Tag Archives: vacation tips

Tips For Adulthood: Five Ways to Rethink Vacations

vacation

vacationOn occasional Wednesdays, I offer tips for adulthood.

The summer is nearly over. Here in London, where I live, it’s been well over 90 degrees Farenheit for the last few days, and my daughter and I still have one day outing left before she returns to school next week. So I’m not quite ready to get out the iron and attach name tags to her school uniform (which is my own official marker for the end of summer).

Still, despite all the research telling us how good vacations are for both us and for our employers, Americans, in particular, struggle to use up their vacation days.  I myself am guilty as charged. And bad habits start young. Fearing “vacation shaming” from bosses and co-workers, millennials are now the least likely cohort of workers to use up their vacation time, despite becoming the largest generation in the workforce.

In my newfound embrace of balance, however, I had a better summer this year in terms of rest.  So I thought I’d share what I’ve learned:

a. Take shorter, more frequent vacations. Apparently, holiday memories tend to depend not on how long the holiday was, but on the intensity of the experience. So even going away for only two or three days can be enough to re-charge your batteries.  Moreover, research shows that vacations from work seem to have positive, though short-lived effects on wellbeing.  This is perhaps why a study in the Journal of Happiness Studies recommended spacing your holidays out evenly throughout the year, rather than bunching them all at once.

b. Go alone. Our family had a very different vacation experience this summer than our normal fare – which is either to go on one, short family holiday or to stay home. This year, each of the four of us took short trips on our own, in addition to the short family holiday. I myself went to Argentina for 10 days at the beginning of July to see an old friend. It was blissful. I’d had a very busy and difficult Spring on both the professional and personal fronts. So going away without the strain of having to coordinate my time with the other three members of my family was a huge relief. Some days, I strolled the streets of Buenos Aires. Other days, I stayed home and read while sipping beer and listening to Cuban music. I came back ready and able to spend time with my family.

c. Split up and do your own thing. Which brings me to my truly revolutionary vacation suggestion: if you’re going on holiday with your family or friends, don’t try to do everything together. My family tends to take breaks to European cities when we go on vacation. We all love experiencing foreign foods, cultures and languages. But our ideal time spent in a museum varies enormously. I can last about one and a half hours, two max. My husband can do at least three; my daughter, five; and my son, eight. So this year, we instituted a new rule:  everyone gets to do their own thing during the day and we meet up for meals. It worked beautifully. Our family holiday was in Vienna. Both of my kids speak German and they are both very comfortable using public transport. It’s also a very safe city. So I got to visit the obscure clock museum in Old Vienna, my daughter got to go to the imperial palace, Schönbrunn, my husband was able to take a massive detour to find the best coffee ever and my son, well, let’s just say Egon Schiele got a lot of face time.

d. Take a micro trip. I first learned about these from my neighbor, a guy in his 30’s who was setting off one Thursday afternoon around 4 pm to cycle down to the British Coast, camp out on a beach, and wake up early to cycle back up to work. That’s not my personal idea of fun, but he said he’d been sprinkling lots of these little mini-vacations throughout the summer and had found them quite energizing. Apparently, micro trips are all the rage in 2019. (Note: you can also take a train or a plane; you don’t have to cycle!)

e. Staycations really are fun. I’m a huge fan of the staycation. We probably do one once every other year, and I’ve never been disappointed. The trick is not to try and sneak in work, even though you’re at home. Sure, you may wish to tackle something on your dreaded To Do list, and that’s fine. But mainly staycations should be about discovering the extraordinary in the ordinary and being more mindful about where you live. And if all else fails and you either can’t – or simply won’t – take a proper holiday, at least do yourself the favour of adopting a vacation mindset on your weekend.

How about you? What tips have you discovered for maximizing happiness on vacations?

Image: Summer Sun Beach Greece by KRiemer via Pixabay

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Tips For Adulthood: Five Secrets To A Happy Vacation

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

Vacations can be stressful. Even if the goal is to relax – which it (hopefully!) is – it’s incredibly easy for something to go wrong either before, during or after the trip that gets in the way of having fun.

