Whatever your age or circumstances, the anticipation of a long-awaited spring or summer vacation is filled with excitement. Compared to winter getaways when people tend to be saddled with obligations to family and friends, summer holidays are more likely to be carefree.
There are fewer constraints in deciding where to go and what to do. Whether it’s relaxing at a resort; pursuing a hobby or passion, such as bicycling, golf or photography; or exploring a new city or country, true vacations allow us to do what we want to do as opposed to what we need to do.
However, one inherent drawback of all getaways are that they’re time-limited: After the surge in energy and mood associated with planning and taking a vacation, there’s the inevitable letdown afterwards.
So what can you do to hang on to that post-vacation glow and ease back into the grind of work, school, caregiving or other responsibilities? Here are some helpful tips for Before You Go, While You’re Away and When You Return:
Before you go
1) Determine a realistic budget for your vacation
Planning ahead financially will minimize the pain and stress upon your return. Vacations can be costly and it’s easy to get carried away if you’re gambling in Las Vegas or shopping in Paris, for example. As a result, many travelers arrive home to credit card debt that takes months to pay down. Make sure that you invest sufficient time upfront to plan a vacation that fits within your budget.
2) Avoid things going haywire while you are away
Delegate any tasks you can and offer clear guidance to those you’ve left behind (at home or the office) about keeping things going in your absence. Let them know whether or not you want to be disturbed while you are away—and under what circumstances.
3) Resist scheduling lengthy meetings or new projects immediately after your return
Allow yourself time to catch up. When you return, your pace may be slower and you’re likely to be inundated with an inbox of emails and unanticipated requests for your attention. Be careful not to overpromise or set up unrealistic self-expectations. Avoid the temptation to cut things too close to awaiting deadlines.
4) Don’t come home at the very last minute
It’s tempting to book a redeye flight home, and then shower and return to your desk without skipping a beat. To minimize stress, schedule breathing room between your return and re-entry. Allow ample time to unpack, do laundry, catch up with bills, shop for food, and adjust to jet lag (if you’ve traveled across time zones.) If you are a parent, you can expect that the pressures of these “homecoming” responsibilities will be compounded.
While you’re away
5) Strike a balance between activities and relaxation
It’s tempting to try to do everything on vacation—waking up early to cram in full days of adventure and going to bed late to enjoy the nightlife. Pace yourself so you have a little downtime while you are away. You don’t want to come home overly fatigued.
6) Cut yourself some slack but don’t go haywire.
It’s okay to indulge a bit on vacation—eating or drinking more than usual; buying something you don’t really need; or going to an expensive concert. However, be careful to avoid doing anything that permanently compromises your health, safety or peace of mind after your tan has faded.
When you return
7) Recognize the signs of post-vacation blues
You may not have the same energy and enthusiasm you once had for work or responsibilities at home. Your mind may wander and your productivity may be compromised. Be realistic and don’t try to do too much too soon. Slowly ease back into your usual sleeping, eating and exercise routines and recognize that this unease will eventually lift.
8) Take time to appreciate what you’ve come home to
Remember that there are some perks to the end of any vacation, even a great one. Perhaps you’ve come home to a beloved pet or good friend you’ve missed. Or you’ve regained some modicum of control over your life—even the joy of grabbing your morning coffee exactly as you like it.
9) Savor the memories and give in to reminiscence
Much like a booster shot, reviewing the photos of your trip, using a souvenir you acquired during your travels (e.g. perfume or a new kitchen tool), or sharing your experience with friends and family once you’re home offers an opportunity to extend the joys of your getaway. Sometimes, staying in touch with a friend you met while you were away can evoke powerful memories of good times shared.
10) Incorporate the joys and lessons learned from your vacation into your life
You may have tried new foods or realized that you don’t really need to be tethered to your smartphone 24/7. You may find that you enjoyed doing more walking than you ordinarily do, or that you really enjoyed the intimacy you shared with your traveling companion. Take some time to assess what you learned and incorporate small changes into your life at home.
And, of course, the surest antidote to post-vacation blues is obvious: Plan your next trip as soon as possible. Why wait until next summer? Think about your next staycation or long weekend away.
This is an updated version of an article by Irene S. Levine that was previously published on FitnessRepublic.com in July 2015.