Vacation is all about relaxing. But sometimes, just trying to de-stress can be distressing. Why?
One main reason is that traveling involves planning. Unless you’re travel details are being planned by others, or you’re on a cruise.
And, as the saying goes, “the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray.” No matter how loose vacation plans are, every day is made up of us moving through a series of objectives—from when and what to eat, to where to go and how to get there.
Sure, part of every plan is to be prepared. And the more we plan and prepare for vacation, the greater the chances of a smoother vacation, more like what we envisioned. Unfortunately, the more plans there are, the more opportunities one might encounter hiccups and stress along your travels.
I don’t think that’s an argument for not planning and preparing. I like a well-organized vacation. But the thing is, even minor bumps in the road that would be easy enough to manage life’s curveballs when you are home. If traffic is bad, you know what side streets are best to get you home. If the Metro is delayed, you know the best place to grab a cab and still get to happy hour.
But, those same little hiccups are much different away from home. When the airline ticketing agent in Peru says a “surprise airline strike” cancelled all flights out of Cusco, which would result in missing a return flight home…well…that can derail the peaceful, easy feeling attained at Machu Picchu. It’s disruptive to a vacation when one of the major highlights of a holiday is visiting India’s Taj Mahal, and while on the way, the driver tells you the highway is closing because of violent deaths and beheadings. (Yes, both of those personally happened to me, along with a dozen other bumps and barriers.)
My approach to handling those stressful times is simple. I address the stress in five steps. First, I recognize it. This involves the initial bit of internal freaking out, and colorful language. Then, consciously and exercising extreme self-control, I make four things happen.
1) I put the stress into perspective.
2) I roll with it.
3) I figure out options (current and future), and then—most important—
4) I get right with it.
That might sound simplistic, or written off as obvious and easy. But wait until you’re facing stress on vacation, and then move through the above.
Traveling stress free is hard, you’ve put a ton of energy, time and money into details just to get to a particularly country. On our recent trip to Spain, I admit I was initially really disappointed with our hotel arrangements. In fact, I did more prep and planning for Spain, than any other trip.
I did everything experienced travel bloggers recommend: check the hotel website, check the online reviews (especially TripAdvisor—a MUST, in my book), called to confirm specific details like a hotel shuttle to City Center were correct, etc. To this day, there are no words to describe how angry I was when the receptionist informed me that I was, in fact, misinformed about the “free” shuttle timing and cost. She got a got taste of Irish temper on that one. But, I’ll tell you now, that didn’t help the situation. Never lose it. Allow a mistake to be “recovered” and believe in the power of the social network. Again, I flag TripAdvisor.
With that in mind, I do have some additional tips that have worked for me to get me through the little curve balls and bumps in the road that happen on vacation travel.
The fact is, even when a trip is planned “by the book” things can and do go wrong. Here are my personal Six Travel Tips to “keep calm and carry on.” They are obvious, but in the heat of the moment, trust me, they are easily forgotten and can get you through to the sunnier, fun parts of enjoying your vacation.
- Read. ReRead and Read Again. Read all the details about your travel arrangements be it airline, train or rental car. Know what happens, and more importantly, be ready to accept it if your flight is canceled or if your car gets returned a day late.
- Be kind. Most of the time, the person you want to scream at is not responsible for the problem at hand. Be compassionate because it’s not their fault and they could be the person to get you out of your current predicament. (Confession, I am guilty of violating this rule more than I want to admit. But, I’m learning and getting better each time I travel)
- Cash is King. In this current age of debit and credit cards, we rarely carry actual currency. When I travel, I always make sure I, and anyone else with me, carries $50 of local currency. Not every store, or restaurant in developing countries takes plastic. More importantly, sometimes when you’re super lost and the smartest thing to do is get a taxi. Period.
- Keep in touch with the home front. Being the owner of two dogs, we obviously can’t take them oversees with us. Unfortunately, we don’t have DropCam, but we do make sure our friend and pet sitting hero posts TONS of pictures of the fur babies to Instagram. (Let’s face it if you can’t DropCam, Instagram is the next best thing).
- Don’t open your wallet in the middle of a street. Seriously, you wouldn’t just whip out your wallet while walking down 5th Avenue so why on earth would you do that in Piccadilly Circus?
- Mind the carry on. If you are heading to the airport or getting on a train, your carry on bag should always have: money, passport, credit cards, hand sanitizer, a clean t-shirt and underwear, toothbrush and toothpaste, journal, and a good book because you just never know. The rest is up to you.
- Be a copycat. If you travel alone, make copies of your itinerary and travel documents (passport, visa, etc.) and leave it with a reliable (and accessible) friend, or family member. If you know the phone numbers and email addresses where you are staying, include them in the itinerary. I did this when I went to Nepal and it was a huge help concerning a family emergency. (Of course there is always Facebook and email, but consider it an “added level” of security).
Did you know that April is Stress Free Month? Am I the only one who considers that ironic, since it’s also the month taxes are due. What is your worst travel nightmare? Did you handle it successfully? What was your lesson? Have a tip of your own to share?