Sometimes your vacation can become more stressful than pleasurable. Getting to your final destination can be an extremely frustrating beginning of your trip. Upon arrival, you may feel overwhelmed. So many sites to see, so little time! It’s normal to crave the comfort of your bed once the initial excitement of being in a new place wears off.
Isn’t a vacation supposed to be relaxing in the first place? Not every vacation is meant to be relaxing (ahem, Walt Disney World) but feeling too stressed is not ideal when you’re on a holiday.
Stress related to travel is pretty common, but your travel experiences do not have to completely burn you out! Establishing a few self-care rituals in your hotel room, rental car, campsite, or wherever you are on your journey can help you re-charge. Read on for some simple tips and tricks I use when traveling that help keep me grounded.
Pack a Self-Care Kit for the Journey
Clothes, underwear, shoes, travel-size shampoo to new a few suitcase staples… It’s important to pack the things you physically need for your trip, but it’s also important to pack a few things that will put you at ease.
Picture it: You’re on an eight-hour flight and your skin starts to feel gross. You only took a few bites of the in-service meal and hunger begins creeping in. You’ve already read the airline’s magazine cover-to-cover and the free headphones your stewardess gave you aren’t cutting it when it comes to the aggressive snoring of the man behind you. We’ve all been there.
Creating a self-care kit to keep in your personal bag can help you avoid that bleak situation. What should go into your self-care kit? That depends on what items will specifically keep you comfortable or entertained. Here are a few ideas based on previous kits I’ve had:
- Luxury Toiletries – Or toiletries that are helpful but not mandatory. Sure you packed a toothbrush, but did you also bring a little bit of your favorite lavender lotion that always calms you down? Lotion, perfume, chapstick, dry shampoo, and face wipes, to name a few, can really make a difference when it comes to feeling clean and pampered on the go. Just remember to be respectful of space boundaries when it comes to fragrances!
- Sleep Accessories – Sleep is one of the most important self-care practices we do every day, so do what you can to not disrupt your sleep cycle in your travels. Sleep masks, neck pillows, sleep aids like melatonin, and ear plugs or sound-proof headphones can go a long way if you’re trying to rest on a plane or train
- Reading, Listening, and Watching Material – All forms of entertainment can be self-care when you’re on the go because distraction is golden. I personally prefer reading and listening to music or a podcast than watching a movie when I travel, but it’s a matter of personal preference. If you’re a book fan, bringing an e-reader is better in terms of having more material without sacrificing coveted packing space. Try Audible or Amazon Music Unlimited.
- Copies of Essential Documents – For me, part of self-care is preventing situations that could stress me out. Having copies (digital or paper) of travel documents, credit cards, and other essentials like my license helps make me feel safe and secure
- Smart Snacks – Pack snacks that will keep hunger at bay. Avoid anything too messy, especially something that could open in your bag. I usually bring a pack of almonds, jerky, or a fruit and nut bar, but snack preferences are personal. Don’t forget to refill your reusable water bottle once you’re through airport security to stay hydrated as well!
- A Journal – If you like to write or doodle, then absolutely bring a notebook and writing utensil in your kit. Jotting down your thoughts can be a healthy way to decompress and express yourself, which brings me to my next self-care tip…
Express Your Feelings
Whenever I’m planning a vacation, I imagine how wonderful I’ll feel. I’ll see beautiful sites, eat amazing food, and have a perfect time.
That is just not realistic. Sure, I’m generally bubbly when I’m traveling because it makes me happy, but that doesn’t mean that all other emotions in my wheelhouse won’t make an appearance.
When I was developing my love of travel as a high school and college student, I tried to bottle up feelings I deemed negative. I convinced myself that there was no reason to feel scared/sad/angry while I was travelling. In hindsight, this was an act of self-sabotage.
Through therapy, I worked on having a healthier relationship with my feelings. I now encourage myself to express openly as an act of self-care, regardless of my environment. This does not and should not change just because I’m on vacation.
So if you need a good cry or want to tell your travel buddy what’s bugging you, do it. After my break-up, I spent plenty of time crying and swearing on the streets of Paris and it made me feel incredibly human.
Plans go awry, people say hurtful things, and issues from home can sneak into your carry-on. Don’t ignore your feelings just because they weren’t on your itinerary.
Maintain Your At-Home Habits
This may seem like a given, but I tend to find myself skipping essential parts of my home self-care routine when I’m on the road. Some parts are okay to skip (most hotels don’t have tubs to put a bath bomb in any way) but missing out on some of these habits can really make you feel off-kilter.
Drinking a cup of water in the morning makes me feel good, so I try to remember to do so when I’m on the go (even if the water from the hotel sink tastes weird.) If I forget to start my day with water, I’ll get dehydrated pretty quickly and feel crappy.
Another self-care habit that occasionally slips through the cracks when I’m traveling is properly caring for my skin! Forgetting to put my moisturizer with SPF on my face always leads to sunburned regret.
Keep up any of the usual healthy habits that make you feel your best. Your body will thank you!
Go With Your Flow
FOMO has added major stress to my previous travels. I have tried to eat, see, and do everything possible on various vacations. Meticulous planning has helped me experience more than improvising a schedule would, but I have never been successful in doing absolutely everything a destination has to offer because it is impossible to do so.
Instead of cramming activities, accept that you won’t be able to do it all. Prioritize your must-dos and follow your intuition otherwise. It’s good to put aside time for the sites you absolutely want to hit up, but putting too much pressure on yourself will make your vacation feel more like a marathon.
I strongly encourage leaving plenty of free time in your itinerary. This will allow to you to explore and go with your own flow throughout your journey. Free time is also when those magical travel moments, like striking up a conversation with a local or finding a hidden gem in a big city, tend to happen.
Most importantly, don’t be afraid to change your plans if that is what you need or want. You may have had an afternoon museum visit on the schedule but let yourself take a nap that day instead if that’s what your body is telling you to do.
Of course, changing plans could cost you money depending on the situation. If you’re aware of the associated costs and feel comfortable with them, do what your gut tells you!
During my previous trip to Paris, I decided to extend my stay by a few days. Six days there would have been more than adequate, but my intuition begged me to stretch the trip to nine days. I did, and, even with the extra cost of changing my flight, I have no regrets. Adjusting your schedule to suit your needs is an act of self-care that will improve your travel experience.
The bottom line? Be a little selfish when you’re traveling. Your dedication to your well-being will only make your journeys more enjoyable.
Share your favorite self-care tips below in the comments!