Most folks look forward to their summer vacation all year. The frigid temperatures and outlandish snowfalls of winter are a little bit more tolerable knowing there will be a sandy beach waiting for you several months down the road. Once summer finally arrives, it seems like the trip that was once so far away whizzes by in an instant. Before you know it, the vacation happiness has faded and you’re back to the same schedule, at the same desk, with the same coffee mug. It might feel like you never even left.
It’s called post vacation syndrome, and plenty of people feel exactly the same way once they get back to reality. The Wall Street Journal reported, while few studies have examined the phenomenon, many professional therapists and counselors see an increase in their number of clients at the end of every summer. The alternative, not taking any time off, certainly isn’t a better option. You’ll just find yourself feeling overworked and stressed out.
You already know you’re going to have fun on vacation, but you can get even more enjoyment out of your trip if you enlist a handful of strategies. These five tips will help you make the most of your time away, and help you hold on to that feeling long after your return flight has touched down. Your colleagues will never have to fear your end-of-vacation hostility again.
1. Go for something unique
Even if you just had the best trip of your life, it can start to feel like a total joke once you start hearing about all of your colleagues’ fabulous getaways. Someone has always stayed at a cushier suite, indulged in better-tasting meals, or played at a more refined golf course. It’s easy to get into a habit of planning the same types of activities, particularly ones you enjoy, but it nearly guarantees you’ll compare your experience to someone else’s.
If you really want your good vibes to last, try doing something unique to the location or your specific interests. Frank Farley, a psychologist at Temple University, told Yahoo Style, “We find that when you’re doing things that connect to your personality and personal strengths, you’re probably a pretty happy person.” If you’re an obsessive hiker, trek up that one-of-a-kind mountain. Wherever you go, take advantage of your surroundings.
2. Start and end with a bang
The first few days away from work might leave you feeling almost giddy, and you can use that to your advantage. Science of Us said the very beginning of a vacation is usually the most memorable part, so making that first night incredible will likely result in fonder memories. Elizabeth Dunn, a happiness researcher at The University of British Columbia, told the publication she employed this strategy by using points to book a swanky hotel for one night when she and her husband traveled to Bali, Indonesia. As she was preparing for her trip she said, “I focused disproportionately on that first night.” Go for whatever will give you the most enjoyment. If you’re looking forward to the cuisine, plan an incredible first-night meal.
The same is true for the end of your trip. Save something special for the last day instead of completely front-loading your vacation. That fresh memory of a great last day will make the transition back to life at home a lot less painful.
3. Plan for a smooth return
When you’re planning your trip, you should spend as much time thinking about your return home as you do the getaway. Writer Jennifer Wallace spoke to CBS This Morning about how to make the return less stressful, and she suggested coming back on Saturday instead of Sunday. Trying to unpack, do laundry, pick up groceries, and get to bed at a decent time just isn’t practical if you don’t come back until Sunday afternoon. This strategy will also make things a lot less of a headache if your flight gets pushed back or canceled.
What you do with that extra day is up to you. Some guys might enjoy hanging out in sweatpants for the day, while others may want to lessen the impact of the first day back at work. Simply going through all of your missed emails could make Monday morning a lot more manageable.
4. Relive the memories
It’s typical to take photos and post them online while away, but it always seems to come to an abrupt halt the instant you check out of your hotel. The Huffington Post said it’s better to hold off on sharing some of those experiences until after you’re back, because it will feel like you’ve extended your trip. It could also make your actual vacation better. It’s difficult to pay attention to all the wonderful things going on around you if you’re constantly updating your social feeds and sharing pictures. Snap some photos, them put the camera down to enjoy yourself.
It might seem silly, but souvenirs are another great way to keep the memory of your vacation alive. It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant, just something that makes you smile. One blogger for SparkPeople said she brought back a cookbook after a trip to Turkey. She made one of the recipes for lunch and said, “every bite reminded me of my trip.”
5. Start planning the next one
Have you ever felt like the buildup to a trip was better than the actual vacation? You’re not alone. A 2010 Dutch study found vacationers experienced elevated levels of happiness prior to a vacation, but not after they had returned. While that might sound depressing, you can use that knowledge to your benefit by starting to research your next getaway.
Even if you don’t anticipate going away any time soon, you might still want to think about some general plans. Not only will it boost your mood now, it could also make your next trip more enjoyable. According to Happify, 90% of people reported their happiest vacations were planned more than one month ahead of time. So get to work on that travel bucket list.