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Put the joy back in vacationing: Eight tips for a great weekend getaway

8 tips for a great weekend getaway | SimplyGreater.org8 tips for a great weekend getaway | SimplyGreater.orgDespite feeling frazzled with the workload at the office or at home, many of us hesitate taking time off to unwind and rejuvenate. We perhaps fret that we will look less-than-dedicated in the eyes of our boss; or we dread the inevitable overstuffed inbox, the backlog of meetings and the ever-growing To-Do list that awaits our return. The fear that actually using our earned time off won’t be worth it can easily trump our desire to get away.

If the thought of catching up after a week off of work stresses you out even more than the work itself, maybe consider instead shrinking the length of your vacation. By following a few common-sense tips, a weekend getaway can be almost as refreshing as getting away for a week.

TGI Thursday … or Saturday.

Because the Friday afternoon exodus results in crowded roads and airports, instead, head out on Thursday night or Saturday morning, and then return as late as Monday night. While a few businesses typically close on Mondays, just about everything at your destination most likely will be open and blissfully empty.

Plan ahead.

If your calendar is brimming with meetings, errands, grocery shopping, kids’ appointments, after-school activities and other commitments, then the idea of spontaneity might make you shudder. Plan ahead to make the most of your time away.

By mapping your route, making a rough itinerary with each attraction’s operating hours in mind and buying travel and sight tickets online, you and your family may see far more than if you just winged it. Don’t forget that if you’re abandoning ship for a holiday weekend, gas prices may surge, so fill up a day or two before.

Ok, so maybe you CAN wing it.

Didn’t we just say that spontaneity with traveling is bad? Yes.

But that doesn’t mean sticking to a rigid schedule of lunch at that famous eatery at 1 p.m. followed by a seaside walk, then the science museum at 3 p.m. and the art museum at 5 p.m. Allow for a few spur-of-the-moment decisions, too. Your family might have a large breakfast and go for a late lunch after lazing around the pool in the afternoon; or you might learn from a local about a cool attraction that is off-the-beaten path. Inflexibility leads to rushing and will just leave you and yours exhausted and cranky, which zaps the fun out of ANY vacation. So go ahead and stop at that battlefield your husband is dying to see, that interesting antique store you spot, or that giant toy store downtown. You’re bound to discover delightful things you hadn’t even considered, and that, after all, is one of the chief joys of travel.

Pack lightly.

If you don’t want to lug around a suitcase for you and each of your children, try to consolidate wardrobe choices and toiletry needs. One pair of shoes, one outfit for each day you’re traveling and only the most necessary toiletries should be enough. Unless you’re trekking to the Alaskan wilderness, anything you really need will be for sale at your destination or even complimentary at your hotel. Instruct your older kids they only get to pack one bag, and it has to be a bag that they can carry without help. And because you’re not a porter, encourage younger children to help with lighter bags, too. By sharing the load, you can save your energy for the fun ahead AND if you’re traveling by plane, you can keep your baggage fees to a minimum. That said, also take along an empty, lightweight bag. Chances are you’ll be coming home with more than you left with if shopping or souvenir-hunting is on the agenda.

If car is your mode of choice, you might think packing light is not necessary. But keep in mind that whatever you put into the car, you have to lug into the hotel room. If you’re driving a long distance, cab space might be even more valuable for stretching travelers’ legs or lying back to doze. Plus, gas consumption goes up the heavier the vehicle is, not to mention, a parked car with out-of-state plates crammed with electronics, nice clothes and other goodies makes a tempting target for smash-and grab thieves.

Splurge a little.

Set a budget ahead of time, but pad the bottom line enough so you can fully enjoy this time away. You don’t have to break the bank and go wild in the designer handbag store or order filet mignon and cappuccino for everyone instead of burgers and soft drinks. But perhaps put a few extra bucks toward: a suite with a refrigerator so you can store leftovers or bottled water; a rental car with extra legroom; or admission to the science museum plus the IMAX movie. Maybe … just maybe … you can even buy that handbag.

Allow for extra time.

The internet, map, app or airline’s schedule might say to expect a five-hour car journey or a two-hour flight with a 35-minute layover. But unfortunately, severe weather, road closings and other hindrances make even the most airtight plans easily go awry.

So if traveling by car, build in at least an extra hour for food, stretching and potty breaks…and getting lost. (Turn-by-turn navigation aids are not always up to date with the latest road closings, construction or traffic accidents up ahead.)

If flying, leave home early in case of traffic incidents, problems parking, long shuttle waits or lengthy security-check lines, flight delays and severe weather. You do not want to miss a flight and start your vacation off on the wrong foot.

Play, don’t work!

Our hyper-connected society makes us feel as if we should stay plugged in at all times. But just because you can check email, nudge a project along or videoconference doesn’t mean you should.

Do yourself and your family a favor. Leave the office-issued cell phone or iPad charging at home, if you can. Resist the impulse to log into work email or voicemail, and check personal messages as needed.  Above all, stay focused on what is important: This is your family’s getaway and a rare opportunity to connect and make memories.

Making the most of home, not-so-sweet home.

So you’re back. And holy cow! That’s a lot of emails! Look at that pile of mail! The mountain of laundry looks insurmountable. You need milk. And the dog either pooped on the carpet, again, or strange mushrooms are growing on the living room rug. And the kids, little angels though they were the entire weekend, are fighting like jackals, again.

Take a deep breath.

Do only what you must now that you’re home. Go for a walk with your spouse instead, finish that book you started on the way out of town or catch up with a show you missed while away.

Just get up a bit sooner than usual the next day, leave work early or do both. You’ll catch up eventually. Savor the final hours of your much-needed break. The whole carnival will still be waiting for you tomorrow.

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Put the joy back in vacationing: Eight tips for a great weekend getaway
Get some last minute travel ideas here and get some good relaxation time with your family. Cheap vacations and family vacations.
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