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How to Quickly Shift Into Vacation Mode

Updated: Oct 27, 2019

Tips + tricks for settling into a calm, bliss-producing state of mind as soon as you start your vacation.

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Does is usually take you a few days to feel like you’re on vacation? A few days to stop obsessively checking your phone or feeling like there’s somewhere you need to be, or a task you need to complete? We used to answer yes to these questions on every vacation, which made us feel like we were getting jipped out of half our trip because our minds were stuck on the obligations of home. We’re way too cheap to allow ourselves to continue with that pattern.

To move past our vacation-mode deficit we dissected what was happening on the vacation days that didn’t feel like vacation days, and what we could change about them. The result was seven practices that now allow us to slip into vacay mode as quickly as a six-year-old tearing through gifts on Christmas morning.

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Tie Up Loose Ends

Woman sitting at a white desk with her laptop, headphones, day planner and coffee, tying up loose ends at work so she can quickly shift into vacation mode.

As one of the biggest killers of vacation mode is worrying about work or home tasks that were left incomplete, tie up the essential lose ends before you depart. However, be discerning with what’s actually essential.

We used to work like crazy people the week before vacation, as we had the misconception that we had to complete EVERY SINGLE THING on our to-do lists before departing. This sometimes wore us out so much we ended up sick on vacation. Don’t follow our lead. Instead, complete the to-dos that actually have to be crossed off, and allow everything else to chill until you return.

Start a Good Book In Transit

A stack of three books that will be read during vacation, on a table at a beach with thatched umbrellas.

Give your mind a taste of what it’s like to do something simply for pleasure by resisting the urge to only work while traveling to your destination, and instead cracking that book you’ve been dying to read. Getting hooked on a book will give you something to do when you get idle hands by the pool and are tempted to open the email app on your phone.

Balloon Meditation

Woman standing at the bow of a boat holding a bundle of golden, helium balloons.

Thoughts of to-dos, worries, and insecurities love to steal attention from a vacation. Take away their power by temporarily taking them out of your mind. To do this, close your eyes, take five deep breaths, then envision all the thoughts you don’t need to be expending energy on during vacation breaking away from your mind and floating into a balloon floating above your head.

If the thoughts in the balloon are ones that need to be dealt with at a later time, write them down and set the list aside for when you return home. If the thoughts are ones that can fully be released, envision clipping the string attaching the balloon to your mind and watch it float away into oblivion.

To start each day of your trip with a light + open mind and energy, do this meditation every morning before getting out of bed. If you feel the thoughts creeping back in later in the day, just repeat the exercise - it often takes less than 60 seconds.

Indulge in Pampering

A blonde woman in a hot tub pampering herself during vacation.

As a lovely indulgence like a massage, facial or yoga class gives your mind and body a strong signal that it’s time to unwind, this bit of pampering can quickly dissolve many of your chill-vibe barriers. If possible, book this activity before you depart, and schedule it for the first day of your trip.

Create a Work Plan

Woman in pink pants sitting cross-legged on a white comforter with a laptop on her lap, and a latte in her hand, working during a trip.

If you’re not able to fully check out of work during vacation, because of obligation or desire, you can prevent work from taking over the trip by creating a plan for when you will and will not work, then committing to the plan.

For example, maybe you make a plan to work one hour in the morning and one hour in the afternoon, or three hours in the morning. It’s also helpful to inform your fellow travelers of this plan so they don’t feel resentful when you’re working, and you’re not put in the position of resenting them because they’re distracting you. Win win.

Limit Phone Use

A cellphone on a white desk next to a red travel journal, white candle, and succulent.

As our phones are often a hopelessly distracting appendage, it’s important to make a plan about phone use when on vacation. For example, maybe you can commit to only checking your phone three times a day for 30 minutes, and only for email - or whatever feels reasonable.

In addition, as nothing sucks us out of the present moment faster than social media, resist the urge to fall down that rabbit hole, at least night during the day. And if you can’t help posting a photo of you drinking booze out of that giant coconut while a spider monkey sits on your shoulder, close out the app before you start scrolling through that intoxicating feed.

Immerse Yourself in the Culture

Brunette woman in black skirt and a white shirt, wearing a backpack, and standing in front of a temple while traveling.

One of the quickest ways to settle into a new location is to walk around the community, observe locals, try the popular cuisine, and check out highlights of the area. This ASAP immersion will remind your brain that it’s no longer in the daily grind of home, but in a new setting that calls for exploration, presence, and possibly, slowing down. In addition, if you experience travel anxiety, getting to know your current destination will help soothe nerves with the elixirs of familiarity, distraction and discovery.


A man and woman jogging across a bridge to settle into vacation mode.

While vacation might seem like the perfect time to shirk your exercise routine, skipping exercise can actually make you feel off-balance, fatigued and grumpy during your getaway. With that said, it might not be possible to adhere to the exact exercise program you follow at home, because of circumstances like time and available equipment.

But, pretty much every location offers opportunities for walking, jogging, or even some simple yoga in your hotel room. Committing to getting at least 30-minutes of exercise on most days of your vacation will keep your endorphins flowing, and your mind clear so you can fully settle into the joy of your travels.

Maintain Healthy Eating

A marble table covered in breakfast food like waffles and oatmeal covered in fresh fruit.

Much like exercise, our eating habits usually shift when we're away from our regular routine. While you will likely need to make certain dietary compromises while you’re away (especially if you’re traveling internationally), you can still make healthy choices, commit to not over eating, and of course, allow yourself the occasional indulgence, because hey, you’re on vacation.

And, fueling your body with fare it’s used to will prevent vacation distractions like constipation, bloating lethargy, and a short temper. In addition, staying on top of your water intake will set you up for low stress level, and smooth moves...

Honor Your Needs

Woman sitting on a balcony with her legs resting on a table as she scrolls through her phone.

Things that rarely happen during day-to-day life are resting when we’re tired, eating when we’re hungry and taking alone time when we need alone time. A blessing of many vacations is that there’s often more flexibility to honor these needs when they crop up.

Take advantage of that flexibility, pushing aside the guilt, hesitation and resistance that years of unhelpful conditioning usually heaps on us when we try taking care of our own needs. And honestly, doing what you need to do to feel good will make everyone else’s vacation better as well.


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