I’m about to go on a short vacation myself so I’ve been thinking a lot about holidays. And as I began to prepare for this particular trip, I realized that I’ve made a lot of mistakes over the course of my traveling life, which I’ve tried – over time – to rectify.

Here, in short order, are five tips for having more fun on vacation:

1. Make a Standard Packing List. I actually got this idea from my hubby. And while – like many of his suggestions (pickle pickers notwithstanding) – I initially railed against it, over time, I have come to see the virtue in having a standing “packing list.” (For an eloquent defense of having a packing template, see this article by my Politics Daily colleague Emily Miller.) Our list includes all standard items of clothing for winter/summer wear, assorted cameras, ipods and videos that we might need for entertainment, children’s medicine to cover just about any minor ailment and a list of things to do before we leave (e.g. cancel the newspaper, turn down the heating, etc.). We even have a column for those items we need to bring if we’re staying in an apartment where we’ll need to cook meals. Try it! You’ll feel the pre-trip anxiety dripping off.*

2. Pack Light. A lot of people (including Emily Miller herself) disagree with this advice. And there’s no question that it’s easier to throw in outfits for any occasion/weather rather than trying to figure it all out in advance. But I just had a family of four visit me in London with – wait for it – one carry on suitcase for an entire week. That’s right. Each person was allowed three shirts, two pairs of pants and a pair of shoes. That’s it. Not only did they avoid all sorts of lines and baggage claim fiascos, they could easily schlep around their luggage *and* their children without having to stress about who was grabbing what. As someone with a family that usually looks like some sort of urban version of the Beverly Hillbillies when we travel, I’ve taken this to heart. My daughter has already begun identifying her two pairs of pants. (Note: Gretchen Rubin makes an exception for books, and I do, too. There’s nothing worse than running out of good reading on a holiday.)

3. Figure out in advance if you plan to exercise. Another lesson learned the hard way. As with many things in life, I think one can easily divide the world into two types of people: those who like to work out while they’re on vacation and those who don’t. I know that I’m squarely in the second camp. I work out regularly during my “normal” life, so for me, it’s really not fun to try and squeeze in a work out when I’m on holiday. Not working out is one of many reasons I think of it as a vacation. But I know lots of people – my husband, for example – who love working out, especially on a vacation. It relaxes them further. Either way is fine, but just be sure you are honest with yourself. Because if you are in the second camp, boy, can you save a lot of space (see #2) – not to mention guilt – by recognizing this ex ante. Staring at those running shoes gathering dust in the hotel closet? Yuck. Just say no. (Remember: There are no “shoulds!”)

4. Leave at least one buffer day when you return. You can do this either by coming home one day early or by telling others that you’re coming back to work one day later than you really are. Either way, the idea is to create some space for yourself to transition back to your real life, whether by answering email, doing laundry or just re-acclimating to your normal schedule rather. For the first time in ages, I’m going to take several days off next week after I return from holiday to get ready for my upcoming move. It was really hard for me to allow myself to do this (speaking of “shoulds!”). But now that I know that I have that buffer time, I’m much more relaxed about the vacation itself.

5. Be sure you have the credit card you booked your trip with on you. I know what you’re thinking: duh! But my husband and I have twice had the experience where we happened to change credit cards right after booking a trip. We then promptly forgot that we’d done this, canceled the card (literally cut it up with scissors), and then showed up on the day only to discover that we didn’t have the right card with us. One time, we actually had to miss our train and wait an extra hour so that the people at the train station could phone our bank. So: do as I say, not as I do, on this one. Trust me.

What have I left out?

*I’m a big fan of packing lists and checklists in general. But here’s a great screed against becoming overly dependent upon them, from Big Little Wolf’s Daily Plate of Crazy.

Image: Cutting Up A Credit Card by wynlok via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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