As much fun as a well-deserved trip or vacation can be, unfortunately, it can also come with a ton of stress. Even if you have something super fun planned, preparing to go on a trip can be awful. Packing isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and dealing with a long road trip or a busy airport can just add to the stress. But there are a few ways you can avoid being completely stressed out before you go away, and it can end up making your entire vacation that much more relaxing in the end.
Obviously, reducing travel stress has to start with what you do before you leave your house — and the earlier you can get started, the better. Making a to do list of everything you need to accomplish before the fun can begin is an important first step, because it helps you figure out exactly what needs to happen before you can leave and you can figure out how long you need to prepare. What should you include on your list? Only you know that, but you’re probably going to want to get laundry done, pick out what you want to pack, and hit the store for a few last minute essentials, for starters.
You’ll also want to make sure your real life is on pause while you’re gone in a way that won’t create a huge mess for when you get back. If you’re taking a few days off of work, set up an “out of office” automatic email response, and make sure your work is covered. If a friend is coming over to feed your dog, buy extra food and write a note so she knows exactly what to do when she comes over. It also can’t hurt to do a little cleanup around the house, too — wash your dishes, take your trash out, and make your bed. It’ll be so nice to come home to a clean house when your trip is over (especially because coming home from a vacation is a total bummer as it is).
While you’re packing, make sure you stay organized. Start the process as early as possible, and put together things you know you want to bring for the week leading up to your trip. Use a packing list if you need to, and make sure your clothes are neatly folded so they won’t be a wrinkled mess when you get to your destination. You can also use this opportunity to prepare for anything that might go wrong on your trip — pack a mini first aid kit with medicines you frequently use, band aids, and itch cream. Also, make sure you have a few extra outfits in case you need them, and throwing in a few tampons or pads can’t hurt, either. Yes, even if you’re not scheduled to get your period. In fact, studies have shown that hopping time zones can affect your cycle. And even if you don’t end up needing them, someone else you’re traveling with might, and then you totally get to become a hero.
Oh, by the way: if you’re checking a bag, staying extra prepared in your carry on can be a big help. “”[I put] toiletries and a change or two of clothes in my carry-on,” Scott Keyes of Scott’s Cheap Flights told The Huffington Post. “Nothing’s worse than showing up in another country, finding your bag is lost, and then realizing you’re stuck wearing the clothes you’ve been traveling in for the foreseeable future.”
The night before the trip, set everything out in one place so you don’t forget anything and to make your morning a breeze. If you’re flying, make sure your plane ticket, passport, and driver’s license are all in the same place. If you’re driving, gas up your car so you don’t have to worry about it on your way out. Put your packed luggage by the door next to the shoes you want to wear that day and boom — ready to go.
And then, once you’re finally ready to go, plan to leave early to get your trip off to the right start. Hitting the road? Plan to leave before or after traffic hits to lower your driving stress (and to make your drive that much shorter), and leave yourself plenty of time to pack the car, make yourself coffee, or do whatever else you need or want to do before you leave. Going to the airport? Get there early so that you don’t have to worry about a line at security if there happens to be one — and so that you can find your gate with plenty of time to grab a snack, find a place to sit, and plug in your phone.
It’s also important to know that something unexpected could come up — and if it does, you’ll be okay. “Look at each trip as an adventure and know that you’ll get through anything,” travel expert Carol Margolis told CNN. “If a flight is delayed, make the best of it by reading, napping, going to an airport spa for a massage, or nearby fitness center.”
If you’re a nervous traveler, it can also help to get on the plane with all the essentials: gum to avoid popping ears, a book to read, your headphones, and maybe even a neck pillow if you know you want to sleep right through it.
Once you’re there? Take a deep breath and chill out! You’re on your way, and you can handle any surprises that might come your way. If you’ve taken the time to prepare, there’s a very good chance everything will go smoothly, so there’s no need to freak out. It’s out of your hands!
Hopefully, trying out a few of these tips will help you out the next time you go on a trip. Getting ready for vacation doesn’t have to be stressful — and you deserve to enjoy those hard earned days off.