Close your eyes and imagine the ideal vacation. There’s white sand, blue water, warm breezes and nothing to do but blow the foam off your drink. Actually, that’s just one of countless vacation scenarios. Whatever your fantasy getaway entails, you’re probably anticipating that vacation will counteract months of pent-up stress. Unfortunately, those hopes are often bitterly disappointed when a long-anticipated vacation falls short of expectations.
Recent studies indicate that a surprising number of people fail to escape stress on vacation. Many just expect the worst. In a 2015 survey by Healthline.com, more than 60 percent of 2,000 respondents said they experienced stress while on vacation. Nearly half said they felt “somewhat stressed,” while approximately 20 percent felt “very stressful.” A 2013 Huffington Post study revealed that a significant number of subjects were “stressed out” just preparing for vacation and working long hours to make up for time off.
Fortunately, there’s good news for vacation worry warts: There are steps you can take to ward off misfortune and make sure everyone comes home with a smile and a souvenir.
Think outside the vacation box
It’s easy to overlook, but one approach is to rethink the traditional “long” vacation, that one time a year when many Americans schedule time off. Putting all your vacation eggs in one big basket puts a lot of pressure on people who try to squeeze too much activity into that window. Mistakes, anger, and stress often ensue. Instead, try breaking vacation up into shorter breaks and spread out the fun.
Airline travel is a major feature of many vacations. Anyone who flies on a regular basis these days will tell you that stress comes with the territory. If you’re flying to your vacation spot, do yourself a favor: purchase tickets well ahead of time, travel as light as possible (remember the benefits of carry-on luggage), get to the airport at least two hours early, and factor in jet lag if you’re crossing multiple time zones (flying west instead of east is less disruptive to your internal clock).
Few things are worse than packing the car and heading down the road, only to run smack into a sea of red brake lights. It’s a frustrating, helpless feeling that leaves most of us wishing we were still at work. A little bit of careful, common sense planning can help you avoid the dreaded vacation traffic jam. Plan your departure for when traffic is least likely to be heavy, and make sure you know where you’re going (your smartphone’s GPS feature is worth its weight in gold at times like this). And don’t forget to check in with AAA -- it’s a great way to avoid road construction ...and road rage.
Working during vacation: Go easy
According to CareerBuilder.com, one in four people work while on vacation. That defeats the purpose of getting away, even for the most conscientious employee. If you’re feeling stressed about what won’t get done while you’re gone, talk with your employer about their expectations prior to vacation. Set limitations if you plan to check your work email, and try to steer clear of deadlines unless you absolutely have no choice. The last thing you want to do is turn your trip into a working vacation.
Protect your property
When the whole family leaves home for an extended period, there’s always a risk of crime. Burglary and vandalism are two of the most common occurrences people have to face when they return home. A home security or home monitoring system can give you peace of mind as well as protection for your valuables. Leave an external light on, and be sure to stop your mail delivery so that a bulging mailbox doesn’t announce your absence to the world.
You work hard all year. Vacation is your big chance to decompress. You can take full advantage of your time off by thinking through the details and preparing for the unexpected.
This is a guest blog post, written by Henry Moore, co-creator of fitwelltraveler.com, which blends two of Henry's favorite subjects (travel and health) to provide readers with information about how to get the most out of both. Henry believes travel can change you, and good health preserves you.