Everyone has their own idea of fun and what a vacation should be. But as different as each trip may be, there’s something that’s equally essential to all of them – planning!
Folks work hard all year round in order to earn their time off so their week or two of vacation has to be everything they dream of – relaxing yet entertaining and a time to reconnect with family and/or friends, yet find time for oneself. Most people want their cake and eat it too – they want to rest yet they want to do everything that their vacation spot has to offer. After all, most people only get a few weeks off work, maybe less, so you have to make the most of it. But that’s a lot of pressure. No wonder so many people end up feeling exhausted and perhaps even a little depressed when their vacation all too quickly comes to an end.
The reality is, most vacations never quite live up to the way in which we envision it. All sorts of things can happen and go wrong. However, there are a few ways to protect yourself from feeling let down after it’s over.
Don’t Deny Yourself. Take all of your vacation days together whenever possible. Many people try to strategically spread out their vacation days by taking just a few here and there. Some are partial to taking Fridays off throughout the summer in order to create a multitude of long weekends. But that’s never enough time to actually relax. And, quite often those days end up being used for something other than downtime. It’s too easy to turn just two days into time spent at home doing yard work, home upgrades or chores, or perhaps visiting family and running errands, all of which leaves folks feeling even more exhausted and frustrated than before. Taking all of your vacation time at once is far more conducive to planning a get-away during which you can have fun and unwind.
Be Mindful of Expectations. Look forward to your vacation but try to avoid the belief that it will be the best EVER. In the end, that mindset is sure to let you down. For example, don’t expect or plan for perfect weather every single day. Instead, have a backup proposal for a rainy day so you don’t end up feeling as though it was wasted. Be prepared with plans for indoor attractions or activities, and be sure to pack a book or some games for the kids. Expect delays, line-ups, traffic etc., so you don’t get upset when you encounter them. Make peace with the fact that these things are unavoidable, and understand that everyone around you is in the same situation. Be prepared for the reality that not everyone you meet will be pleasant or helpful, and try to let any incidents roll off your back. Go into your vacation knowing that not everything will be perfect – for every feature or amenity you adore about your hotel or resort, there will likely be other things you find irritating – do your best to accept the good with the bad. Above all, go with the flow. Nothing will spoil a vacation faster than a friend or family member losing their cool.
Organize and PLAN! When it comes to vacations, being organized is a MUST and lists are your best friend, especially if you’re the head of an entire family or leader of a group. Make a list of everything you need to do before you go so that you’re not lying on a beach a thousand miles from home when you suddenly remember that the family cat is home alone and no one has a key to go inside and feed her.
The before you go list should include such chores as watering plants, removing any garbage from your house or condo, removing any soon-to-expire dairy from your fridge so you don’t come home to sour milk and a kitchen that smells like it needs to be fumigated. Have someone pick up your mail for you while you’re gone, pay essential bills before you leave, and check the calendar to ensure you won’t be missing any appointments or home visits (if so, cancel them before you get charged). It also includes doing yard work so your house will look cared for and lived in while you’re gone, or, if it’s winter, arrange for someone to shovel your snow that no one will fall on your property while you’re away and you won’t come home to a lawsuit. Board your pets or arrange for a pet sitter, and ensure that your home security system is functioning properly so you can relax while you’re away.
Make a list of things that need to be packed, both clothing and toiletries, so you’re less likely to forget something, especially necessities like medications. Refill medications before you go so you don’t run out while you’re away.
Make a list of things you want to see and do on vacation so you don’t waste time researching them AFTER you arrive. If traveling with family or friends, discuss potential plans and expectations before you go so you don’t encounter disagreements that cause hard feelings that potentially steer you away from something you truly wanted to do.
Consider the attractions or restaurants you want to visit, then map your routes from your hotel so you can avoid getting lost and wasting time. Purchase any tickets you want ahead of time in order to avoid line-ups, reserve tee-times in advance if you’re heading out on a golf holiday, pre-arrange car rentals and confirm reservations with hotels and airlines to avoid any problems. Make sure your passport is current. Buy travel insurance so you have peace of mind that you’re covered should something unforeseen happen along the way. If you plan on making several phone calls or will require data on your phone, be sure to contact your provider for special rates, check with your hotel to see if they provide free wi-fi, or perhaps consider buying a long distance card to save money. The more planning you do before your vacation starts the more you can enjoy yourself when it arrives.
Be Flexible. Regardless of how much strategizing you may have done in order to ensure the perfect vacation, recognize and accept that circumstances and desires might change. Perhaps spending 3 consecutive days at a theme park wasn’t the best idea; it’s much more exhausting than you envisioned so downtime at the hotel pool suddenly looks far more appealing for an afternoon or even an entire day. That’s ok.
Perchance a nasty sunburn suddenly prohibits more time on the beach, so an afternoon nap or time spent shopping would be more pleasing. That’s ok, too.
Maybe a few consecutive nights of fine dining have left you with heartburn and feeling bloated, and the idea of a sandwich or burger on your balcony via room service sounds much more enjoyable. Understand that ALL of that is ok.
Allow yourself to stray from your itinerary rather than pushing yourself and others to stick with it. After all, the concept of a vacation is to break free from agendas. In the end, you’ll feel much more relaxed.