Ever come back from vacation wishing you had additional vacation time in which to recover? That’s not unusual—especially if you’ve had a “vacation” that was less than relaxing. But the good news is it’s easier to make a great vacation happen now than it’s ever been before. Here are a few ways to get there:
Take the Time
Not taking vacation time has become an epidemic among much of the world, with Americans leading that dubious category. If the last time you can remember actually resting for more than 24 hours was when you were sick with some ugly “bug,” that’s a sign you need to take the time for refreshment before the body breaks down!
Planning a vacation for the right time of year is smart, too. When are venues booked to the gills? Thanksgiving, Christmas, school vacations, and most of summer. If you’d rather avoid the crowds, plan your trips for after Thanksgiving, early winter, or late fall, between mid-October and mid-November. Often, that’s a “lull” at tourist spots, meaning you can also pick up some great deals.
Being Plugged-In with a Purpose
Our parents didn’t have the advantages of the Internet to help them make remote connections with hotels, restaurants, and rides; we do. Use sites such as Trip Advisor to get reviews about places you’re planning to go, and don’t necessarily discount a place for a few “dings” on its ratings. Read what the complaints are and think about them; after all, a review that complains a hotel is “too far from everything” might be ideal for a trip where you want to get away from it all.
Other time and stress savers: Yelp gives you ratings on restaurants, while Open Table can get you a seat for the end of a long travel day (when you’re least in the mood to “just find something”). And it goes without saying that a quick perusal of Google Maps, Map Quest, or other GPS aids, coupled with some judicious printing of hard copies for stashing in cars, bags, or wallets, can save a lot of headaches if that map from 1989 somehow became obsolete!
Before the trip is a terrific time to nail down info from these online sources, and it’s also the time to plan what to pack and carry with you. If you work out every day, that includes exercise clothes and shoes; call ahead to find out what health clubs, pools, fitness centers, or walking trails are adjacent to where you’ll be. If you’re flying, have overnight necessities tucked in your carry-on bag. Travel-size plastic bottles for your toiletries make for easy travel, even by car.
Make photocopies of your driver’s license, passport, and other documents you may need for ID purposes; if your wallet gets stolen or lost, having copies of these on hand can make replacements a breeze. The same goes for prescriptions and any special doctor’s care instructions you might have. Should the unthinkable happen and you get sick or injured far from home, this information is priceless.
Even if you’re planning on disconnecting from the outside world once you get to your vacation spot—an excellent idea!—before you get there, electronics can be your friend. Audible and/or Books on Tape are great sources for audio books to listen to through headphones on a plane or through the speakers of your car. Other apps such as sports sites, satellite TV and radio, and games, loaded onto smartphones, make the miles fly by.
Just remember…these gadgets all require “juice” to keep the party going. When you’re packing, gather all the chargers, power sources, and adapters you’ll need, and write them on the checklist that gets one final going-over before you take off for the hinterlands.
Unplugged and Unfettered
Part of total relaxation is disconnecting from the constant chatter of everyday life. So don’t be afraid: you can do it. Turn off your smartphone at night; don’t take a laptop or other work-centric equipment with you, and you won’t be tempted to break the spell. If you normally watch a lot of TV at home, take this time to get a break from it; spend time outdoors, read old-fashioned paper books (!), chat with other guests, and slow your pace to a stroll.
With very few exceptions, you can also extend “unplugging” to disconnect from the tyranny of the clock. Eat when you’re hungry, sleep when you’re tired, and you’ll be amazed how relaxed you become. And, most of all—resist the urge to “go public” with your trip on Facebook, Twitter, or the like. So, for the sake of your own sanity, unplug from it all and enjoy it as it happens. You’ll be happier in the long run.
Road Warriors and Sage Advice
Take advantage of technology to make planning easier, heed the advice of road warriors (which can save you time and trouble!), and don’t attempt to see the entire world in two weeks; it can’t happen. But most of all…relax. That’s the best indicator of a vacation that’s a rousing success!