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The opportunity to fly back to Michigan for Memorial Day was just too good to pass up. Little did I know as I pulled into my parents' driveway, the whole weekend would exceed expectations.
Gathering four generations of family, ages one to eighty-three, will do that. The barbecued spare ribs didn't hurt. It was like one big Norman Rockwell scene, with Wifi.
But after Tuesday's rollercoaster ride home, it took effort to keep the good spirits in check. This is why I stock the refrigerator with at least one ice cold bottle of ginger ale: to smooth the rough edges off twelve-hour travel days.
Once my head cleared, I made a few notes for future travel. Feel free to apply these to your next vacation, to make it truly a vacation from start to finish.
- If you're visiting family, go when they're already getting together. You can't believe how much stress this saves, how many texts and email threads. Who knew?
- Take the day off after you get back. You are so going to need it. It just brightens the whole vacation, knowing you've given yourself a day (at least one day) to ease back in.
- Post a vacation auto-reply on your email—starting the day before you leave. I did not do this, but you can bet I'll do it next time. Nothing like fielding late-night emails when you haven't finished packing.
- Have something ready to wear for the day after you get back. Socks, underwear, everything.
- Turn off email notifications. We should probably all do this all the time. I know some folks who do. The point is, you can still check your email if you need to. But if you're constantly getting pinged with messages, it's just not much of a vacation—for you or those around you.
- If you have a landline, turn on the vacation response. This is the voicemail setting that keeps callers from leaving messages. Does anyone really enjoy wading through robocalls? Anyone who needs to reach you probably has the number to your cell phone.
- Leave spaces in your schedule. Less is truly more. So much vacation stress comes from trying to pack in too much. You need time to think, breathe, and enjoy. Take it. Carve out a little "you" time.
- Take a few comforts from home. It isn't cheating. Who doesn't enjoy their own pillow? Whether it's a pillow or a foam roller or a favorite snack, give yourself permission to live a little—to enjoy the best of both worlds.
- Take more stretch breaks. The more time you spend sitting—on a plane, in a car, wherever—the more important stretching becomes. Your body will thank you. You'll also sleep better and feel better. But as always, stretching shouldn't hurt.
- Get a change of scenery. You don't always need to hop on a plane. Chances are you can drive an hour or two and be in a whole different place, mentally. Where could you go hang out for a day—or a couple of days—just to get out of your normal routine?
If you want a real vacation: Give yourself time to enjoy the good moments. And to recover.
— Gina DeLapa