This may seem a little late in the year to be applicable, but the weather is so dark and dreary, even for autumn (I like crisp and cold, personally) that I thought we could all take a moment to imagine jetting off for some winter sun.
Or going to Devon. Which is what I did a few weeks ago for some exceptionally lazy R&R.
Leaving my animals and my home is, for me, stressful. As are deadlines (i.e. leaving times). In plenty of time before setting off, I sat down and thought of ways to improve my holiday experience. Added to what I’ve learned in hindsight, here are some tips to make your holiday happier, loosely arranged into three sections. Because, why not?
Beer Harbour, Devon
If you’re anything like me, packing isn’t hugely stressful- it’s UNpacking that can sour a trip, either when you get there or when you’re home again.
A fairly simple, and probably obvious tip is to pack a couple of bags in your case- totes or plastic, for bagging up laundry, dirty shoes etc on the way back. I’d suggest packing a couple more than this however, for compartmentalising further. Pack one for clean clothes, one for books/hobby items you brought with you, one for souveniers and purchases and one for toiletries. Yes, you probably neatly packed a little washbag to go away with, but by the end of the holiday it’s going to be all over the bathroom and dressing table. Having something larger to put the washbag and any wet things, like shower goodies, toothbrushes and bath lilies is going to reduce the stress of having to neatly pack a washbag AND a suitcase. Also, when you get back, it means unpacking your suitcase is like unpacking shopping and you needn’t heft the whole bleedin’ thing upstairs/to your bedroom full. Leave your shoe bag at the door, take your toiletries bag into the bathroom. Dirty clothes by the washing machine, souvenirs can go in the lounge to be picked over, and then you have a light, nigh empty case to shift with your remaining clean clothes and reading material.
Secondly, don’t fold. ROLL.
Finally on this subject, before you go, when you are out buying your final treats, go to department store or otherwise located perfumery and try out perfumes on tester cards, being sure to really douse them. Pick your favourites and bring the cards home. Pack them into your suitcase, so when you arrive after the stress of travelling, you’ll be greeted by a calming and delicious puff of perfume upon opening your case, and your belongings will have a lovely freshness too.
If you are easily stressed by travelling, why not include something Lavender scented, like a few sprigs, a scent pillow or a tissue doused in lavender essential oil? I find any ‘nice’ smell soothing, but lavender not only ticks this box but has specific calming properties.
This works not just with perfumes, but anything that smells nice. I like to use little scented candles or wax tarts too, as they have the same effect and pack a big scent punch.
You could always buy some containers while you are away. I couldn’t resist this shopping basket.
Holidays are about getting away from your troubles for a while. What better way to soothe body and soul is there than spoiling oneself rotten? And it doesn’t need to break the bank- that’s what airfares are for.
A great place to start is with bath products- what is more relaxing than getting clean? I favour Lush in this department, but if you can, buy something new to use in the shower. That way, that different scent and feel will become synonymous with your time away, and will help extend the holiday feeling when you come home. Also, so long as you don’t hate baths, if you never have time for them at home, why not invest specifically in a bath product, like a melt or bomb?
Secondly, food. If you are going self catering, every meal you make should be satisfying and indulgent. Stop counting calories- they don’t count on holiday. That being said, you needn’t live off junk and take away either (though a bit of that isn’t going to hurt!). Why not instead try going Organic for the duration of the holiday? Or local only? Instead of raiding the supermarket, find suppliers in the community of your drinks, meat, fish, vegetables, bread and dairy products, and you won’t be sorry. Again, it won’t break the bank, but it will help your holiday feel more special. It will also help you explore the area you are staying in, get to know more about the people there, and any leftovers that can be brought home will allow you to celebrate your time away with meals after you have made it home again.
Oh, and be sure to try the local delicacy, no matter what it is. It’s a delicacy for a reason.
Probably the best Cream Tea you will ever eat, at the Salty Monk in Sidmouth
Pamper your mind as well as your body. For the price of a new book, or less if you can borrow one, you can take yourself away to a new world, not just a new town or country. Whether it’s five minutes before bed each night, or a solid sunbathing session, I think everyone benefits from a holiday read. (Although I perhaps went a bit OTT…)
Another way to feed your mind is to try something new. It can be something frivolous or silly (banana boating or getting your palm read…), something active and exciting (surfing, riding, heck even getting up early and going for a walk on the beach…), something creative and enriching (taking a class, learning a new skill, trying out new looks you wouldn’t dare at home…) or even something scary (eating something new? Well, perhaps if you’re me…). All of these experiences will improve the quality of your holiday, even if you don’t end up liking them. They’ll build memories you otherwise might miss, will make you feel brave and empowered, and might send you home with something more than a few snaps and trinkets- a new passion.
I tried Sardines for the first time at the River Cottage Canteen in Axmouth. Delicious.
3: Plan. Or don’t.
I think what goes wrong with a lot holidays, and why people often look back at childhood holidays without much enthusiasm is the fact that we want to get our money’s worth out of our precious time away. The risk there is that we pack in far too much, not allowing us time to rest or even truly enjoy each activity, and leave us coming home more worn thin than we were when we set out.
I personally couldn’t go on holiday and literally do nothing. I’m too fidgety in body in mind. But I also couldn’t cope with packing 5 things in a day when a lot of the time I literally cannot get out of bed until eleven, and need a nap at three. Whether you are as fit as a fiddle, feisty as a filly or worn as old leather (that would be me…), it doesn’t matter. You would benefit from a loosely planned, under filled trip away.
On the first day, unless there if an activity you are dying to do but can only do on said day, I would heartily advise doing as little as possible. Revel in the fact you aren’t at home or work, and have quality time to relax. Get that holiday read out. However, DO spend some time getting leaflets and using google-fu to look up local tourist attractions, food suppliers and activities. Make a list of those you absolutely want to do. Ideally, try not to have more than 1 or 2 activities per day, and plan to go to things that are near to each other on the same day to reduce travel times. The more time you spend resting and thinking about what you have done, the more relaxed and fulfilled you will feel when you come home.
This method isn’t rocket science, but it helped me and my mother plan our holiday effectively, yet without stress and ensure we got to the right places on the right day for certain things, but also know that we could swap and change activities if the weather didn’t permit them, or we didn’t feel like it, and also be able to go back to places we loved. The latter is crucial- not over filling your days means that if you find something you love, you will have time to go back and do it or see it again.
Me and Mum on the beach at Beer. We loved it so much we used one of our spare days to go again.
There are probably a dozen other tips and tricks that can be used to maximise the enjoyment of your holiday, but you know what? I wanted to keep it simple, just like I did with my holiday. And it was glorious. So, whether you’re off for some winter sun, or just California dreamin’, I hope you have a truly great holiday, or even a stay-cation.