How To: Plan a Stress-Free Vacation to Recharge

Where vacation is meant to be stress-free, to relax and recharge, you will probably recognize that the days before often don’t feel that way at all.

The result? Feeling exhausted on your vacation, and not able to enjoy the first few days. And yes, I struggled with this a lot.

It was even so bad that I passed out on the plane during one of my vacations… That’s when the alarm bells went off. This had to change!

During the vacations that followed, I started to improve my preparations. And with success!

In fact, on my last vacation, I prepared it so well that I could have left two days earlier. Of course, I didn’t, but it made such a difference that it felt that way.

And I wish that everyone could experience that feeling! Because everyone deserves a stress-free vacation, which you can fully enjoy from the first second.

Umbrella under the blue sky

The importance of a stress-free vacation

I know that I am privileged since taking days off in the Netherlands is very normal. My managers also encouraged it a lot.

However, I know this is not the case everywhere in the world, although you are probably entitled to days off. And that’s for a reason! Taking a few days off, and therefore checking out from work, is necessary for your overall health.

In addition to recharging your energy levels and therewith reducing the chance of burnout, you will also notice that your productivity and creativity improve. Especially with a stress-free vacation. Because if you go on vacation, but still think about work all the time, these days off won’t do much for you.

Related article: The Power of Self-Care: Prioritize Your Well-Being

Preventing work stress before your vacation

What you do in the weeks leading up to your vacation can mean a lot in how you leave. With a few adjustments and preparatory work, everyone can do it. Trust me!

Through trial and error, I found out that the following tactics work best for me to go on a stress-free vacation. And hopefully, they can also help you.

  • Plan and communicate in advance
  • Set early deadlines
  • Create a to-do list
  • Prioritize and delegate
  • Organize your workspace
  • Write a handover
  • Prepare your first working day
  • Practice self-care
  • Set an out-of-office message

Plan and communicate in advance

Spontaneous going on a last-minute vacation can feel great, but it’s not very good for your stress. This since it also means that you have to arrange everything at work last minute.

Instead, plan vacations in time and inform your colleagues and stakeholders. In this way, everyone knows about it in advance and they can take it into account.

Set early deadlines

Currently, I am someone who doesn’t set deadlines for colleagues/stakeholders on the actual deadline day. This since it happened too often that people delivered things too late, which caused me to get stressed.

Due to this, I realized that it worked better for everyone if I set deadlines 2-3 days earlier. Especially when it comes to something that may receive feedback. And I definitely recommend doing this before you go on a vacation.

Depending on the type of task, I use 3-5 business days earlier than the actual deadline for myself. This gives you the space to arrange everything on time.

Do you want to read it later? Save it on Pinterest!

Create a to-do list

To get a good insight into what needs to be done before your holiday, it is smart to make a to-do list. It doesn’t matter if it’s online or on paper.

By doing this, you won’t forget the most important tasks, but it also feels like your vacation is getting closer and closer when you get to cross off a completed task.

Prioritize and delegate

Not all tasks on your to-do list are equally important. And not all tasks have to be done before you go on vacation. So take a good look at what’s on your list, and prioritize what really needs to be done before you leave.

There are probably also tasks on your list that you don’t necessarily have to do, and may not even be part of your job. Therefore, also look at which things a colleague can/should take over from you.

Although something might only take 30 minutes, it does give you those 30 minutes available to spend on tasks that you really need to do yourself.

Organize your workspace

You may already know, but a messy workplace (at home) unconsciously causes chaos in your head. This since you are much easier distracted by everything there is.

Doing a quick cleanup for 15-30 minutes can already make a big difference. This not only applies to your physical desk but also to your documents and mailbox.

It will help you to concentrate in the last days before your vacation. And let’s be honest, coming back from a great stress-free vacation to a clean desk feels much better, doesn’t it?

Related article: 9 Tips For Minimizing Workplace Distractions

Write a handover

Although you prepare everything well, it is not always possible to prevent that some work needs to be done during your vacation for current projects.

Obviously, this should not be done by you! Therefore, write these tasks down and discuss them with the colleagues to whom you will be handing them over.

That way you know if they understand everything, and provide them with further information if necessary. Once this handover is ready, all you have to do is send it to your colleagues.

Bonus tip: ask in the handover if your colleagues will send you an email on the last day of your vacation with an update on everything. In this way, you know exactly what the status of everything is when you get back. They can also include other relevant information, so you are quickly up to date when you start working again.

Prepare your first working day

Before you go on vacation, you might not prefer to think about your first day back at work. But this part is quite important if you want to get the most out of your days off.

By thinking about this beforehand, you ensure that you don’t return to work overwhelmed.

Therefore, completely block the first working day that you return to work – and ideally, even plan this as a work-from-home day.

If both of these aren’t possible, try to block at least the first few hours, so you prevent people from just scheduling a meeting at 9 am. That’s not how you want to start your first day at work.

Practice self-care

The importance of self-care for a healthy work-life balance is becoming more well-known. Although you have a vacation ahead of you, you should not forget this.

