Look around any departures lounge on a busy bank holiday, and you'll notice many people don't appear to believe that the words "travel" and "calm" can belong together. But with a little bit of planning and the right mindset, it's surprisingly easy to get where you're going without busting a blood vessel - and even to relax while you're there!
Choose the right destination
If you're planning time off from a stressful job or a busy daily schedule, choose a holiday destination where you can truly switch off while you're away. For some people, this means relaxing on a beach; for others, it might be walking in the mountains or cycling somewhere picturesque; or how about a spa retreat to relax and recharge? What you want to avoid is an overpacked schedule while you're away - so choose a place where simply making time for your favourite leisure activity (or even doing nothing at all) is as pleasant as heading off on constant day trips and sightseeing excursions.
Pick your travel time wisely
If you have the option, try to avoid travelling at times of year when half the country will be trying to travel with you. Bank holidays and Christmas are peak times for getaways, leading to traffic-filled roads and long, stressful queues at airport security. If your diary is flexible, aim to avoid these times altogether; or if travelling around a bank holiday makes economic or scheduling sense for you, try to take a day off either side to make your journey in a relatively calm setting. Think about the time of day you travel as well - try to avoid flight times that leave you struggling to the airport at rush hour, or running for the last train of the night when you arrive home.
Choose your travel mates wisely
Cast your mind back to your least-relaxing holiday, and the chances are the stress you experienced had something to do with the company you were keeping. Travelling with someone who has different priorities from you can work if the relationship is good enough to allow compromise, but can be a recipe for disaster if it means neither of you get the chance to do what you really want. Find a like-minded travel companion who shares your appreciation for hill-walking, art galleries and Etruscan architecture - or if you don't know anyone who fits the bill, try going it alone.
Putting a little forethought into what you need to pack (and how you will pack it) can save you panicked dashes to the shops the day before you travel, or from opening up your suitcase to find none of the clothes you've packed fit, match or suit the climate. Aim to pack light (do you really need four pairs of strappy stilettos for a 7-night beach break?) and keep medicines, valuables and items of personal importance in your hand luggage. See our guide to packing like a pro.
Give yourself plenty of time
Ever been stuck in a mile-long motorway tailback on the way to the airport, or sat on a motionless train or tube with the check-in clock ticking? Delays can and do happen, so factor in plenty of time to your journey and you'll rock up to Departures in a much calmer frame of mind. If you have an early morning flight (or don't fancy a rush-hour drive), consider booking an airport hotel for the night before you travel. You'll wake up in the place you need to be, and that goes a long way to bringing travel stress levels down. Booking an airport lounge is a wonderful treat and can be a great way to relax before your holiday - enjoy a glass of bubbly with runway views before take-off and avoid the general airport hustle.
Try a morning yoga session
A gentle breathing and stretching session by the pool or on the beach can really help you find your inner calm. Either join a local class (many holiday resorts and even campsites offer yoga sessions) or set your own sequence of poses. If you're near a beach, the warm sunshine, fresh sea air and gentle resistance from the sand should really help you kickstart your day; otherwise any quiet space will do. Finish with a freshly-squeezed juice from the breakfast buffet for bonus wellbeing points. For more tips on holiday fitness, read our guide on how to stay fit while travelling. .
Switch off the laptop
The rise of the 'worliday' (working holiday) means more and more travellers are taking laptops away with them to catch up on work emails, check documents and keep in touch with the office. Laptops and tablets can be useful entertainment for long journeys and there are reasons you might want to take one away with you, but if you must take one with you for work (some people find it less stressful to clear emails before returning to work) try to limit the time you spend catching up with the office. An hour in the evening before dinner is more than enough.
Put the phone down, too
Your smartphone is another thing that has its uses when travelling abroad - checking maps, transport timetables and local information is easier than ever thanks to mobile devices and widespread WiFi - but unwinding properly is often easier if you're not constantly plugged in. Resist the urge to Instagram everything and save the hashtags for when you get home; keeping your smartphone holstered means you have the opportunity to connect with the world around you at your own pace, in your own way, and with #nofilter.
Wherever you head in the world - whether it's up an Alp for a week of downhill skiing, to a picturesque coastline for some R&R, or into the woods with a tent - be sure to take the opportunity to get outside. Modern work patterns mean that many of us spend our days in air-conditioned offices with windows that don't open if we're anywhere near a window at all; fresh air and sunshine really do have a restorative effect on office-tired bodies. Get moving with a spot of cycling, swimming or light walking and you'll find your muscles unwind, your spirits lift and you'll probably even sleep better at night. Don't forget to slap on a good SPF!
Catch up on your zzzzzzzs
Holidays should be a time for sleeping in and resting up, but it's amazing how easy it is to find yourself losing out on sleep when on holiday. Late nights at the beach bar followed by early morning starts for sightseeing trips (or just to catch the hotel buffet) mean some of us get less sleep on holiday than we would at home. Make yourself a promise that you won't set an alarm while you're away unless it's absolutely essential - for example, if there's an unmissable travel connection. Allow yourself to sleep in and find a tasty brunch at a local cafe instead of rushing to the buffet; schedule a nap for after lunch; and go sightseeing in the late afternoon, when temperatures are cooler and the light is better for photography anyway. Trouble sleeping on uncomfortable or unfamiliar pillows? Travel like a pro and pack a pillow from home â we guarantee a better night's sleep. Check out our favourite travel pillows for some relaxing inspiration.
Adult colouring books have surged in popularity, and we are completely on-board. Taking an hour out of your day, whether on the plane, train, or beach-side, to enjoy some colouring therapy is a great way to relax. We've even put together a free printable colouring sheet that you can take along on your next holiday. If you haven't already joined in on this relaxing craze, the kids will undoubtedly happily oblige.
If you found this post on tips for relaxing holidays helpful, you may want to read more of our Before You Go articles. Also check out our travel blog for additional inspiration and travel tips to make your holidays hassle-free!
Written by Lise Smith, a former contributor to Lonely Planet's India guidebook - she's seen her fair share of hotel rooms (both grotty and glamorous!). She learned to walk in a hotel corridor in Tunisia, and at the age of three had been on more aeroplanes than buses. Lise writes for a number of local news, technology and arts publications.Top