Do you ever return from a trip and feel like you need another vacation to recover from the stress of the first one? I’ve been there a few times too many times and have a ton of strategies and tips for you to have a stress-free vacation from beginning to end.

Stress Free Travel: plan ahead to eat, sleep, move and be in the moment
Stress Free Vacation

Best Tips for a Stress Free Vacation


Let’s start with planning. You need to plan for a stress-free experience if you want to achieve it because it won’t happen alone.

Set Realistic Goals for Travel Calm

The pressure to make the most out of every second of your vacation can lead to burnout. However, if you’re anything like me, you put the pressure on yourself. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Instead, consider the purpose of your vacation – is it to explore, to relax, or a bit of both? What is it you really want from this time away? Tailor your plans to align with your objectives. Eliminate the rest.

Understand that not every moment has to be packed with activities. Allow yourself the freedom to relax and enjoy downtime without feeling guilty. Remember, it’s a vacation, not a marathon.

Choose the Right Destination

Selecting the right destination is a crucial component of travel stress relief. Your choice should align with your preferences and relaxation goals.

If you’re an adventure seeker, a destination offering hiking trails and outdoor activities might be perfect.

Consider off-peak travel months or unique attractions, to avoid crowds.

On the other hand, if you want to unwind, find a place where the hardest decision is hammock vs. beach chair.

Beach chair and umbrella looking out at the ocean
Whether it’s a serene beach, a quiet mountain retreat, or a culturally rich city, ensure that your chosen spot resonates with the experience you seek.

Plan Ahead, but Leave Room for Spontaneity

Over-scheduling can easily lead to travel stress, so plan a few key activities and let the rest of your vacation unfold naturally.

I used to pack in as many hikes as possible, often setting the stage for exhaustion, frustration, and disappointment. Now, I pick a few of the most important ones and save the rest for another time.

This leaves space for rest, peace of mind, and spontaneity. A general itinerary can be helpful, but be bold and deviate from your plans if an opportunity presents itself.

Some of the best vacation memories often come from unexpected experiences.

A woman greeting the sunrise and birds at the beach
While planning is essential, leave some room for spontaneity.

Disconnect from Work

Inform colleagues and clients well in advance about your vacation dates.

Set clear boundaries and let them know you’ll be unavailable.

This will reduce the likelihood of work-related stress creeping into your vacation.

A group of paper people and one moving off the the table by itself
By communicating your unavailability, you set the expectation that you won’t be accessible during your vacation. This sets the tone for a much-needed vacation without worrying about work matters.

Before leaving, delegate tasks to responsible colleagues. Ensure a plan is in place to handle any urgent matters that may arise. This way, you can truly disconnect and trust that everything is in capable hands.

Effective delegation is about assigning tasks and providing clear instructions and resources for your colleagues to manage in your absence.

A group of coworkers with their hands stacked across the table in show of teamwork
A well-prepared team can handle unexpected challenges, allowing you to enjoy your vacation without constant concerns about work.

Consider a Digital Detox

Limit your use of technology, especially work-related communication. This will help you be more present in the moment and avoid the temptation to check emails and messages constantly.

Digital devices can be a double-edged sword on vacation. You need them sometimes, but mostly, you want them.

They’re a little on the addictive side, and it can be challenging to put them away. But try and see; you’ll be surprised at the results. I always am.

While they can provide helpful information and capture memories, constant connectivity can also blur the lines between mindlessly passing the time or worse – work and leisure.

Set specific times for checking emails or messages if needed, but focus on being present in the vacation experience.

Choose Comfortable Transportation

Opt for transportation that aligns with your comfort level. Whether it’s a direct flight, a scenic train ride, or a road trip, choose the mode of transport that allows you to relax and enjoy the journey.

Consider the advantages and disadvantages of different transportation options. While a direct flight might be quicker, a scenic train journey could offer breathtaking views and a more relaxed atmosphere.

It also lets you avoid air travel stress.

Stress Free Vacation
The journey is an integral part of the overall travel experience.

Plan Relaxation During Travel

If your journey involves long hours of travel, plan for relaxation during the trip. Bring a good book, listen to calming music, or practice mindfulness exercises to make the travel time more enjoyable.

Long flights or road trips can be exhausting, but they also provide an excellent opportunity for relaxation. Pack activities that you enjoy and that can be done during the journey.

This helps shift the focus from the destination to the journey itself, making travel a more enjoyable part of your vacation.

I usually don’t listen to audiobooks at home because I never sit long enough to make it worthwhile. But they’re perfect for long flights or train trips and help the time pass faster.

Nap. Stretch. Repeat.

Build in Recovery Time

If you’re traveling across different time zones or have a hectic itinerary, build in recovery time upon arrival. Allow yourself a day to acclimate and recover from jet lag or travel fatigue before diving into activities.

Four different clocks on a wall each with its own time zone
Adjusting to a new time zone can take a toll on your body.

Giving yourself time to rest upon arrival lets you start your vacation feeling refreshed rather than tired. Use this time to explore your immediate surroundings at a leisurely pace.

