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Ask An Expert: How To Relax And Disconnect On Vacation

Andrew Young (Courtesy of Andrew Young)

Don't you think it's time to stop putting off that well-deserved vacation and start planning for that perfect getaway? Your family certainly does, especially now that the kids are a little older. While work pays the bills, not taking a break to recharge will not help with your health nor will it help you and your family's well-being. Here are a few helpful tips to help you relax and disconnect while on vacation from Andrew Young, the U.S. website editor for the global internet media company Travelzoo.

Put Some Space Between Your Vacation And Your Everyday

Bookend your trip with a day off on each side. Why start a vacation stressed out from tying up loose ends at work or home, rushing to pack and make the flight?

A day off before your vacation allows you to handle those tasks at your pace and enter vacation ready to relax. Much in the same way, nothing takes the shine off a vacation faster than coming into work the next day to a pile of emails, voice messages and urgent meetings. It's better to take the extra day to unpack, do laundry, unwind from travel and get back in the groove at your pace. It's estimated that Americans will leave 169 million vacation days unused in 2014. Use your unused days to start or finish a vacation the right way.

Related: How To Easily Book Last-Minute Travel

Prepare For Vacation Before You're On Vacation

A few weeks before you leave, train and teach people how to manage your workload for you while you're gone so you don't have to worry about it. Put together a full list of duties and assignments, then distribute that to everyone involved -- especially your boss. That way, when you're out and things come up, your cellphone isn't their first stop.

If you can't detach from work entirely, set aside a specific time each day to check in and keep yourself to that schedule. If co-workers know that you'll be online for one hour a day, they are more likely to respect that schedule and maximize that time.

Pack Ahead Of Time

Rather than waiting until a night before your trip to pack, break out the suitcases a week in advance and slowly start filling them with items as you check them off your packing list. There is nothing more stressful than frantically packing the night before, only to realize you've forgotten important items when you arrive at your destination. 

Plan Ahead, But Don't Over Schedule Your Trip

Nothing ruins a vacation more than sticking to a rigid schedule. It's good to have a rough sense of what you want to do each day, but allow for some flexibility and take things as they come.

It sounds basic, but you need to schedule in downtime – whether that's a walk in the park, time at a playground near your hotel, an afternoon at the beach with a good book or even a nap.

If you can afford it, stay one or two nights longer than you think you'll need (many high-end resorts will often offer a 4th, 5th or 6th night free). Staying longer allows you to do less over a longer period of time than forcing yourself to do too much in a shorter window. This is especially important for families with younger kids, for whom routine is very important.

Big Ben and Parliament (Credit, Randy Yagi)

Be Ready For Bad Weather

There's nothing more stressful than sitting in your hotel room with no plan and bored kids while rain washes out the day's agenda. Keep some rain-delay activities in your back pocket in case you need them. Then, when nature doesn't cooperate, you can shift to Plan B.

It's Everyone's Vacation

Make sure each traveler has something to look forward to along the way. Even if it's a kiddie vacation to a water park, you can still plan a day trip to an organic farm for lunch because your wife will enjoy it. Older kids can help with trip planning; they are less likely to complain that something's boring if their activity is up next. On long road trips, plan the stops ahead of time. It's better to find a quaint town a few miles out of the way for a lunchtime break than end up ordering by numbers at a drive-thru window. 

Hotel Gym (Credit, Randy Yagi)

Don't Just Sit There, Get Out And Be Active

Try airport yoga. Use the hotel gym. Most hotels have at least a basic gym setup that will allow you to get your fitness fix. Many hotels and resorts even have specialized fitness offerings, curated workout programs or even fitness concierges.

Give Yourself Space

Crowding your entire family into a double-bed room seemed like a good way to save money at the time, but at night, after the kids go to sleep, your spouse and you have to whisper in the dark. Upgrade to a suite or adjoining rooms and settle in for a movie or room service with the lights on while the kids sleep peacefully next door.

Go All-Inclusive

If you're counting pennies on vacation, you'll end up feeling nickel and dimed. With an all-inclusive resort or vacation package, almost all costs are upfront and straightforward. This way, you can pick a trip that fits the budget, rather than blowing the budget with stressful costs along the way. All-inclusive vacations allow you to slip into vacation mode more quickly.

Limit Yourself To One Device

You need to force yourself to unplug. If you have three or four devices, you're more likely to spend your trip looking at a small screen instead of the destination you're visiting. Leave the laptop at home, or bring only one device with you instead of three or four (less chargers to bring as well).

Be In The Moment

Go out of your way to find a locals' cafe or pub. Then grab a seat and watch the world go by. You won't regret leaving the tourist zone and watching how locals live, eat, drink and converse. It's a fun way to escape and envision yourself living in Paris or Cape Town or wherever you happen to be. Post just enough on Instagram or Facebook or Twitter to make your friends and family jealous, then put the smartphone away. Otherwise, you may miss out on the moments that make a vacation memorable.

Related: How To Find Last-Minute Hotel Deals

Randy Yagi is a freelance writer covering all things San Francisco. In 2012, he was awarded a Media Fellowship from Stanford University. His work can be found on

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