Planning a flexible itinerary may help reduce vacation stress.
Staying technology-free can help you lower stress and reconnect with yourself and your loved ones.
Giving yourself a post-vacation buffer day can help you ease back into real-life.
Though it may not look like it in some parts of the country, spring is officially here. Whether the temperature is starting to warm up where you live or you’re still shoveling snow off your car, it’s the perfect time to start thinking about—and planning ahead for—your summer vacation.
Starting the planning process early is the first step to a stress-free vacation. Despite all its promise of fun, relaxation and rest, vacations have a way of causing a lot of unwanted stress. We spoke with W. Robert Crumpton, a board-certified family medicine physician at St. Joseph Heritage Medical Group, about how to take the stress out of planning, enjoying and returning from your vacation.
Planning ahead to have a stress-free vacation
“Planning is often the most stressful part of the entire vacation if you’re not prepared,” says Dr. Crumpton. “Knowing the purpose of your trip can help you decide where to stay and visit once you’re there. For example, deciding whether your trip is mostly for relaxation, sightseeing or education will help you decide on the best location as well as prioritize which things to see and do.”
Here are a few additional planning tips that will help you create a stress-free summer vacation:
- Make an itinerary - If you’re planning a multi-day trip, it’s a good idea to organize different activities for each day—even if it just involves lying on the beach! Once you decide what you want to do, find out what time your destinations open and close, so you can maximize your time. It is also a good idea to map out a few options for lunch and/or dinner if you’re planning to eat out. But remember to be flexible; it is a vacation after all!
- Get your house and workload in order - Think about what might need attention at your home to while you're away, like pets, gardens, mail and package deliveries and arrange for someone to take care of them while you’re away. At work, it’s always important to find ways to reduce stress – here are some stress-reduction techniques to try before taking your trip. Try to wrap up any big, lingering projects, so they won’t be on your mind during vacation. Also, consider handing off a few responsibilities to your team members. This way you’ll have less on your mind on vacation and less catch-up work when you return—coming back to a mountain of work has a way of ruining vacation zen.
- Do things ahead of time - No one wants to feel rushed, especially right before a vacation. Try packing about a week before your trip so you’re not running around before your flight and forgetting important things. If there are items that can’t be packed until the last minute, make a list so you won’t forget them. On the day of your trip, be sure to arrive at the airport early, especially if you have kids, so you’ll have plenty of time to check-in, go through security, get a snack, use the restroom and find your gate.
Eliminating stress during your vacation
“As a whole, we need to take vacations more seriously,” says Dr. Crumpton, “not only are they an excellent way to recharge your battery, they are essential for your health. The Framingham Heart Study shows that men who do not take a yearly vacation are 30 percent more likely to suffer a heart attack than those who do take time off. And women who took a vacation once every six years were nearly eight times more likely to develop coronary heart disease or have a heart attack than women who went on vacation at least twice a year. This speaks volumes for the benefits of vacation on your long-term health and longevity.”
- Be technology-free and carefree - You can keep wearing your fitness tracker, but turn off your computer and leave your smartphone and iPads at the hotel. Vacations are a wonderful way to renew and recharge your energy, so it’s important to unplug from the office, emails, social media and the Internet. This may be the most challenging part of your trip, but it is also one of the most important if you want to reconnect with yourself and your loved ones.
- Keep daily routine (for kids) - Kids thrive on routines and knowing what to expect. Vacations can sometimes change everything that is familiar and comfortable for them, which may leave them feeling confused or out of control. Try to keep the main elements of your routine intact, like the morning routine, naptime, and bedtime. That way, your child can feel safe while also enjoying new experiences on vacation.
- Be present - Once you’re on vacation, it’s time to enjoy it. Be present and enjoy each moment while creating wonderful memories that will last you a lifetime, or at least until your next vacation!
Preventing post-vacation stress
Make returning home after a vacation easy on you and your family with these tips:
- Ease back in to real-life - The last day of vacation can be stressful, but giving yourself a few days at home before returning to your real-life can help you ease back into things. It is tempting to return home on the last available flight and go to work the next morning, but giving yourself an extra day at home allows time for unpacking, doing laundry, buying groceries and relaxing.
- Start planning your next vacation - The best way to beat the post-vacation blues and maximize your out-of-office joy is to start planning your next vacation! This will give you something to look forward to (besides the weekend).
Stress can lead to a number of major health problems, from anxiety and severe depression to a life-threatening heart attack. April is Stress Awareness Month, so take steps to live your best stress-managed life. You could start with by trying some simple yet trendy stress relievers. Check out our infographic of postures that help boost your mood.
Your primary care physician may recommend stress management techniques as part of your preventive care. Find a skilled doctor near you.
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.