Why Vacations Aren’t What They’re Cracked Up to Be…And What To Do About It


Maybe you’re about to go on vacation. You're in that last minute sprint, trying desperately to get everything done. You can ‘t wait to close your office door or lock your desk and, and put the “Out of Office “ message on your voice and email. That’s pretty much where I am at this point: in the countdown to our annual summer vacation on Martha’s Vineyard.

Or maybe you’re just home from vacation, facing a thousand unread emails, plus a pile of mail a foot thick. Your houseplants are drooping and the lawn hasn’t been mowed in weeks. But…your vacation was so enjoyable, relaxing, and renewing that you’re prepared to tackle any challenge that reentry can throw at you.


In spite of high hopes for vacation’s restorative effects, it doesn’t always turn out that way. Trying to cram in every possible last minute call, appointment and errand beforehand raises your stress level to well above normal. Plus, the vacation itself requires negotiating competing desires, managing travel snafus, and dealing with unfamiliar surroundings.

Want to come back from vacation feeling renewed and ready to resume your everyday life? A recent study reinforced the reality that some vacations are better than others for reducing stress, and suggested some strategies that could help.

I thought I’d apply some of their suggestions to my upcoming vacation. Here are some of my takeaways:

Set clear expectations…Decide what kind of vacation I want to have. This year, I intend to have a low-key vacation. I plan to bring my sewing machine and work on the quilt I’ve just started. I’ll visit with friends and families but not overschedule.  Minimize the business-related conference calls and email checking.

It’s not going to be an adventure filled vacation. But the next suggestion was also appealing…

Go far away…Well, I’ll be on Martha’s Vineyard, separated from the mainland by a 45-minute ferry ride. That’s not exactly far away. However, there are many places on the island that I’ve never taken the time to visit, in spite of vacationing there for many years.  I’d like to try some unfamiliar things, learn more about the island. Think of that wonderfully familiar place as someplace new and exotic. After all, even the most familiar places can feel far away, with the right perspective.

Plan in advance…The ferry reservations have been made since January. I’ve already started a list of what to bring. There aren’t too many elaborate travel arrangements so I pretty much have this one covered. What I would add is “…and be prepared for the unexpected.” What condition is the house going to be in? What about inclement weather? I’m usually great at planning in advance, but it’s the resiliency to deal with the unexpected that I’m going to pay attention to.

What are your personal strategies for maximizing the renewing effects of vacation? Please share your ideas in the comments section below.