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Easy Does It - Stress-Busters for Travelers
Easy Does It - Stress-Busters for Travelers
All the ‘have-tos’ and ‘but firsts’ that we face each day in our fast-paced world can even make an upbeat experience like travel lose some luster.

Breathe in deeply, breathe out slowly… and repeat as required. Is my imagination on overdrive, or are the whirling, wacky ways of today’s world prompting many of us to take deep relaxing breaths more often than we needed to just a decade or two ago? Rushing, fretting, and adapting to a steady onslaught of large and small challenges can make us feel stressed, stretched, exhausted, and (let’s admit it) - downright cranky. All the ‘have-tos’ and ‘but firsts’ that we face each day in our fast-paced world can even make an upbeat experience like travel lose some luster.

Rest assured, you can prevent (or respond positively to) stressful influences so that they won’t hinder your travel getaways. At its ultimate best, traveling offers an escape from the pressures and drawbacks of everyday life. Following are practical strategies for stress-proofing your next travel adventure.

Make a special effort to incorporate your favorite pastimes into your travel plans.
Honor your travel budget. Overspending causes stress, and it’s simply unnecessary to break the bank in order to experience fulfilling travel. Camping at a state or national park or renting a reasonably-priced condo instead of booking a fancy hotel room can steeply reduce your travel costs. In the interest of more major savings, consider cooking some of your own meals over a campfire or in your condo’s kitchen instead of visiting pricey restaurants three times a day. And be sure to take advantage of free facilities and events wherever you stay - whether your campground screens movies under the stars each night or the condo association hosts an impromptu talent show in the recreation hall. While you’re thinking thrifty, remember to ask about special travelers’ discounts related to any club memberships you might hold.

Use strategic timing. To avoid occasional crowds at popular travel resorts and recreation areas, plan trips for off-season and non-holiday periods whenever possible.

Inform yourself. Take time to learn details about the area that you intend to visit. Gather useful facts about commercial attractions, natural wonders, museums and general points of interest and make a prioritized list of places you want to explore. Check the weather forecast and specific road (or sky) conditions for the days you plan to travel. Knowledge is power, and power diffuses incoming sources of stress.

Pack light and smart. Less is more. Really! Think like a minimalist when you’re packing. Designating a place in your luggage for everything you are packing and stowing each item in its chosen spot translates into less stress later when you need to locate it.

Control what you can; let go of the rest. Whenever you anticipate that stressful circumstances might arise, it pays to act constructively to prevent them. Likewise, accept that many stressors are beyond your control. You might not be able to stop or deflect stress triggers, but you can at least respond to them in productive ways that minimize fall-out.

Vacations are ideal occasions for laughing, chuckling, giggling, and guffawing.
For example, make sure your emergency road service coverage is up to date if you are taking a road trip, and keep a list of essential phone numbers on hand – house sitter, close family members, primary doctor, travel agent (in case of unexpected snags on your journey) and so forth. Keep photocopies of your driver’s license, passport, and credit cards (both front and back) in a secure place separate from your wallet or purse. In the event of loss or theft, the photocopies will help you obtain speedy replacements.

Slow down. This maxim applies to observing speed limits, as well as setting the pace and content of your itinerary. Find a comfortable balance between lively on-the-go events and quiet periods of down-time. Learn the calming value of pausing to re-charge your inner batteries.

Choose self-affirming activities. Anyone who’s hooked on travel understands its innate value as a stress-buster. You can boost the positive effects of any vacation by engaging in activities large and small that you truly enjoy. Do you prefer spending time with a group of friends playing cards or board games or attending sporting events? Do you lean toward individual pursuits such as fishing, reading, antique shopping, or kite-surfing? Make a special effort to incorporate your favorite pastimes into your travel plans.

Keep moving. Physical exercise is widely recognized as a super stress reliever. Seek clearance from your doctor (if you’re a novice), choose your favorite form(s) of locomotion, and spend 30 – 60 minutes moving and shaking nearly every day of your trip.

Wear comfy clothes. Remember, folks – you’re traveling! You will likely bend, stretch, walk, run, ride a bike, paddle a kayak and/or take a nap in a hammock. Dress accordingly.

Eat to live; don’t live to eat.
Sleep tight to loosen stress’s grip. When it comes to scheduling hours for snoozing, adhere to your usual sleep routine to gain sufficient rest. Opt for customary foods. Eat to live; don’t live to eat. And to keep food-associated stresses from spoiling an otherwise great vacation, stick with healthful, familiar, sanitary meal selections while you’re traveling.

Foster friendships. From birds of a feather flocking together to misery loving company, good friends warm the heart, soothe the soul, and help us smooth out bumps in the road. Fortunately, travel provides a terrific backdrop for starting and building friendships.

Stay positive. Aim to become a ‘glass-half-full’ person. Optimism is as much a matter of habit as an innate tendency. Optimistic people deal with stress more effectively than pessimists do.

Don’t expect perfection. While you’re traveling, resolve to give yourself a break from doing everything perfectly, and extend the same realistic expectations to your traveling companions, as well as to everyone you meet along the way.

Find the funny in everything. Physicians and psychologists concur that laughter is a highly effective stress reliever. Vacations are ideal occasions for laughing, chuckling, giggling, and guffawing. If you need props to tickle your funny bone while you’re traveling, read joke books, watch comic movies, and sing silly songs.

Prioritize problems. “Will anyone die?” is my friend Sally’s standard yardstick when she’s trying to assess if a situation is serious or trivial. Sally’s jolting question certainly sheds a spotlight on the relative significance of life’s peaks and valleys. How will the issue at hand affect your life tomorrow, next year, or in 2020? Most travel-related problems fall somewhere in the middle between mountains and canyons, and are therefore reasonably navigable. Are you ready to become a proactive stress-buster? Breathe in deeply, breathe out slowly… and repeat travel getaways - as required and/or desired.

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"Easy Does It - Stress-Busters for Travelers"
   authored by:
Paula Loehr, R.N., B.A., worked in the fields of community health and nursing education, and was a school health nurse at the elementary, secondary and collegiate levels before becoming a fulltime journalist. Her writing specialties include family tr...

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