Once you’ve travelled stress-free, you’ll never want to travel any other way! Let’s take a look at what that is and how you can make it happen on your next trip.
The curses of everyday life make stress-free travelling invaluable
Ever experienced this? It’s 8 a.m., you’re sitting at your work desk, and you feel like you’re made of nothing but tiredness—every one of your cells is suffering. Deep down, you know: You have absolutely no desire to be here. This job not only is not fulfilling… it’s actively sucking the life out of you and leaving blisters everywhere like a damn mosquito. You’ve barely taken two sips of your lukewarm coffee, yet you’re already daydreaming about your next getaway. It won’t be long now before it finally starts!
You have to work late again because your boss thinks you’re indispensable and he thinks he can take advantage of you as he pleases. And so it begins… When you stumble home in the evening, completely exhausted, you have no energy left to pack or do even the most mundane tasks. So you postpone everything until next morning…
With the result that you have severely underestimated the final preparations which turn out to be an humungous mountain of teeny tiny tasks. It quickly becomes a race against the clock—and we all know you HATE this. You arrive at the airport late. A queue of disgruntled travellers forms behind you at security because you have to fumble for all the liquids in your bag, which only increases your nervousness and bad mood.
At your travel destination, you realise that you’ve left a plethora of essential items at home. Whoops.
You can hardly find a moment’s peace, because you’re already behind on your meticulously planned sightseeing itinerary. You want to see everything and drink in all the beauty while you’re here. Annoyance brews within you as you spot several influencers who strike poses so cringing you wouldn’t even dare to mimic them in your dreams. (You don’t want to attract a bad dream, after all.)
A glimmer of hope emerges in you, because you still have one stop ahead of you. But when you get there, reality hits you in the face like a wet towel: SOLD OUT—no tickets left. Your stomach rumbles with hunger, and your mood enters the HANGRY MODUS (alert—we’re entering the danger zone). You turn to Google Maps in search of a fancy restaurant, but once again, time is not on your side. And so you have to settle for the first option. The food tastes like something indefinable, and you don’t really want to know what you’ve eaten. You drag yourself back to the hotel and hope that the next day will be better…
And so, your trip, which in your imagination promised absolute freedom and relaxation, turns out to be a catastrophic calamity—and quite the opposite of stress-free travel.
When your trip is over, you have about 242 new photos on your mobile phone—enough to post on Social Media for the upcoming weeks. But you don’t feel refreshed. You would actually like to have a vacation from the vacation you just had, right now. But unfortunately, you have to enter the realm of the living dead again the next day, and return to your unfulfilling job. Yay…
I don’t know about you, but it sounds like a horrible trip. It makes me feel bad although I haven’t had a trip like this in a long time.
What is a recreative and stress-free travel?
Now that we have a clear understanding of how we absolutely do NOT want to spend our vacation, what is the alternative?
For me, an ideal vacation is relaxing—it’s a sanctuary of serenity, where I don’t have to worry about anything; where I can relax my mind and forget the troubles of daily life. It’s a harmonious blend of relaxation and exploration. And yes, with careful planning, you can achieve both!
It’s about finding the balance between exploration, adventure and recreation. It’s not about seeing every marvel the chosen place has to offer (this is pretty impossible after all)—but about creating meaningful experiences. It’s about creating experiences that move you, that ground you, that make you feel happy and grateful.
A fulfilling vacation is highly personal and looks different for everyone. For me, a meaningful experience is visiting the National Botanic Gardens of Ireland in Dublin. I’m fascinated by the different plants and flowers that grow there, and can spend my whole day watching squirrels and crows while enjoying the buzzing sounds of bees and bumblebees. Whereas for you, that might be boring, and you’d rather take a tour of the Irish Whiskey Museum. Both are perfectly valid—there is no right or wrong!
Explore less—and what you really want to. Don’t aimlessly explore a destination, but narrow your focus to what truly matters to you. In other words, prioritise quality over quantity.
A stress-free travel also means embracing slow travel. Craft a well-thought-out plan, but leave room for breaks and unexpected detours. There’s nothing worse than chasing a packed schedule even when you’re on holiday. Allow yourself the luxury of flexibility.
