Relax! 4 Great Ways to Calm Your Mind on Vacation

As much as I love to travel, I have the worst time getting myself to unwind and relax.  During my day to day life, my role as Senior Global Marketing Manager at a busy digital performance agency keeps me on the go constantly.  Deadlines and juggling multiple projects requires a keen focus, lots of lists, and a lot of dedication to getting things done.  While I’m busy with work, I fit in time with my loved ones, dinner, exercise, and chores as best as I can.  Sometimes, it takes a staycation just to get caught up on life at home.

Needless to say, when I do go on vacation, it can some effort to let go of all the stresses.  If this sounds anything like you OR you’re just looking for some tips on unwinding on your vacation, you’re in the right place.  I’ve gathered my four favorite ways to shake off the worries of daily life and get into the right mindset to make your vacation relaxing.  I hope these tips bring you joy and make your vacation a little more refreshing!


Pick Up a Good Book

One of the things I miss most about living in a city with a subway system is reading.  The hour long train ride each way helped me have plenty of time to escape into a good book.  Now that I commute by car primarily, I find myself without a good time in my daily routine to read.  While I’m traveling, reading a book or listening to an audiobook is one of my favorite things to do to get my mind off of daily life and get a great mental escape.

Making books a central part of my travel routine has transformed the entire traveling experience into a wonderfully calming escape.  While I’m en route to my destination, on vacation, and coming back home, I’m typically able to get through one or two books – which gives me something special to look forward to because getting there and back can be a drag otherwise.   Plus, picking out my travel reading/listening material is now one of my favorite travel rituals.  Visiting local independent bookshop while I’m on vacation to pick out my reading material for my next trip adds special character to my travels.

I also absolutely love listening to audiobooks by comedians on a solo flight or road trip, because it makes it feel like you’re traveling with a funny friend who’s telling you stories to keep you entertained.  Audiobooks can get expensive very quickly, so I recommend subscribing to Audible or seeing what’s available through your local library.

Reset Your Energy

Because I’m such a go-go-go person at home, it absolutely does not come naturally to me to take this time to reset.  Sound familiar?  Travel fatigue is a real thing – just getting to your destination alone can be enough to wear you out.  First things first, before tackling a busy itinerary, shake off jet lag or the mental haze of road trip fog with a short guided meditation and take a nap.  Now this might sound obvious, but it’s a step that makes many movers and shakers uncomfortable.

You might also relate to a problem I have – not being able to fall asleep easily.  Now, though it can be tempting to take a Tylenol PM or some allergy medicine to help you get some zzz’s, I recommend trying something a bit healthier that will leave your head clearer when you arise.

If you just need a simple method to slow down, try this focused breathing technique:

  • Inhale slowly for 4 counts, pause and hold your breath for 2 counts, then exhale for 6 counts.  Repeat 3 times.  (from The Little Book of Mindfulness)

If your head is still tied to your life back home and you need to shake off some worries, try this quick reset method from Mel Robbins:

  • Close your eyes, inhale deeply, and think of a memory that fills you with joy.  As you continue to think about this memory, slowly count backwards 5-4-3-2-1, breathing deeply as you count.

If you’d prefer a deeper guided mediation, check out one of these from Youtube and Audible:

Once your head is clear, you should be much more relaxed and able to fall asleep.  Ideally, you should set aside 90 minutes for this nap.  I highly recommend downloading the SleepyTime app, so you can set an alarm for the exact time that will align to your circadian rhythms.  Hopefully, all of this will maximize your feeling of being refreshed and ready to go.

Pamper Yourself

Riding in a plane, train, or a car for hours to get to your destination can leave your body  cramped.  Add that to all of the muscle tension that built up over day to day life and you could be limping into vacation with your shoulders hunched and back aching.  Once you’ve gotten a good nap in, the next thing I recommend is a wellness treatment.

At one point in time, I was a newbie to all of these things and as the daughter of a frugal Indian immigrant mom, it went against my budget conscious mentality to splurge on these treatments.  The money spent on this will boost your time away from the hustle and bustle of daily life and help you get the most out of the rest of your vacation.

The bonus of going to a spa is that they typically have additional amenities like whirlpools, steam rooms, and/or saunas which will provide your muscles additional relaxation.  My first trip to a spa was completely unplanned.  I was the first to arrive for a girls’ trip to Las Vegas and after a long drive through the desserts and canyons from Phoenix, I needed to decompress.  Already a regular massage getter by this point, I went to the hotel’s spa and asked to get into their first available spot.  I was absolutely blown away by the new level of relaxation I achieved by using the steam room and the whirlpool.  My breathing was better and my muscles were so much more relaxed.  I literally had no idea I could unwind that much.

If this sounds like something you’d like to try, check out my post Treat Yo’Self: 5 Wellness Treatments to Pamper Yourself With on Vacation.

Get Moving!

You heard it from Elle Woods and it’s still true – exercise gives you endorphins and endorphins make you happy.  Once your mind and body is rested and rejuvenated, it’s time to get your blood pumping so you can boost your energy and mood.  This can be as simple as doing some in room exercises, like stretching and yoga or even body weight strength exercises that raise your heart rate.   If you’re up for something more, check out the hotel fitness center or go for a nice refreshing walk or run outside.

In a large city, a lot of your site-seeing activities can likely be done on foot.  Without realizing it, you can get in thousands of steps all while making your way through your vacation itinerary.  Keep a look out for low cost guided tours, which will help you learn about your destination.  For example, in Melbourne, Australia, there are several pay-what-you-want guided tours led by knowledgeable people who’ll give you insights that you may never otherwise hear.  Also, walking guidebooks and audio guidebook apps are available to help you navigate historic spots in many large cities, like for Boston’s Freedom Trails and Washington, D.C.’s National Mall.  I also love getting out and walking through museums, local marketplaces/craft fairs, and shops, especially on rainy days.

Vacation is also a great time to work in a fun-filled nature based adventure, like hiking, kayaking, whitewater rafting, paddle-boarding, biking, zip-lining, horseback riding or surfing – the list goes on and on.  Even if you are not one of those people who lives for adventure sports, these can be a great way to break out of your comfort zone.   If you are a newbie to these things, take a look through Groupon, Travelzoo, and Living Social to find a deal on these activities.  My top tip with these is don’t be afraid to try something completely new and different.  One of my favorite Groupon adventure deals was herding cattle on horseback in a ranch outside of Dallas/Fort Worth.

Return Refreshed

After years of traveling, these four simple techniques have transformed my vacations into truly relaxing getaways that help me reset my frame of mind and rejuvenate my spirit.  Years ago, the workaholic in me would gravitate back behind the computer screen to knock out more to do’s.  If you’re similar, I highly encourage you to give these methods a try – one by one.  It took some time, but now, you’ll be hard pressed to find me checking email or working while I’m away from home (unless it’s business travel, and even then, I make room in my schedule for something fun).  I hope you’ll find these tips useful in calming your mind, so you can get the most out of your travel, too.

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