HOW TO TRAVEL WITH MORE JOY AND LESS STRESS
It’s surprisingly easy to spend a “relaxing” vacation exhausting yourself. Unreasonable expectations, decision fatigue, work worries, and packing too much—into your suitcase or your schedule—can all be thieves of joy when you’re traveling.
Here, I’m sharing a few of my favorite tips for those travelers who often find themselves needing a vacation from their vacation.
Check in with Your Expectations
When you’re not clear upfront about what you want to get out of a trip, you’re unwittingly setting yourself up for disappointment. (I’ve been there.) So, set aside the cool spots you’ve seen tagged on Instagram and the traditional tourist circuit. When you close your eyes and envision this trip, what do you see yourself doing? Ask everyone else you’re traveling with to do the same. Take a few notes and use them to reverse engineer the itinerary.
Book in Advance
Nothing is routine on vacation, which allows decision fatigue to set in much more quickly. Take care of the room, rental car, meal reservations, and any other activities you want to do in advance so that future you can just enjoy the perks of vacation. Or if you’ve stressed about sticking to your budget before, you could nix the worry with an all-inclusive package.
Pack with a List
The I-definitely-forgot-something-of-great-importance feeling is the worst. To free myself from it, I print out an exhaustive list of every single thing I might need to bring and tick through as I pack. My list also has a pre-departure checklist for things like finding a cat-sitter and making sure I have enough small bills for tips so that I can jet off knowing it’s all been handled.
Store ‘Every-Trip’ Essentials inside Your Suitcase
Packing will go so much faster when essentials are already in your suitcase. With the exception of my over-ear headphones and my passport, all of my travel gear (pictured above) stays in my bag so I can live my best last-minute-packer life sans panic.
Comfort Is Key
The best kind of travel outfit is one you can put on and never think about again. A personal rule of thumb: Leave behind anything you’re packing only because it’ll look good in photos.
Set Aside Time to Wander
Walking with the sole purpose of observing is one of my absolute favorite things to do. Ideally, I try to dedicate a full day to this, but a few hours is more likely the reality. I put away my phone and headphones and think of myself as a student of my surroundings, using all five senses to sponge up the atmosphere of a place. Peeking down alleyways, looking up or down when I otherwise wouldn’t, and challenging myself to observe the tiniest details—this time is often when the magic of a destination reveals itself.
Turn off Notifications and Alerts
For email, Slack, and even social media. Everything will be there when you get back. If going dark makes you nervous for work purposes, communicate to your team that if they must interrupt your few precious vacation days, they should send a text message, or make it clear that you’ll check email during a specific thirty-minute window each day (and stick to that limit!).
Beat Last-Day Blues With Something Special
Plan a sendoff you’ll really savor—a hot air balloon ride, a Michelin-starred dinner, something exciting! The final day of your trip should be spent doing something special, so that you spend less time dreading the end.
Edit Your Packing List
The travel home is the best time to revisit your trip prep list. Remove anything that’s proven unnecessary and think about what might be worth adding.
Make Coming Home Something to Look Forward To
I’ve started a post-travel tradition of buying myself a big, bright bouquet of flowers for my desk on the way into work to make the return to reality more exciting. Think about what your version of this might be. I’m also a huge fan of buffer days! Heading straight from the airport to the office on Monday morning is without a doubt the fastest way to sour any lingering feelings of relaxation.
Bring Back Meaningful Mementos
Aside from the ones you can eat, I think the best souvenirs are those you can wear or display in your home. When I hand a house guest one of the woven coasters I got at a women’s weaving co-op in Guatemala, my brain gets an instant flashback to the warm sun of that breezy day on Lake Atitlán. And, of course, that’ll get you thinking about planning your next trip …