Six Tips For Enjoying A Vacation

Six Tips For Enjoying A Vacation
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One of my goals for my Happiness Project is to do a better job of learning from experience. How can I do things better, next time? Also, one of my Twelve Commandments is to "Identify the problem," so I'm trying to be more mindful as I have experiences, so I can take steps to make myself happier, in the moment.

Here are some tips from my recent family trip to Denmark:

1.Start packing early. I made the odious task of packing for myself and my two daughters easier by starting a week in advance (the Big Man packed at 10 pm the night before we left). I brought the big suitcase into my bedroom, and whenever I thought of something (sunscreen, passports, adapter) I put it in. However, if you start packing early, you must...

2.Keep a list. I didn't, and that was a mistake. Because I was packing over the course of the week, by the end, I'd forgotten what I'd already put in. Had I packed the bathing suits, or not? In the end, I forgot to pack any socks for myself. I'd thought about doing it so many times, but I'd never actually done it. So make a list and check things off. This is a good idea, anyway.

3.Spend money where it helps. I was in utter bliss because I bought a new large backpack to use as my plane bag, which, because I was traveling with my kids, weighed about 100 pounds. Several years ago, my mother gave me a large, attractive bag to use as a plane bag, and I've used it ever since. But on my last trip, I realized: I would much prefer to use a backpack, that I could wear comfortably on my back, than to carry a heavy bag that pulls on one shoulder. I looked a bit silly, but I didn't care.

4.Pack almonds. Several months ago, on a family trip with my in-laws, I realized that my periodic bouts of crabbiness were related to hunger. I seem to get hungry much more often than most adults, and I'm also a very picky eater. For this trip, I packed a bag of almonds, and it made a huge difference in being able to maintain my mood. Almonds made a great travel snack, because they're light, don't crumble, don't stain, don't need preparation, and are filling and nutritious. The one downside: it's tempting to eat the entire bag at one sitting. I had to use some self-control to keep the bag going for the whole trip.

5.Return a day early. When I was growing up, we always returned from trips at the last minute, to eke out as much time as possible at whatever place we were visiting. But my in-laws plan their trips differently, and I've converted to their approach: they build in a re-entry day. On this trip, we came back on Saturday, so we had a day to sleep late, do errands, catch up on mail and email, re-stock the fridge, etc. The re-entry day made the trip shorter, but it made the overall vacation experience more enjoyable. It's no fun to go away for a relaxing week, but then find yourself stressed out again a few hours after you're back at home.

6.Unpack right away. The Big Man is adamant about this. The last thing I felt like doing when we arrived home from a week away was to tackle the unpacking, but he was right, we both felt much better when we'd put that task behind us. It made it a lot easier to unwind and enjoy being home.

What else? What have you learned about how to approach trips so that they're more fun?

If you'd like to read more about happiness, check out Gretchen's daily blog, The Happiness Project, or sign up for her monthly newsletter.

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