By Bianca Delport
Isn’t it funny how some things that are designed to help us relax can end up causing us stress? Travel is a great example. From deciding where to go, and enduring long-haul flights, lost luggage and language barriers, travel can present its own unique concerns and challenges.
Leave your worries behind. Here are 8 top tips for keeping travel the way that it should be – a fun, stress-free way to relax and rejuvenate the mind, body and soul.
Book well in advance
Scrambling to find affordable holiday packages and flight tickets at the last minute is one of the easiest ways to amp up your stress levels. Avoid this by making it a habit to plan your holidays well in advance. Not only will you be able to take your time crafting a diverse itinerary, but you can take advantage of early-bird specials.
“It is so much easier to get a good deal on a holiday if you book it early, at least six months in advance,” says Teresa Richardson, Managing Director of The Travel Corporation in South Africa. “For example, Trafalgar is currently offering prospective travellers the chance to book a 2020 trip at 2019 prices, with the added benefit of saving an additional 10%. The catch is that the deal is only available for a limited time. Travellers need to start planning now,” she explains.
Adjust your expectations
No holiday is going to be completely free of complications. Your flight might be delayed, or your baggage could go missing. The activities you planned may not provide quite the same experience that you had hoped for. Unfortunately, these are all things that you cannot control. Do your best to let this type of stress go and focus on enjoying the journey for what it is: a break from your usual routine, and the opportunity to experience something new.
Peace of mind
To travel with peace of mind and reduce any anxiety or concerns regarding the “what-ifs,” ensure that you always travel with travel insurance. A travel agent can advise on the best insurance for your needs and holiday. It’s also a good idea to have a list of emergency contact details on hand, such as the local embassy, and a phone number, such as your hotel, where friends and family back home can reach you.
Concerns over finances can be the biggest culprit when it comes to travel stress. The best way to avoid these worries is to save up specifically for your trip rather than dipping into your savings or current bank account to go on that well-deserved holiday.
“My partner and I have a special account that we contribute a certain amount to each month. We both have incurable wanderlust, so that account is dedicated to settling costs relating to our yearly travels. It is separate from our regular bank accounts, and doesn’t interfere with our day-to-day living expenses at home,” says Charlene Alberts from Pretoria.
Making everyone happy
Unless you’re travelling solo, you’ll have the needs and expectations of other people to consider when planning a getaway. Accept that it will be almost impossible to keep everyone happy all the time. Having said that, be sure to get input from each person and structure an itinerary that includes things to see and do that takes everyone’s likes and preferences into consideration. That doesn’t necessarily mean only doing things that everyone will enjoy, but rather compromising. For example, going hiking on one day (as requested by your husband) and attending the local funfair the next (for the kids).
For many, the most daunting aspect of travel is the actual act itself. Flying to your destination means having to endure cramped spaces, sitting for long periods, and possibly having to keep young children busy with minimal resources. Luckily, air travel doesn’t have to be stressful. Reduce your worries by pinpointing what it is about flying that is stressing you out the most. If it’s missing your flight or standing in lengthy queues at the airport, make sure that you arrive a good few hours before the plane is due to take off. If it’s the amount of time spent in the air, consider booking a connecting flight that will allow you a break in between. There are many ways to maximise the enjoyability of air travel, even on the longest of flights.
Worrying about things at home
It’s to be expected that you’ll have reservations and concerns if you have pets or are leaving some close family members behind. While you cannot eliminate this type of travel-related stress completely, it’s certainly possible to keep it to a minimum. But it’s all in the planning!
Start by drawing up a check-list of everything that you need to do before you leave. Buy dog food, brief the house sitter etc. and work through that list systematically as your departure date approaches. Also, arrange that the house sitter/pet sitter/childminder communicates with you regularly. Agree on a specific time each day that you’ll be expecting an update. This way, you’ll be able to relax in between each catch-up, instead of constantly checking in and worrying if you don’t get an immediate reply.
Visiting a new destination means navigating your way through an unfamiliar place and culture. Instead of viewing this aspect of travel as stressful, try to see it as part of the fun. Trying new things, meeting new people and exploring a different way of life makes for an unforgettable experience and memories you’ll treasure forever.
Stress-free travel is possible. But it takes the combination of careful planning and a positive mindset to transform travels to simply the best.