Mindful Packing

Pack Light

Overpacking can be a significant source of stress. Pack only the essentials, and choose versatile clothing items that can be mixed and matched. This lightens your physical load and simplifies decision-making during your vacation.

A line of clothes hanging from a rack and a woman looking through them
Carefully curate your wardrobe based on the activities you have planned.

Versatile clothing items can be dressed up or down, saving space in your luggage. Remember, most destinations have laundry services if needed, allowing you to pack lighter.

Consider Merino Wool, which stays fresh for days without washing. I once wore the same shirt for seven days in a row, trekking to Everest Base Camp, and arrived just as fresh smelling as when I left.

Create a Checklist

Make a checklist of items you must pack and prepare well in advance. This reduces the last-minute stress of forgetting essential things and ensures a smoother departure.

A checklist is a practical tool to help you organize your packing. I start creating my list a week or two before my trip, adding items as I think of them. This helps me remember the crucial things and avoid the rush of last-minute preparations.

Pack Comfort Items

Bring comfort items, whether a favorite book, a cozy sweater, or a travel pillow. These small comforts can make a big difference in helping you feel at ease during your vacation.

Comfort items are personal and can vary from person to person. Whether it’s a familiar book to read before bed or a favorite snack, these small touches can create a sense of familiarity and ease any travel-related stress.

Traveling in Calm

Embracing the Present Moment

Embrace the power of mindfulness by staying present in the moment. Whether exploring a new place, savoring a delicious meal, or simply enjoying the scenery, be fully present and let go of worries about the past or future.

Mindfulness is about cultivating awareness of the present moment. Engage your senses in the experiences around you – the sights, sounds, and smells. This enhances the quality of your vacation and contributes to a sense of relaxation and fulfillment.

Capture Memories, but Don’t Overdo It

While it’s natural to want to capture memories with photos, avoid spending your entire vacation behind the lens of a camera.

A person on the beach alone amazed by the ocean view
Take a few snapshots to commemorate special moments, but remember to put the camera down and fully experience the beauty around you.

Photographs can be powerful reminders of your vacation, but constantly seeking the perfect shot can distract from the experience.

Find a balance between ‘capturing the moment’ and actually living it. I know how hard it can be to actually achieve. It gets easier the more you practice, though. And more rewarding as well.

Engage in Relaxing Activities

Incorporate activities that bring you joy and relaxation. Whether reading a book by the pool, taking a leisurely stroll, or indulging in a spa day, prioritize activities that contribute to your overall well-being.

Vacations are a time to recharge, so feel free to fill every moment with sightseeing. Engage in activities that align with your relaxation goals.

Whether it’s a spa treatment, a quiet afternoon by the water, or a leisurely bike ride, choose activities that bring you joy and peace.

Balancing Activities

Strike a balance between active and restful days. Alternate between days filled with exploration and days dedicated to rest and rejuvenation. This approach prevents burnout and ensures you return home feeling energized.

The temptation to explore every inch of a new destination can be strong, but balancing activity with relaxation is essential.

Designate specific days for sightseeing and others for relaxation. This ensures that you experience the goal fully while also taking the time to recharge.

Today: Conquer mountains. Tomorrow: Conquer naps.

Prioritize Quality Over Quantity

Instead of trying to cram in as many activities as possible, focus on the quality of your experiences. Choose meaningful activities that align with your interests and savor each moment rather than rushing from one attraction to another.

A checklist with boxes and a person checking them off
The pressure to check off a long list of tourist attractions can lead to exhaustion.

It took me a long time to realize that it really doesn’t matter how much you pack into a vacation; there will always be more you want to see. There’s always another reason you’ll need to visit again. So let the temptation to see it all go, and know that if you must return.

Prioritize activities that genuinely interest you and allow for a deeper connection with the destination. Quality experiences often leave a more lasting impression than a whirlwind tour of numerous sites.

A list of stress free vacation ideas

Be Flexible with Plans

Embrace the unexpected. Sometimes, the wrong turn leads to the right place.

Flexibility is vital to a stress-free vacation. Unexpected events or changes in weather can alter your plans, so be prepared to adapt and go with the flow.

A group of people playing on the beach at sunset
Sometimes, the best experiences come from unplanned moments.

While planning is essential, embracing the unpredictability of travel is equally important. Allow room in your itinerary for spontaneous discoveries, and be open to changing plans based on the recommendations of locals or fellow travelers.

This flexibility enhances the sense of adventure and reduces stress.

Prioritize Sleep

Ensure you get enough rest by prioritizing sleep. Choose accommodations that offer comfortable bedding and create a relaxing bedtime routine to promote quality sleep during your vacation.

It’s always tricky for me to sleep on vacation. The first night especially. Having a routine at home and keeping it up while away is the key to reducing this difficulty.

Quality sleep is crucial for overall well-being. Invest in comfortable accommodation facilitating restful sleep, and establish a bedtime routine that signals your body that it’s time to wind down.

