From working late the night before you leave for the beach to dealing with fighting kids and tight finances—vacations can often cause as much stress as they are supposed to relieve.
Experts from The Menninger Clinic provide the following tips to help you relax and get the benefits from your much-deserved time off.
• Allow time for departure and your return.
Nothing is worse than feeling rushed when leaving for or returning from vacation. Build in some extra time for travel in your vacation plans, keeping in consideration that flights may be delayed or that you may encounter unexpected traffic while driving. “When possible, include in your vacation plans a day to be at home before you leave to gear up for your trip, and a day at home after you return from your trip to allow for time to wind down,” says Cheryl Scoglio, a senior social worker who works with families involved in Menninger Professionals in Crisis Program.
• Be prepared for the “I wants.”
Does your daughter really need that giant stuffed shark that says Seaworld on it? Of course not. But she wants it. Really, really wants it. To deal with a chronic case of the vacation, “I wants,” Dr. Harvey suggests a fun and educational way for kids to earn their own souvenir money. “Gather spare coins from around the house,” she says. “If your children are young, sort the coins and bundle them. If they already know their coins and how to count, go together to the coin machine to cash in. Split the money into envelopes with their names on them and explain to them that this is their spending money for the trip. When they say, ‘I want,’ pull out their envelope.”
• Make time to unwind.
Remember, the purpose of a vacation is to relax—not to visit every museum and historical monument in the guidebook. “Don't fill your vacation days so full of events that you end up being more concerned about keeping your plans than having fun,” Scoglio says.
• Repeat to self, “I deserve a vacation.”
You need a vacation, so pack away any guilt you may feel about taking one. While Americans earn an average of 14 days of vacation a year, Europeans average between 24 and 36 days of vacation a year, according to the 2007 Vacation Deprivation Study published by Expedia. The study also shows that more than one-third of Americans do not use all their allotted vacation time. They should, says Jon Allen, PhD, a senior staff psychologist with Menninger who regularly treats patients with depression caused by stress. “Taking a vacation helps rest your mind and body so that you are more flexible and you have a better perspective when you come back,” he says.