Ah, summer. The days are longer, the temperatures are getting hotter, and you’re already mentally compiling your to-do list for your upcoming vacation. Whether you’re hauling your children across the country in a minivan or taking a romantic vacation with your partner, sometimes the stressors inherent to just getting out of the door can knock the wind out of the whole shebang.
Did you pack the sunscreen? What did you do with that confirmation number? Wasn’t there a coupon for BOGO cheeseburgers at the diner near the second hotel? Do you have your list of things to see and do while you’re there?
Woah. Slow down that panic-spiral. If you really want to relax on your summer vacation, it might be time for some reevaluation. Here are three tips to help along the way.
The first time I flew on an airplane, I had no idea what I was doing or what the rules were about bags, liquids, see-through containers — you get the point. Do you know that person standing in the security line at the airport not making eye contact and throwing away giant value-sized bottles of lotion and shampoo because she just didn’t get the memo that those things aren’t allowed? That was me, and it was mortifying.
I’ve learned a lot about the rules of packing since that incident. After I wrapped my head around what I could or could not take in my bag, I just decided not to take anything…when it comes to liquids and gels, anyway.
Do you really need to pack sunscreen when you’re going to the beach, or can you buy it while you’re there? Must you have your particular brand of salon leave-in conditioner on your trip, or would a drugstore version suffice for a few days? Call me low-maintenance, but I will wash my hair with the free mini bottle of shampoo in the hotel if it means I can stay sane when packing my bag and stroll right on through security without having flashbacks.
Ditch the Itinerary
Recently, I went away on a four-day trip with my husband. I am a runner, and I had an out-of-state race. That race took up just one morning, so the other 3.5 days were fair game. My first instinct was to pick up the visitor’s guide and start choosing hikes and attractions to fill the free time, but I stopped myself. Do you know what we did? Absolutely nothing, and it was everything and more. We took naps, sampled beer at a couple local breweries, and walked around aimlessly.
I am sure I missed out on some great adventures by not hitting the trails or museums, but I gained quality time with my husband that was unscripted. What a reprieve from our heavily scheduled daily lives!
Ditching the itinerary might not be possible if you’re traveling with children. They’ll need to be fed, entertained and napped (depending on their ages). If you can’t skip the to-do list entirely, just try to go easy on yourself when it comes to planning activities. Kids are adaptable and can often find joy in the simplest of places. Do your best, but remember that you don’t have to guide them into having fun by ticking items off your color-coded note cards.
You may even find some pleasure by stepping back and watching your children navigate the new environments vacation provides. Watch them run sand through their fingers or sink into the fluffy unfamiliarity of a hotel bed, and find joy with them in those unforced moments.
Narrow Your Focus
Pick one or two things that you want to do or see on your vacation. Conserve your planning energy for only those prioritized items, and let the rest of your trip happen organically. It’s probably not necessary to plan out every place you will eat on a cross-country road trip, nor is it feasible. Some parts of your vacation are worth stressing over, but most of them aren’t. When you allow yourself to prioritize, you can change your self-talk from panicked to collected.
Get rid of the “we can relax when we get there” attitude. Instead, breathe deeply, embrace your narrowed focus and enjoy the journey