7 Tips to Take the Stress Out of Summer Vacations

Young woman packing suitcase at home


A vacation is time to kick back, spend time with loved ones and decompress from the job. A survey of travelers found that 94 percent of those who went on vacation reported feeling more energized. Another study found that a single short vacation can boost your well-being for up to 45 days after you get back home.

Despite all the good vacations have to offer, many of us skimp when it comes to taking them. Data from Project Time Off shows that American workers take 16.8 days of vacation per year compared to the 20.3 days we averaged from 1978 to 2000. Why are we taking less time off? It could be stress.

Why a Vacation Can Be Stressful

A lot of hurdles, both mental and physical, stand in the way of taking a long vacation. According to a survey by the U.S. Travel Association, workers are wary of coming back to a mountain of unanswered emails and long to-do lists. Some have anxiety about what taking a long vacation could mean for their career. Additionally, planning a vacation, especially one abroad, takes up precious time that many of us feel we do not have. There’s also airport security and managing a long flight, sometimes with small children in tow. Taken together, you may start to feel like giving up on that trip altogether, but don’t!

The positive benefits of taking a vacation outweigh these hurdles in the long run. Think about it this way: decades from now, will you regret not taking enough time to travel and make memories with your family and friends? We thought so. Put in some effort and you can reap the benefits. To help you reduce the stress of taking a summer vacation, we’ve compiled a few useful tips:

1. Don’t procrastinate on packing.

Do some research two weeks prior to your trip to help you decide what to pack. Then, keep an eye on the weather forecast so you know what kinds of clothes and gear to bring with you. Your activity plans will also help you determine what to bring. Then, begin to pack a week before your departure. If you wait until the last minute, it’s much more likely that you’ll forget an essential item or risk missing your flight.

2. Complete your typical household chores.

Knock out easy tasks like vacuuming, doing laundry and washing the dishes. Doing your chores before you leave makes coming home from vacation much less stressful.

3. Make a bucket list of places you want to visit.

Aim to strike a balance between lazing at the pool and creating an overstuffed schedule. A sweet spot is to have a rolling list of two-to-three activities and two-to-three restaurants. The goal isn’t to hit them all in one day. Let the list inspire you to head out of your hotel bed before noon.

4. Tone down electronic communications.

This is tricky because not everyone has the luxury of cutting off all comms with their boss and colleagues. Do what you can. You may be able to sever all ties with your inbox, or you may cut back on checking work emails to just once day. Do what’s right for you.

5. Find balance with vacation treats.

Food plays a big role in vacation. This is the perfect time to savor a treat, especially if you’ve been working hard to stay healthy all year. Craving cheesecake? Order a slice and stop there. Then slow down and savor that slice. It’s the quality of the experience that counts. Overdoing treats can leave you feeling guilty, which is counterproductive to staying stress-free.

6. Take lots of photos and review them post-vacation.

Yes, going over your vacation photos serves a purpose: it lets you bring vacation bliss back home. Researchers have also found that people who take photographs on their vacations have more positive emotions.

7. Come back one day early.

Come back with one day (or more) to spare if you can. This lets you ease back into your inbox, get used to the time change and get a head start on your to-do list.

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