Want to guarantee you get that post-vacation, stress-free relaxed feeling after every trip? Well, the secret might surprise you: instead of trying to cram as much vacation into your vacation as possible, take an extra day or two off at home at the end.
Vacation, all you ever wanted: sunbathing by the sea not a care in the world, or feasting on fresh pasta in Rome so immersed in Italian culture you’ve forgotten where you work. Sounds ideal, but we all know it’s never like that. However relaxed the actual trip, the hassle of the long-distance drive or flights home and the looming reality of work the next day mean your last day or two of vacation and your first few days back in action are just a blur of pressure and stress. I know some people who’ve gotten off a 12-hour, long-haul flight at 7 am and been at their desk in work at 9 am—they were ruined for days.
But things don’t have to be this way. Instead of trying to hit the ground running after your trip, hit the ground walking. If you take an extra day or two off at the end of your vacation—or even just come home on Saturday instead of Sunday—you can ease yourself back into real life without stress. You’ll enjoy your vacation more, and your life the following week will be easier. Here’s why.
Get Your Sleep Back on Track
Even if you’re not jet-lagged from hopping six timezones, your sleep schedule is almost certainly messed up after a few days of late nights and lie-ins. Vacations play havoc with carefully tuned sleep routines.
If you take an extra day or two at the end of your vacation, you can adjust your sleep properly, rather than crashing into the next week on four hours sleep and letting your body just deal with it. The extra 24 hours are enough for you to deal with most of your jet lag, catch up on any sleep debt, and get to bed at a proper time in your own home so that you can go into the next week well-rested.
Unpack and Prepare for the Week Ahead
Have you ever left your luggage sitting in the corner of a room, still packed until you run out of clothes or your next trip away? Of course you have. Unpacking is even worse than packing.
When you arrive in late at night with work the next day, unpacking is one of those things that end up on your “Tomorrow’s Problems” list—and it stays there. On the other hand, if you have a day or two of free time to deal with it, you can do it at your leisure, get all your clothes through the wash, and feel super productive about having done it. Look at you, you functional human!
You also get to do any of your regular pre-week routine like meal prep, make school lunches, check everyone’s homework is done, and the like. Especially if you’ve got a family to organize, being able to stick to your routine the following week is a godsend.
Don’t Worry About Delays and Other Problems
Flights get delayed, luggage gets lost, kids get colds on airplanes—travel is pretty fraught with mild disasters. If you have no buffer and your plane gets delayed, or even canceled, then whatever zen state you reached when you were away is not going to last. You might even have to call your boss and beg for an extra unpaid day off. It’s a pretty miserable situation to be in.
On the other hand, if you already have another day off scheduled, then your plane getting delayed turns from a major problem into a mild inconvenience, or even an adventure. Lost luggage isn’t a crisis; it’s a bit of a drag. You might be a bit more stressed, but it’s not vacation-undoing levels of stress.
Vacations aren’t cheap—even if you follow our great tips on saving money when you travel. One of the easiest ways to lower the cost is to go away for a shorter length of time. By coming back a night or two early, you save on accommodation and things like car rental. And, if you’re a little bit flexible, you can also save money on your flights too.
But now for the real trick: you can save the money and do something boring like stick it in your 401k or pay off college debt, or you can use it to treat yourself during that extra day at home. Is there a nice restaurant you haven’t gone too yet because it’s a bit pricey? How about taking the kids to the cinema and splurging on all the popcorn and ice cream after? Or even just going all-in on a massive takeaway and movie at home? You just saved money on your trip! You’re entitled to do something big and fun at home (your vacation isn’t over yet, anyway). You’ll still come out with more money in your pocket than if you’d stayed away for the last day or two.
Get Ahead of Work
Okay, I’m super hesitant to recommend this one because I don’t believe people should be working on their vacation time but, if you work in the kind of high-pressure job where a little bit of preparation in your personal time makes everything a lot easier, then the spare day might be exactly what you need to make sure you don’t get overwhelmed as soon as you walk into the office on your day back.
If you know you have a few hours at home after your trip ends to catch up on email and check the week ahead, you can permit yourself to ignore your phone while you’re away on vacation. You’ve already set aside the time to get back up to speed, so you don’t need to stay kind-of-in-the-loop the whole time you’re off.
Vacations are lovely, but they can also be super stressful if you’re doing something other than just lounge by a pool. Half the time, people come back from a trip away and feel they need another trip only to recover.
The best place to relax, other than a private island in the Bahamas, is your own living room. You’ve got your favorite chair, your pets, and all the usual comforts of your own home. With an extra day of vacation at home—and remember, you are still on vacation—you can chill at home guilt-free. Catch up on the movies you’ve missed, play your PlayStation, or just binge a new show on Netflix. Trust me; you’ll enjoy it as much as your time away.
Trust me, the next time you’re away, take an extra day off at home after. You’ll love it.