Feeling stressed? You’re not alone.The American Psychological Association found that sixty percent of Americans rated work as a ‘very or somewhat significant source of stress.’ Family responsibilities and personal health concerns were also ranked as some of the most common sources of stress.
And while taking a vacation might sound like a nice way to relieve stress and get a fresh start when you return, we know that in reality, that’s not usually the case.
In a study about happiness and energy levels at work, the Harvard Business Review found the most vacations actually stress us out. An interesting pattern developed in the study–the higher the stress level a person reported after their vacation, the lower their reported happiness levels and energy at work the following week.
But reports of low stress levels after other vacations were associated with higher happiness levels, and an increase in energy at work the following week. What was different about the two types of vacations? There were two main differences: The amount and depth of planning beforehand, and the destination’s distance from home.
For the first time, it was understood that vacations themselves aren’t a source of stress for us–lack of planning and repeated unexpected circumstances are. The highest happiness levels and resulting boost in productivity at work the following week occurred after people vacationed somewhere abroad, and when they put considerable time and effort into planning it.
How can you apply these findings to your next vacation? We’ll outline the steps below.
Plan a stress free vacation
1. Leave the country
According to the study, the happiest and least-stressed participants were the international travelers who left the country to vacation abroad. Although these types of trips require more planning, they often provide the most interesting experiences.
2. Carefully manage the details
Don’t leave things to chance on vacation. Most people don’t want to carefully manage the details of their vacations because they’re ready for a break from work and are already in the mindset of being on vacation.
Beforehand, take care of all the little things you can think of. If necessary, use a virtual receptionist to continue to take calls, messages, and appointments for you at work. Create a checklist or spreadsheet to track everything you’ll need to pack, tasks you need to get done, a trip budget, etc. Become familiar with the area and things to do by looking at websites, reviews, and maps.
3. Plan a month or more in advance
Vacation planning isn’t a time for spontaneity. Since you’ll feel ready for your vacation long before it happens, it’s better to plan everything at least one month in advance. You can get better hotel prices this way as well.
With at least a month between the start of your planning and the vacation itself, you’ll have plenty of time to plan a stress free vacation.
4. Get an inside source of information
Those with the highest reported levels of happiness and productivity levels at work the following week after a vacation had something else in common.
They had an inside source of information about or in the country they traveled to, which meant less uncertainty and stress for them. That could be a friend who traveled there in the past, a hired guide, or volunteer local host.
Read next: Will a Live Answering Service Allow You to Relax on Vacation?