This seagull looks pretty stress-free, don’t you think so? Photo taken in Dublin, Ireland, 2023.
Why should you make traveling stress-free an absolute priority?
There are many reasons why stress-free travel is worthwhile. Let’s take a look at a few of them:
#1 You can fully enjoy the trip
By travelling stress-free, you grant yourself the gift of joy. Gone are the worries about forgotten essentials or missed opportunities. You know you can enjoy your trip because you are well-prepared. You will feel less overwhelmed, and rushed footsteps won’t dictate your pace any longer.
#2 You can cater to your needs better
If you make a flexible plan, you can react better to the unexpected. If you only have a few things planned, you can spontaneously decide on something that suits your mood better. Don’t feel like going to a museum right now? No problem, find a park!
#3 You nurture your well-being
Travelling can be mentally and physically exhausting: You leave your familiar surroundings and find yourself submerged in a sea of new experiences. You may have to get used to a new time zone, and are exposed to new culinary delights. If you make an effort to prioritize stress reduction as much as possible, you will do your well-being and your health a favour. This, in turn, makes for a more enjoyable and relaxing experience.
#4 You are more relaxed
Sounds obvious, but if you travel stress-free, you will tend to feel more relaxed. This means that you will get along better with your travel companions, for example—you will be able to communicate better and have a better relationship with each other. Stress often leads to misunderstandings, tension and conflicts. If you are relaxed, this happens less.
#5 You will create many positive, lasting memories
When you focus on stress-free travel, you will tend to have more positive memories of your holiday. You will know that you made the most of your trip and included everything you wanted to see and do.
The basic for a recreative trip
The most important factors for a stress-free travel are your mindset and your expectations.
Say goodbye to the idea that your journey must conform to the standards of an Instagram-worthy spectacle. It’s NOT about being able to brag about having seen all the must-see places, or ticking off a list of tourist hotspots while looking absolutely fabulous and impeccable.
Instead, it’s about seeking experiences that resonate with you. These moments will become memories you’ll gladly look back to.
It’s about being present in every moment, and fully engaging with a place. It’s about being attuned to the nuances that often escape our casual observation. It’s about looking up and back, searching for different and unusual perspectives, and being curious rather than only looking straight ahead. It’s about carefree exploration, discovering new places, and going wherever your feet take you.
Try to let go of unrealistic expectations of vacations, and do the best you can to set yourself up for a stress-free trip.
Five practical strategies for stress-free travel
Strategy #1: Start planning early
A few years ago, I longed to travel to Canada. I had this picture in my mind: Travelling through the autumnal landscapes in an RV, whale watching, finding a new state of mental relaxation… I thought the flight ticket would be the most important thing, so I booked that. I assumed I would still have enough time to take care of accommodation and whatnot.
Turns out: that was so naive that it hurts in hindsight. I thought that booking things 2 months in advance would be early enough, but I didn’t know that it was the peak tourist season in Canada on the date of my trip. I checked out countless providers & couldn’t find a single free motorhome. The prices for the last available rental cars were astronomically high, out of my budget. All campsites were fully booked; at best I could have stayed in a toilet cabin. It turned out to be a dead-end street for me, and I had to cancel my Canadian vacation with a heavy heart… It was an expensive and hard-hitting lesson for me, and the opposite of stress-free travel.
The best way to avoid last-minute stress is to start planning early. If you can, it’s worth starting a couple of months before—even 6-12 months before, depending on the destination! This not only has the advantage of giving you early certainty and allowing you to relax and look forward to your trip. But you can also save money, for example when booking flights.
Think about the following questions when planning your trip:
- Where do you want to go?
- How long do you want to stay there?
- What kind of trip do you want to do? (e.g. camping, city trip, …)
- What is your budget?
- When is the high tourist season? Do you have enough time to plan and book everything, or are you already too late?
- What is the weather like most of the time?
- Are there any special entry requirements? Do you need a visa or do you have to apply for entry? (You may need to do this if you want to travel to the USA, for example).
What I learned from my Canada fail: I never book only a flight, but also accommodation and, if necessary, a rental car. A flight alone is no use if you don’t have a place to stay afterwards or can’t get away from the airport.
