Have You Ever Relaxed on Vacation?

Most vacations I’ve ever taken have been purposeful. We’re going to this place to see these things, eat this food, hang out with specific people, etc. That’s even the case for more low-key vacations, like family reunions or trips to the Gamer’s Ranch.

Partially as a result of this sense of purpose (added to the stress of travel and the work that can pile up when I’m only answering emails remotely), there have been times when I get back from vacation feeling like I need a vacation. I honestly can’t think of a time when I returned home more relaxed than when I left. Have you?

Yet surely there are people who have figured out how to actually relax on vacation. And not just relax: Relax without getting bored. That’s a tough balance for me.

Have you ever taken a truly relaxing vacation? What did you do (or not do)? How did it work? Where was it? I’m so curious!

18 thoughts on “Have You Ever Relaxed on Vacation?”

  1. I know exactly how you feel about being able to switch off when on holiday/vacation – but the older I’ve got the more I’ve taken the attitude that you’re entitled to a break/vacation/holiday from the hard work you’ve put in during the year, so delegate tasks/responsibilities and only worry about it when you get back I.e. don’t look at emails, and only tell people to contact you if there is an emergency/issue they can’t handle themselves.

    With 3 kids I’ve found the more stressful part of a holiday/vacation is the travel part itself – but this has gotten better as they have gotten older, and the experience we’ve given them with travelling around the world now means they are travelling themselves with no concerns.

    Best holiday where we relaxed/switched off was just before CoVid in late 2019 – Copenhagen, Bruges, Salzburg and Prague – in winter with all the Christmas markets and snow – loved it. We had planned the odd thing before we went, but generally just took our local guide books and found stuff off the beaten/tourist track.

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    • Thanks for relating to this, Stuart! I’m guessing that adding kids to the equation can also add to the stress, so I’m glad you’ve had good experiences in recent years. Your trip to Europe sounds lovely!

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  2. Hi Jamey.

    I definitely hear you on holidays not necessarily being so relaxing, but the exception to the rule for me has been almost any onsen stay I have had in Japan. Before going, you know that your plan is to do absolutely nothing but pamper yourself, so we grab a couple of board games, rent a car and after we arrive it is nothing but relaxation. The ryokan prepares the meals, and given that you are often in a remote area, there is nothing to do but relax in the room, play some games and take a bath whenever you feel like it – often multiple times a day.

    With the internet, and especially with smart phones, you are always contactable and you are always able to do some work, but I would not answer anything that was not possible to put off until I got back. As regards work piling up, I find that there is always plenty of work to do anyway so unless it is urgent, I try not to think about it until I am back in the office. It may mean that I have to work a bit harder when I get back (or before I go) but it’s definitely worth it!

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    • Hi Jamey.

      I definitely hear you on holidays not necessarily being so relaxing, but the exception to the rule for me has been almost any onsen stay I have had in Japan. Before going, you know that your plan is to do absolutely nothing but pamper yourself, so we grab a couple of board games, rent a car and after we arrive it is nothing but relaxation. The ryokan prepares the meals, and given that you are often in a remote area, there is nothing to do but relax in the room, play some games and take a bath whenever you feel like it – often multiple times a day.

      With the internet, and especially with smart phones, you are always contactable and you are always able to do some work, but I would not answer anything that was not possible to put off until I got back. As regards work piling up, I find that there is always plenty of work to do anyway so unless it is urgent, I try not to think about it until I am back in the office. It may mean that I have to work a bit harder when I get back (or before I go) but it’s definitely worth it!

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    • That sounds wonderful! I like the idea of using a spa-like place as the hub–it guarantees that there will be some true relaxation every day!

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  3. I have the same “problem”, although I don’t see it as a one. Whenever I’m on vacation I want to DO stuff, explore, adventure, see new places, I can’t be just sitting down on my butt and do nothing, if that makes sense. The only times I can say I am really relaxing is when I’m at a beach-y place like Hawaii, then I let myself just sit next to the pool or on the beach for a day or two, in between exploring. And yes sometimes when I come back, I need a vacation, that’s natural I guess but that’s the way I like my time off.

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    • That’s totally true, and generally that’s my approach to vacations too–if I’m taking a week to travel someplace new, I don’t just want to sit around. I’ve just never tried anything different than that, and I want to experience it.

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  4. I am lucky to be able to relax each summer for 2 weeks on Bald Head Island. There are no cars there, beautiful beaches, marshes, wildlife, friendly people, and lots of dogs. It’s very laid back!

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  5. I agree , it can take up to a week after the holiday to recover sometimes with catching up on stuff , getting back into your usual routine.

    A truly relaxing holiday I remember was many years ago we were in a caravan in North Devon, close to the sea. For 5 days solid we had sea mist that was so thick you could barely see your hand in front of your face. Apart from occasional venturing out to the camp shop – we holed up in that cosy van for 5 days, read books and watched tv on a 14” old style portable tv.
    It was relaxing – plenty of sleep, plenty of chill 😎

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    • I like the idea of holing up somewhere cozy! Especially if the place where you’re staying is built for that purpose.

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  6. I’ve done it both ways! I’ve also found a middle ground where I do stuff that I find it restorative and not draining. When I get back from a week in a national park with my best girlfriends with a very low to no agenda vibe, I’m filled right up. We did stuff but only when we wanted to. Beautiful scenery and moving our bodies and good food and great company. I don’t feel like I need a vacation after those 🙂

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    • You know, I hadn’t thought about national park vacations as relaxing, but I can totally see that. My recent trips to Yosemite and Grand Tetons/Yellowstone didn’t feel all that relaxing, as we packed in as much as we could, but there are other approaches–we would have been more intentionally relaxed. Perhaps it’s partially about being on the same page as the other people on the trip.

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  7. Maybe relaxing is an art and it needs to be practiced before it can be mastered.
    Our last two vacations this year were hectic: we went to Washington to visit family and that was jammed pack with activities to squeeze in as much as we could in a 4-day trip. Then we went to Maui and that was great because everything was organized for us in a huge family reunion with professional schedulers, but then there was this fire and a COVID/strepthroat outbreak and so that has become one of the most stressful vacations ever.

    We were planning on going to Disneyland later this year but the vet bills ate up that budget, so maybe we’ll be doing a staycation.

    I think vacations have been relaxing when someone else did all the planning and I was along for the ride – we went to Yosemite and Yellowstone in the past few years and my father-in-law did all the planning and made several versions of an itinerary that we mostly followed. It’s nice to just have one major activity per day that’s already prepared, someone has researched all the nitty-gritty details including parking so I don’t have to think to hard or worry about this or that because he’s already done most of it, and restaurant options have been researched ahead of time, and having enough buffer time where you can do whatever is the closest to a relaxing, not stay-at-home vacation. That said, I don’t know if his children enjoy the itineraries/structure or feeling like they are told what to do. I’m perfectly fine with it most of the time 🙂 He did get upset once, because I got a free yogurt cup and it wasn’t on the schedule…I couldn’t tell if he was serious, but I think he was.

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    • I like both the idea of relaxing as an art and that someone else doing the planning can lead to more relaxation. And I’m glad you got a free yogurt cup even if it wasn’t on the schedule! 🙂

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  8. I’ve never done it—relaxed on vacation, although I’ve often marveled at how I feel drained after very satisfying but not at all relaxing trips. I’ve never been to an all-inclusive resort (e.g., the Mayan Riviera), but I imagine that may be one of the easiest ways to actually travel from home and relax on a trip from the US.

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