Some people see a vacation as self-care, so they don’t pay attention to it beforehand. But that is certainly not the case.

If you have a long car ride or flight ahead of you, you want to start this as relaxed and energized as possible.

For example, end your last working day with a long relaxation massage or go to the beach, and make sure you get enough sleep.

See what fits in your agenda and suits you as a person, but don’t forget about self-care in the run-up to your vacation.

Related article: Create a Self-Care Routine: The Practical Guide

Set an out-of-office message

Ready to go? The last thing you need to do now is to write an out-of-office email.

In this way your colleagues and external stakeholders know that you are temporarily unavailable. Tell them when you’ll be back and who to contact in the meantime. An example could be:

Hi there,

Thanks for your message.

At the moment I am enjoying my vacation and therefore not available. On [date] I am back to work and I will then get back to your email as soon as possible. If you have any urgent questions in the meantime, please reach out to [name] [email address].

[your name]

Bonus tip: I was even encouraged by one of my managers to say in my out-of-office mail that I was on vacation for a day longer than I actually was.

This prevents people knocking on your door on your first day to remind you of their (not so important) mail, while your mailbox is overflowing. Instead, you have plenty of time to update your mailbox and assess what is really important.

Tune out during your vacation

At the beginning of my career, I found it quite difficult to completely check out from work during a vacation. It felt like I had to be available in case of any (urgent) questions.

Of course, this is nonsense. But since people knew that I could be reached, I received messages.

Due to this, I couldn’t fully enjoy my vacation, and that’s a shame! I know this had to change and after some trial and error I came to the following strategy:

  • Remove your work email and calendar from your phone (if you have a work phone, it’s even easier; put it in a drawer and only take it out after your vacation)
  • Mute WhatsApp groups related to work (in some cases I just temporarily leave the chat completely)
  • Mute the social media accounts of the organization
  • Remove LinkedIn from your phone (certainly relevant if you have a job that requires you to use this platform on a daily/weekly basis)

Everyone has a different work situation (function, organization, etc), and what works and what doesn’t can of course vary greatly per person.

Try out different things. Because no matter where you are during your vacation, if you are constantly available for colleagues/stakeholders and check your mail, you cannot fully charge.

And if there really is a big problem, your manager can always call you. But people are less likely to do that anyway, so the chance of that happening is minimal.

Return to work quietly

Only a few people are excited to go back to work at the end of their vacation. And I can imagine if you don’t have that!

There is a full mailbox and a lot of work waiting for you… Fortunately, you already made some preparations before your vacation.

You blocked (a part of) your first working day in your agenda, so you can slowly update your mailbox instead of starting the day with a list of meetings.

Besides these preparations, there are a few other things that may help you not feel overwhelmed on your first day back at work.

  • Read the update mail from your colleagues
  • Call your manager
  • Send your emails the next day
  • Take enough breaks

Read the update mail from your colleagues

If you have sent a handover mail to the relevant colleagues, see if you have received a response with an update in the meantime.

That way you know immediately whether everything went well and whether there are things you need to get started with right away.

Call your manager

Check in briefly with your manager to find out if there are any important updates to keep in mind when you dive into your inbox.

Perhaps you can immediately put some emails away because that has already been picked up. It’s nice if you know that right away, instead of spending time on it.

Send your emails the next day

Especially when you have told people you will be away for an extra day, this is smart. This prevents you from receiving a response to your email within a short period of time, so that your mailbox does not shrink.

You can create your response as a draft email so you only have to click on “send” the next day. But in many mail programs you can schedule an email to be sent at the time you want.

Take enough breaks

On the first day after a vacation, we often feel that we need to update everything as soon as possible. But don’t forget to take enough breaks.

Go for a walk, drink a cup of coffee outside, or have a long lunch. It will help you to feel less overwhelmed.

Related article: 56 Self-Care Activities of 30 Minutes or Less

A stress-free vacation is not just an escape from work, it also has many benefits for your overall health. With the right preparations, you ensure that your work is completed as well as possible before you go on your vacation. Your colleagues know what to do and by turning off work communications completely, you will succeed in enjoying your well-deserved vacation to the fullest. With the right preparations, you can even manage not to feel overwhelmed on your first day back at work. So get out and enjoy your stress-free vacation!

Don’t miss anything

Subscribe to the newsletter
and stay up to date.

Popular categories


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

5 responses to “How To: Plan a Stress-Free Vacation to Recharge”
  1. Tracy McHugh

    Such great tips! Planning early is important but so is squaring away work stuff.

  2. Hayley McDonnell

    So many great tips here that I hadn’t thought of. Thanks for sharing

  3. Sometimes it is quite stressful going on vacation because there seems to be a thousand things to do before you go. Thanks for this list – it will go a long way to making it a little less stressful 🙂

  4. This is really helpful! Thank you for these travel tips!

  5. Wow, what a fantastic and helpful article! You have covered everything to allow you to actually enjoy and make the most of your vacation. Thank you for sharing!

Don’t want to miss anything?

Subscribe to the bi-weekly Femmelution newsletter and stay up to date.