Going on vacation has been proven to be good for your health. In fact, studies have shown that men who fail to go on vacation at least once a year have a 32 percent higher chance of dying from a heart attack than their vacation-going peers. Despite this, the stress-busting benefits of taking time off can be dramatically reduced if you aren’t careful. Therefore, instead of making your vacation merely a different type of stress, it is wise to follow a few simple steps to ensure you truly get the most out of your downtime.
1. Pick One Main Activity Per Day
Are you the type of person who typically jams as much into each vacation day as possible? This often happens because people feel like they have to see or do everything in a new area, but the truth is that you don’t, nor should you attempt to. Going on a holiday gives you the opportunity to experience new places and culture, but you aren’t going to be able to fully relax and enjoy yourself if you are over-scheduled. Avoid this problem by picking one main activity per day. You may visit fewer tourist hot-spots than usual, but you’re also highly likely to have a lot more fun.
2. Arrange Parking in Advance
Parking can be a nightmare, and it is often very expensive to leave your vehicle at a hotel. However, if your vacation plans involve driving a car, it is necessary to deal with these challenges. The good news is that there are parking services and apps such as Your Parking Space that give you the opportunity to arrange your parking in advance or even while you are on the go. This will provide you with pricing information up front, and it will take a lot of the guesswork out of finding a place to park in a new area.
3. Unplug from Email and Social Media
It is easy to get sucked into work email or excessive social media posting while you are on vacation, but this is not relaxing in the slightest. Studies indicate that a lot of screen time could make it more difficult for you to fall asleep, and it might even make you more prone to experiencing depression. When you combine this with the simple fact that taking on work stress during your time off makes it feel like less of a vacation, it is easy to understand why some people put their phone away when they go on a holiday.
4. Provide a Buffer Before and After Your Trip
Are you planning to fly out after work or return to the office the morning after a red-eye flight back home? This might seem like the best way to maximize your time, but you are going to pay for it in lost sleep and added stress. Even if you end up with one or two fewer days at your destination, it will be worth it to add some buffer time to both ends of your trip. In other words, leave the next morning instead, and come back a day early so that you can get back into the groove of your daily life before starting work again. As an added bonus, taking this approach will help you minimize the feelings of stress that are associated with getting ready and transitioning far too quickly. This is especially critical if you will be changing time zones.
5. Choose a Staycation Instead
Are you looking for a way to enjoy a long weekend or even a week without spending a lot of money? Ditch the financial stress and the complications associated with traveling by planning a staycation instead! You will be in the comfort of familiar surroundings, but you will also be able to give yourself permission to let the housework slide for a few days and explore some new places within your local area. You can save even more money by choosing cheap or free activities such as going to a nearby national park or a free music event.
6. Vacation Alone or in a Group of Two
Vacationing as a family or with friends always sounds like a great idea, but the reality is that this often leads to disagreements and a lot of compromising. To avoid these stressors, go on a vacation by yourself or with just one other person who has similar interests and holiday goals. When you don’t have to coordinate everything with multiple people, it will naturally become much easier to relax, set a slower pace and cross off your major must-sees during your trip. Another nice perk of solo travel is that you can focus more on mindfulness, which has been proven to reduce the stress hormone.
7. Consider Public Transportation
If you don’t need to have a car with you to get around the local area, it can be very stress relieving to rely on public transportation instead. Of course, your destination needs to have a robust and reliable public transportation system for this to work, so be sure to do some research before you make any definitive decisions. Some places offer discount packages for travelers who will be regularly taking a train or bus for a few days, which could be a good way to save some money. You can also help the environment by choosing public transportation. In fact, subways reduce greenhouse gas emissions by a whopping 76 percent when compared to a standard passenger vehicle.
8. Choose a Relaxing Destination
Every destination has the potential to be relaxing if it allows you to indulge in your passions, but it is much less stress inducing to go somewhere with a laid back vibe. This is the primary reason that beach towns and resorts are so popular, and you can get even better results by going the week before the peak season begins. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t visit some of the biggest cities on earth if they are on your bucket list, but it does mean you should also prioritize fitting in a more relaxing destination for some of your trips.
9. Pack Everything in Advance
Some people find themselves still packing a few minutes before heading to the airport, and this is going to cause you to deal with a lot of unnecessary stress. Do yourself a favor and make sure that everything except for a few smaller items such as your toothbrush are packed by the day before you leave. This is also good advice to follow when it is time to return from vacation. Ultimately, it is wise to prepare as much as possible in advance to eliminate any last minute rushing around because we all know there’s nothing relaxing about cramming clothes into a suitcase when you should be leaving.
10. Make Time for Personal Self-Care Activities
It may be tempting to schedule every vacation activity around the attractions you can only find at your destination, but if you truly want to relax, be sure to include some personal self-care. For example, massages are well-known to reduce stress and anxiety, so booking into a spa for an hour or two will make your vacation more relaxing. You may also want to consider going to a movie to unwind while steering clear of the hottest part of the day.
A vacation is a proven way to lower your stress levels, but it also important to incorporate stress management techniques into your daily life. After all, stress is the leading cause of doctor visits in the U.S., so it is clear that everyone needs to find ways to relax more frequently and effectively.
Featured photo credit: Jean Beaufort via publicdomainpictures.net