wyndham Vacation Rentals, the study shows 1 in 3 people canceled or rescheduled a trip due to stress, 2 in 3 vacationers were overwhelmed by the options presented to them while on vacation and 3 in 10 travelers didn’t feel relaxed until a couple of days into their vacations as a result of work. Jeez!
While you’re not alone if you’ve ever felt that taking a vacation costs you more in money or stress than it might even be worth, there are some tactics you can use to nix anxiety, relax and actually enjoy your time off. Experts shared their best vacation stress-busting tips below.
Start packing early
Sounds simple, but it can make a big difference in whether your vacation starts out rushed and frazzled or calm and organized. “Get the suitcase out and slowly start packing the week before,” says Juicy Juice’s 100 percent family time expert Meredith Sinclair, author of Well Played: The Ultimate Guide to Awakening Your Family’s Playful Spirit. “Don’t leave it to the last minute. Then remember that whatever you forget, you can find at a drugstore.” If your kids are old enough to pack themselves, tell them to get a head start too so you can all have a relaxed departure.
Prepare so you can relax
Other than packing early, there are a few other things you can do before hitting the road that can help make your time away more blissful. “If you’re traveling internationally or elsewhere that might raise a red flag to your credit card company, make sure to call the bank and let them know to prevent your card being disabled,” says Ellen Paderson, owner of Smiles and Miles travel consultancy. “Also, assign a trusted friend or neighbor to take care of any emergencies in case of a flood in the house, an alarm going off or whatever.” This way, you can breathe easy while away from home.
Unplug from work
Yes, it’s pretty much the definition of vacation, but given how commonplace it is for people to work from home, freelance or generally be online at all hours, it can be hard to remember how vital it is to really unplug from work emails, IMs and projects of all kinds while you’re away. According to Melanie Fish, family travel expert for HomeAway, even working for as long as an hour during your vacation day can dilute the experience. “Research shows that your memories of a trip suffer if you work more than an hour a day while on vacation,” says Fish. “And those who used laptops vs. smartphones or tablets also had significantly more trouble remembering their vacations.” So put it away, already!
One trap that many of us fall prey to on vacation is being let down when our trip doesn’t meet our sky-high expectations. (After all, most of us spend weeks or months fantasizing about this one week — that’s a lot of pressure!) “Without being too Debbie Downer-ish, discuss the fact that there may be some issues that may arise, such as bad weather or a less-than-perfect hotel,” says Paderson. “If this should happen, remember and remind your loved ones that there’s no perfect trip, so everyone needs to go with the flow and be flexible. Make sure kids have a plan for what they may want to do in case of bad weather. They need to have lower expectations so they won’t be disappointed.”
Make re-entry a staycation
If the worst part about vacation is coming home, then do what you can to make coming home easier and more pleasant for everyone. “Post-vacation blues aren’t listed in a medical book, but they’re real,” says Sinclair. “Soften re-entry into your real life by arriving back home a day early. Don’t rush to unpack or do laundry. Take it slow and treat that last day like a staycation. Laugh. Play games. Be silly and then right before bed, ask each kid what they’re looking forward to now that they’re home. Remind them that home is a pretty amazing place to be.” Amen to that!