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Stress Management Health Center

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4 Tips for a Less Stressful Vacation

Experts explain ways to leave stress behind when you take off for that much needed holiday.
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Want to have the best vacation ever?

Travel and health experts say a winning getaway -- one that is enjoyed before, during, and after a trip -- takes a bit of planning. Otherwise, you may be doomed to repeat scenarios that have made countless other escapes stressful.

Consider these situations:

  • Have you ever felt frantic and lost sleep trying to get all of your errands and packing done before a trip?
  • Ever got stuck in slow-moving traffic or in long airport security lines?
  • Tired of trying to find enough activities for the kids to do?
  • Feel the need to check in with work during vacation?

If you've found yourself nodding at any of these circumstances, then you'll definitely want to don your planning cap, and figure out how to tackle the vacation busters. These spoilsports insidiously eat away at leisure time; many people shrug them off as just part of life. Yet you don't have to put up with them. There are ways to tame the vacation busters, allowing you to relish your time off.

WebMD has information on four vacation busters and tips on how to deal with them.

Vacation Buster No. 1: Transport Troubles

According to the Travel Industry Association (TIA), 88% of leisure travel happens by car, truck, or RV. Nine percent of Americans take to the air; the rest journey by bus or train.

Almost everyone hits the road -- even folks who go to the airport, train station, or bus station. This can mean highly congested roads, particularly during summer weekends and holidays.

"There are a few things worse than getting excited to go to some place you really love for your vacation, and you load your car and family, get to the interstate, and then wham you're in a big line of traffic, and you're going nowhere fast," says TIA spokesman Allen Kay.

The same nightmare can happen on the way home. In fact, just the thought of driving back in overcrowded roads can put a damper on good feelings during a vacation.

To make road travel more bearable, Robert Sinclair Jr., manager of media relations at AAA, recommends the following:

  • Figure out how to get there. Prepare directions to your destination in advance. Have maps and alternate travel routes handy in case you hit traffic. Satellite navigational devices can also be helpful, but make sure any gadget you use is easy to operate and read.
  • Know what to expect. Check weather and traffic reports often as travel conditions can suddenly change. Look out for construction projects along your path. Often, the Department of Transportation in each area will list road closures or detours on their web site.
  • Decide when to drive. Be aware of peak travel hours. You can generally expect roads to be packed after 5 p.m. on the Friday before a holiday, and between 6 p.m. and midnight on the Monday or Tuesday after a holiday. To avoid jam-packed highways, consider taking personal days to travel. Although that may not be ideal, you may be saving yourself the headache of an accident. Since many people get up very early in the morning or travel late into the night to beat traffic, there is the real danger of drowsy driving. According to Sinclair, many who drive during times they're normally asleep can drift off into microsleep -- three- to 10-second intervals of snoozing -- while at the wheel. "Drivers [in a simulator study] thought they were just drowsy, but they had actually fallen asleep," says Sinclair. "Falling asleep for three seconds may not sound like a big deal, but at 60 miles an hour, you're traveling 88 feet per second. So, at three seconds, you've traveled the distance of nearly a football field. A lot of bad things can happen in that distance."
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