A well-rested mind and body contribute significantly to a stress-free vacation.

Stay Hydrated and Nourished

Maintain a healthy diet by staying hydrated and choosing nourishing foods. While indulging in local cuisine is part of the experience, balance it with nutritious options to keep your energy levels up.

Travel often involves exposure to new cuisines, and indulging in local delicacies is part of the experience. However, balance is critical.

Ensure you stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and incorporating fresh fruits, vegetables, and proteins into your meals to support overall well-being.

A woman sitting against the wall who is clearly not feeling well even though you can't see her face
Gastrointestinal troubles can lead to a stressful vacation. Avoid this as much as possible by drinking plenty of water and eating healthy food most of the time.

Incorporate Physical Activity

Integrate physical activity into your vacation, whether through exploring on foot, swimming, or practicing yoga. Exercise contributes to physical well-being and helps alleviate stress and boost mood.

Physical activity is an integral part of a healthy lifestyle, and incorporating it into your vacation can enhance your overall experience.

Stress Free Vacation
Choose activities that align with your preferences, whether hiking in nature, taking a scenic bike ride, or simply going for a daily walk. Not only does this contribute to physical well-being, but it also enhances your mood and energy levels.

The easiest and one of my favorite activities is simply walking after the evening meal. It’s good exercise, helps digestion, sleep quality, and my overall mood. Plus, you’ll see more of the area you’re staying in.

Reflecting and Transitioning Back

Take time to reflect on your vacation experience. What aspects brought you the most joy and relaxation? Consider how you can incorporate elements of your vacation mindset into your daily life.

Reflection is a powerful tool for gaining insights from your experiences.

Consider keeping a travel journal to jot down your thoughts, emotions, and memorable moments. Reflecting on what worked well during your vacation can guide you in making positive changes in your daily life.

I keep a daily journal on my travels and often read through it when returning from vacation. It has a way of helping me reflect on the journey while at the same time helping me transition back into my daily life.

How do you get back to normal after vacation?

Transitioning Back Gradually. Ease back into your routine gradually upon returning home. Give yourself a buffer day before returning to work, allowing time to unpack, rest, and adjust to your usual environment.

Returning from vacation can be challenging, especially if you dive straight back into a hectic routine. Give yourself the gift of a transition day to unpack, rest, and gradually adjust to your usual schedule. This buffer day can significantly reduce post-vacation stress.

Implementing Changes

If your vacation reflections reveal areas of dissatisfaction or stress, consider implementing changes in your daily life.

Whether adjusting your work-life balance, incorporating more relaxation activities, or planning regular short breaks, use your vacation insights to enhance your overall well-being.

Your vacation experience is a valuable source of information about what contributes to your well-being and happiness. Use this knowledge to make positive changes in your daily life.

A woman sitting at a desk creating a list of goals
Whether it’s dedicating more time to hobbies, cultivating a better work-life balance, or planning regular short getaways, implement changes that align with your newfound insights.

How do you reset your gut after vacation?

Resetting your gut after a vacation, especially if you’ve indulged in various foods different from your usual diet, can be done through a few simple steps.

  • Drink plenty of water and eat various healthy foods, limiting processed foods and sugars.
  • Try to eat at regular intervals to regulate your digestive system.
  • Get regular exercise and plenty of sleep.

Most importantly, listen to your body and adjust your needs. 

Stress-free Airport Hacks

Minimizing stress at the airport and during air travel involves careful planning and adopting a few practical strategies. 

Stress Free Airport Hacks Infographic

Remember, many factors at airports and during flights are out of your control, so focusing on what you can manage – like your own preparedness and attitude – can make a big difference in your travel experience.

How can I reduce stress while traveling by car?

Reducing stress on a road trip involves good planning and adopting strategies to stay comfortable and entertained. 

Stress Free Road Trip Hacks Infographic

Remember, a road trip is as much about the journey as the destination. Take time to enjoy the landscapes, the stops, and the company you’re with.

FAQs about Stress Free Travel

How do I restart after vacation?

To restart after a vacation, gradually return to your routine, prioritize tasks, set realistic goals, and allow yourself time to readjust. Stay organized, maintain a positive mindset, and integrate any new insights or habits gained during your break into your daily life.

How traveling relieves stress and anxiety?

Traveling relieves stress and anxiety by providing a break from daily routines, exposing you to new experiences, and fostering relaxation and rejuvenation. It broadens perspectives, enhances creativity, and offers opportunities for physical activity and connecting with nature, all contributing to improved mental well-being.

Free Checklist for Reducing Stress in Planning, Packing and Traveling

    Final Thoughts on a Stress Free Vacation

    By setting realistic expectations, disconnecting from work, practicing mindful travel, embracing the present moment, balancing activities, and prioritizing health, you can have a vacation that leaves you feeling refreshed rather than needing another break.

    Remember, the goal is to prioritize relaxation and enjoyment. Tailor these tips to fit your preferences and create a vacation that suits your needs.