Strategy #2: Check what you need on your chosen destination
Once you have decided on a destination, one of the next important steps is to find out what you will need when you get there. And organise this early enough to truly enjoy a stress-free trip. For example:
- Do you need specific vaccinations to enter the country?
- Do you need cash or can you pay by card almost everywhere, like in Norway?
- If you need cash—do you need to change your local currency to a foreign currency, like when you travel from an EU destination to the USA?
- Do you need an electricity adapter for the country, like when you travel from the EU to Ireland?
These are all small things, but they can make your life a lot easier. Imagine you are in a foreign country and can’t charge your smartphone. Looking for an adapter with 5% of your battery left is a hassle you can avoid!
Bonus Tip: Make sure you have some backup options. For example, make a copy of your passport and important documents. If something goes wrong, it’ll be much easier to get everything back on track.
Strategy #3: Create a roadmap
If you have done tips 1 and 2, you now know where you want to go and what you need to keep in mind when preparing.
Now comes one of the best and most fun parts!
The best part about travelling is choosing all the spots you want to see. I’m sure there are a lot of things you want to see. To avoid being overwhelmed and packing the schedule too full, this is what has worked for me for stress-free travels:
- I search on Pinterest for inspiration and travel tips. Search terms that give fairly good results are, for example, “CITY tips”, “CITY tour”, just “CITY”, or “CITY aesthetic”. Once you find a pin you like, Pinterest will show you other similar ones—that’s what I love about this platform!
- I look for the places I find cool and interesting on Google Maps. There I usually read the reviews to find out more.
- I create different lists on Google Maps and save these places there: one for food, one for “sightseeing must”, and one for “nice to see”.
This is what my roadmap for “Dublin: Food” looked like, for example. I had picked out more restaurants than I needed so that we could be flexible and, for example, pick one spontaneously. Screenshot taken from Google Maps.
You can get completely lost in this task and before you know it, hours have passed. But it’s just so much fun!
Strategy #4: Book tickets online in advance
Once you have chosen the places you would like to see, the next thing is to find out what you need tickets for. This depends on the destination and the place. Some places are accessible without a ticket and others are pre-booked months in advance.
For places that are popular, it is worth booking early and playing it safe. If you don’t want to make that commitment right away, I can recommend keeping an eye on the place for a few days or weeks: Check the ticket page every now and then. Are the tickets selling fast? Or are there usually a few free slots at short notice?
That’s what I did with the Guinness Storehouse tour in Dublin, for example. I checked for a few days how the tickets were going. There were still some available at relatively short notice. That’s why I booked the tickets only two days before, when I was already in Dublin. Not everyone was so lucky, because on the day of the tour, people were rejected at the entrance because the tour was completely booked.
Another advantage of online tickets is that you can usually skip the line and go straight in. So you usually save a lot of time.
So see what the ticket demand is like and book online in advance where possible.
Bonus Tip: Once you’ve booked a ticket, mark the time in your calendar or planner! This way, you’ll make sure that you won’t forget any important ticket slot.
Strategy #5: Write a travel list
Are you also a list lover? Then this tip will make you pleased!
To not forget anything important at home, it is helpful to write a list of things you want to take with you. It’s worth starting the list a little earlier. Maybe you know how it is that you keep thinking of things you want to take with you. And since we all know that our brain is like a sieve, it’s even more important to write down the ideas when you have them.
When it comes to packing, it’s helpful to think through a typical day from morning to night: What are you going to do, and what do you need in terms of clothing, electronics, accessory and more?
Use this “Travel Essentials” list as a starting point and inspiration to write your own list:
Bonus Strategy: Brush up your home
I know, you might be thinking: Huh, I should do even more for stress-free travels? Yes! This last tip has helped me so many times, so I’m sharing it with you!
Your future self will most likely be glad to see this: If you have time and can do it, tidy up your home. Wash dirty clothes, clean key surfaces, vacuum key rooms, sort out the fridge and get rid of the rubbish.
It may be annoying just before a holiday. But trust me, if you do it, coming home will feel so much better! There’s nothing worse than coming home to 12 new tasks waiting for you before you can put your feet up unhurriedly and without feeling guilty.
Now it’s your turn
These are the basics you need for stress-free travel. Which of these will you implement next time? Let me know!
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