10 Little Travel Mistakes That Make Your Vacation Unnecessarily Stressful

The best ways to regain control of your trip, as it was intended: a mental break.

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You don't research in advance

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Planning activities in advance boosts happiness even before your trip. “The peak of enjoyment actually comes before a vacation in anticipation of the vacation,” says Pauline Frommer, editorial director of Frommer’s Guidebooks and Frommers.com. “Planning in advance by reading guidebooks, books of history, books about the culture…brings your vacation into your regular life.” The more you know before you depart, the better. Try to do as much research about your destination as possible. Look up recommended restaurants, public transportation, sights, and activities. By planning in advance, you’ll feel more prepared for your trip and avoid disappointments—like missing out on an exclusive scuba diving lesson in Hawaii or not scoring reservations at the locale’s most popular restaurant.

You pack too much

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By packing lightly, you free yourself of the excess troubles caused by traveling with too much luggage: getting to and from the airport, checking into your hotel, and waiting endlessly at baggage claim. To lessen your load, make a list and stick with it. Leave behind unnecessary items like a blowdryer and those high heels you’ve yet to wear. Instead, pack your favorite shoes that you can wear day and night and select clothes that are comfortable and washable. Frommer also cautions against the danger of carrying too much money; “Cash cannot be replaced, plastic can,” she says. These are 14 vacation items you'll always regret packing.

There's no breathing room on your itinerary

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Scheduling every hour of every day is simply exhausting and stressful. Unplanned events like delayed flights or canceled tours are part of the reality of vacation. If you don’t have room in your itinerary for these moments—and simply ones to just breathe, relax, and take in your surroundings—then you’ll likely face frustration, panic, and stress. Not having a jam-packed schedule will also allow you to stop rushing around as usual. According to Michelle Gielan, bestselling author of Broadcasting Happiness and founder of the Institute of Applied Positive Research, “a lot of the point of vacation is just to have a break from schedules” and by not rushing from activity to activity you’ll be able “to do whatever you feel like.”

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You don't go with the flow

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If you panic when something goes wrong, like missing a flight, you bring unnecessary stress into your vacation. In these unanticipated mishaps, social psychologist Susan Newman suggests that you “think of it as an adventure, because often the mishaps and the things that go wrong actually become either humorous in your memory bank or the best thing that happened on the whole vacation.” So, recognize that you might not be in control of the situation, take a step back, and calm down, be it by breathing deeply, practicing mindfulness, or grabbing a beer at the airport bar. Avoiding these common airport mistakes will also help you start your trip on a calm note.

You have way too high expectations

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You shouldn’t approach a vacation with the expectation that “it will be the best trip ever.” Sure, you need a relaxing break but by traveling with high expectations, you set yourself up for disappointment. Traveling with an open mind to the adventures and experiences that await you will free of vacation stress.

You don't get in sync with your companions

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It’s important to have a conversation with both yourself and your travel partner(s) about what each of you wants to achieve from the vacation. Maybe you want to have a beach getaway when your friend wants to pursue outdoorsy adventures like zip lining. Communicating about your travel goals will help you avoid the awkward, stress-inducing situation when you realize that you and your fellow traveler(s) have different vacation intentions.

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You don't know how to relax

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Not one of those people who can sit on a beach sipping cocktails for days? Explore more active ways to get out of your head, Gielan says. “There are some vacations where you need to do something athletic and challenging to find flow in that moment. It really helps you feel rejuvenated when you come back.” So take that hike, take that paddle boarding lesson, or spend all day at the art museum—if you lose your sense of time, that’s a good sign you’re relaxing!

You ditch your usual habits

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Even if you are one of those happy beach-dwellers, that doesn’t mean you should ditch your normal routine. If you’re a habitual exerciser, keep up with your physical activity on vacation. This, however, doesn’t mean you still need to go to the gym by the crack of dawn every morning. But you should find ways to stay active like walking along the surf or playing golf. Says Frommer, “one of the wonderful ways to explore a new destination is to jog.” Here are tricks to actually lose weight while on vacation.

You are still (virtually) tethered to your desk and devices

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Vacation doesn’t mean you trade your desk for a lounge chair and working remotely from the beach. Completely disconnecting on vacation can really make for a stress-free, rejuvenating trip. But for some people, detaching from work even in the slightest can cause more stress. As such, Newman recommends setting parameters on how much time you’re going to engage with your devices and reconnect with your work environment. If you absolutely have to, Newman said, “Check in once a day. Say 'Okay, I’m taking 15 minutes to check in.'” After this, step away from your electronics by either putting them on silent or leaving them in the hotel room.

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You jump from work to vacation and vacation to work

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“A hidden secret to happiness in vacations is making sure to savor ahead of time and after the vacation,” Gielan said. This can be done in different ways. You can take a day off before departing and one after returning for “decompression time,” Gielan said. Or you can simply practice being on vacation mode before and after your trip. In doing so, you’ll be able to continue that feeling of pre-travel anticipation and lower stress by gradually progressing to and from your hectic work and overall life.


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