How to Make the Most of Your Vacation

A period of time away from a regular job or routine that is taken for relaxation or travel. Vacations can be planned or spontaneous and may last a few days to several weeks. The term “Vacation” is sometimes used interchangeably with the terms holiday and getaway but there is a distinction between the two. Vacations are intended to refresh and renew, while holidays are more focused on celebrating religious or cultural events.

Taking a break is important for everyone. It can lead to better performance at work, less stress and lower blood pressure. It can also spur creativity—Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda reportedly conceived his musical while on vacation. It’s important to plan ahead for a successful trip and make the most of your time off.

Many people instinctively try to cram as much into their vacations as possible because they want to get their money’s worth, but that can backfire. Overdoing it can lead to exhaustion, which makes it harder to enjoy the rest of your trip.

The best way to avoid overdoing it is to alternate more physically active activities with quiet times. For example, you could go hiking one day and then take a spa treatment the next. Even kids need an opportunity to relax without having to engage in activity all day long, or they’ll burn out and end up grumpy.

Another way to combat the law of diminishing returns is to limit the number of attractions you visit. If you see the same thing over and over, it becomes dull, and it’s hard to find anything that really blows your socks off. If you’re on a week-long vacation and have to visit 20 or 30 different historical attractions, you’re bound to hit a point of diminishing returns at some point.

If you’re planning a trip to a new destination, research it online before you leave. You can get ideas for things to do, create a Pinterest board or fake itineraries, or “window shop” the itineraries offered by tour operators (Trafalgar’s National Parks and Native Trails of the Dakotas or Contiki’s Road to Croatia will surely rouse your sense of adventure). Even if you don’t travel this year, creating an imaginary itinerary can give you something to look forward to when the real vacation is over.

Lastly, it’s important to be prepared for the return to work after vacation. It’s a good idea to discuss any urgent projects or assignments with your boss before you leave and make sure you have people lined up to cover you while you’re gone. It’s also helpful to schedule a fun activity for the first week you’re home, like a dinner with friends to celebrate your vacation souvenirs or a movie night to watch photos from your trip. Having something to look forward to can help ease the transition from vacation to reality and keep you from feeling guilty for being off work.