4 Tips for a Less Stressful Vacation
Experts explain ways to leave stress behind when you take off for that much needed holiday.
Smart Air Travel
Get through security lines faster by heeding these Transportation Security
Administration (TSA) tips:
- Leave the lighters at home. TSA confiscates more than
30,000 lighters a day. Other items prohibited in carry-on baggage include
knives, sharp objects, firearms, explosives, and flammable liquids. Also
forbidden as carry-on: athletic equipment that could be used as weapons such as
bats, golf clubs, hockey sticks, and ski poles.
- Keep valuables with you. Pack jewelry, cash, fragile
items, electronics, medications, and undeveloped
film in your carry-on luggage.
- Dress for speediness. To avoid setting off the metal
detector, steer clear of clothing, jewelry, or other accessories containing
excessive metal. Examples include decorative zippers, buttons, large belt
buckles, or underwire bras. Wear easy-to-remove shoes. Suggested footwear
includes flip-flops and thin-soled sandals without metal.
- Know what to take in and out. Laptops and video cameras
with cassettes should be taken out of their cases, placed in a bin, and sent
through the X-ray machine on their own. Coats, blazers, and jackets should also
be placed in a bin and screened. Before entering the screening checkpoint,
place cell phones, PDAs, keys, loose change, jewelry, and large metal items in
your carry-on luggage.
Vacation Buster No. 2: Sleep Starvation
In the rush to get trip-related errands, packing, and traveling done, many
people stay up late and/or get up very early before a vacation, figuring
they'll make up the sleep later on. However, it can take one to three days to
recover from a sleep deficit and to unwind from stress.
Jet lag can also add to the problem. So can the "first night effect" -- a
common phenomenon in which travelers find it difficult to snooze the first few
nights in a different place.
To make matters worse, some people hit the sack at odd hours, and forgo good
quality sleep to make the most of their vacation. All the activities replacing
good shut-eye may well be very valuable, but inadequate slumber can curtail
enjoyment of them.
"The reality is that when you don't get enough sleep, it's going to impair
all aspects of what you do," says Mark Rosekind, PhD, president and chief
scientist of Alertness Solutions, a scientific consulting firm. "You will be
irritable, short-tempered, and will be falling asleep in the middle of
get-togethers with family and friends."
Then there is the safety concern. Rosekind says a sleep deficit of just two
hours can affect performance in the same way a blood alcohol level of 0.05
With such impaired functioning, people obviously put themselves at great
risk when they drive, or when they participate in activities such as kayaking,
jet skiing, hiking, or biking.
Rosekind has tips for people who'd like to minimize sleep deprivation and
its undesired effects:
- Take the time to prepare for your trip. If you take a
personal day off and think of it as part of your vacation, you have a better
chance of going into your getaway more relaxed and coming out of it more
rejuvenated. If you cannot take the time off, try preparing for your trip at
least a week earlier than usual.
- Manage jet lag. Remember that your internal clock prefers
to have a longer day rather than a shorter one. This is why it's generally
harder to adjust to time change when you are traveling east as opposed to west.
Anticipate the jet lag and schedule your vacation activities accordingly. Also
make a special effort to get as much sleep as possible to reduce the effect of
jet lag. If time zone changes remain a big problem for you, visit the National
Sleep Foundation (NSF) web site for more information on how to beat it.
- Take naps. Short bouts of sleep during the day can help
- Use caffeine wisely. Caffeinated beverages can help
enhance your performance and mood if used in a strategic way. Keep in mind that
you will need 100 milligrams to 200 milligrams of caffeine (the equivalent of a
big cup of coffee or several soft drinks) to get the desired results. It takes
the stimulant 15 to 30 minutes to take effect, and lasts three to four hours.
Just make sure you don't drink it close to bedtime as it can ruin sleep.
To ward against the "first night effect," it may help to find lodging in
areas with familiar noise levels. The NSF recommends using earplugs and eye
masks to help drown out noise and unwanted light. If possible, also bring
familiar bedtime items such as a personal pillow or alarm clock.