Despite spending thousands of dollars and many weeks anticipating our vacations, rarely do we take the time to optimize this precious free time, ensuring that we have the best time possible. Many books and articles have been written on how to optimize our finances, fitness and life but rarely do we see suggestions on how to optimize our vacations.
By using the following 6 strategies you could turn a mediocre vacation into a once in a lifetime experience or transform a nightmare trip into one that wasn’t so bad. Take a moment to test out some of these proven hacks for your next vacation and let us know if you notice any difference:
- Don’t be Spontaneous – The fantasy of showing up at an airport and booking the next flight to ‘God-Knows-where’ is adventurous and exciting. I for one am guilty of booking around-the-world flights on a whim, however when it comes to getting the most out of your vacation, anticipation is key. A study reported in Fast Company, showed that the most happiness from a vacation occurs before you leave. It’s the thought and anticipation of all the things that you will do, not actually being there that brings the most happiness. So book your trip a long time in advance and savour the anticipation.
- Take a shorter Vacation – There is no question that a holiday is good for your health and it can even make you more productive. In America, and much of the world we assume more is better. Instead of taking a long vacation once a year take 2 (or more) shorter trips. Dr de Bloom has undertaken research on the optimal vacation duration and found that health improves until the 8th day, before declining. The key takeaway, take shorter vacations, but more of them.
- Pack Less – On my first international trip I was guilty of packing for every eventuality. I packed a rain jacket, in case the monsoon season started early. I convinced myself that I needed to bring a bandage in case I sliced my arm open. I haven’t been anywhere in the world that does not sell toothpaste , shower gel or shampoo but yet we pack copious amounts. As difficult as it might seem, try packing your luggage in a carry on bag, taking less clothes and washing them when you need to.
On my recent trip to India, there was a laundry shop just down the road. Going to a laundrette not only provides you with, clean, crease free clothes but it also allows you to help the local economy allowing for a glimpse into local life.Having just a carry on bag will take away the stress of checking bags at the airport, allowing you to bypass the lines and worrying about the airline losing your luggage. I use an EagleCreek bag for my travel and it’s been one of the best travel investments I’ve ever made.
- Eat Healthier – The purpose of a vacation is to be kind to yourself and to let go. Who want’s to eat a healthy diet when they are on vacation? I for one am guilty of succumbing to the ‘what the hell’ effect, stuffing myself at the buffet and having one too many beers.
The Eco-hotel I recently stayed at in the Maldives was the only hotel in the country that was on an island inhabited by locals. As alcohol is unlawful in the Maldives it was impossible to have a beer at our hotel. (Resorts are usually on an island and as a result are able to get around this law).At first this lack of a cold beer was annoying, but I soon found that I enjoyed more the amazing fruit cocktails that the barman would create. They mocktails were also cheaper and had a better effect on how I felt.In addition the food at the hotel was also healthy (and very good). I noticed that I had more energy, allowing me to do more activities such as snorkelling, scuba diving, and cycling, making the most of my precious time on this tropical island. I also woke up earlier, allowing me to enjoy the beautiful sun rises on my daily walks along the beach.(The hotel had a ship moored off the island and this boat allowed any guests to have a drink if they so desired. The beauty of this was that you had to be mindful of when you wanted a drink. Over the 5 days I was at the hotel, I only went once, a lot less than if I had a door right on my doorstep.)
- Meditate – As I sat on the sand, the sound of the waves lapping at the shore, I looked up at the dark sky. Without the usual light pollution the milky way was breathtaking. It was a humbling experience to see the universe in such a vivid way, helping me to appreciate the small spec of life that our earth is in the solar system. Meditating on this thought, my problems seemed insignificant.It’s often difficult to maintain a meditation practise when we are travelling however taking a few minutes to continue your practise can have a dramatic effect on your vacation. Meditation will make you happier and calmer, allowing you to remember more clearly and to be present for yourself and your family. Try and find just a few minutes, maybe before everyone wakes up to meditate. I love to go to the beach and meditate at sunrise or sunset. Try it once and notice how much better your day is.
- End on a High Note. – We recall the end of our vacation with greater clarity and with more emphasis than the start. This is known as the recency effect and one of the reasons why in court cases the defendant is given the closing argument.
You can use this effect to hack your brain into remembering your vacation to be better than it was. Simply schedule the best parts of your vacation for the end. I did this when I was in the Maldives this last week. I’ve always wanted to jet kki and instead of it being the first thing I did when I arrived. I waited until the last day, allowing this epic memory to be seared in my mind much longer and more intensely than if I had done it at the start of the holiday.
The next time you go on vacation try just one of these 6 tips and see if you notice an improvement to the most anticipated days of your year.
David de Souza
Co-Founder of Satorio.org. Aspiring adventurer, entrepreneur and philanthropist. An Englishman in North Carolina. Running marathons one continent at a time.
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