Your Vacation Essentials

I leave for Cabo in exactly 68 hours -- but I mean, who’s counting?

Obviously, I’ve been looking forward to this vacation for a while. Over the past few years, it’s become an annual family retreat where we get to kick it under the sun together, catch some waves and drink endless carafes of sangria.  To top it off, my cousins from California are joining us with their babies this time. So, it should be a real treat!

In preparation, I’ve drafted up a Vacation Essentials guide, detailing the top 5 things you should be bringing with you on your next warm-weather retreat… 

Go-To Clothes

Every woman I know has been guilty of over packing. It’s as if we’re programmed to jam half of our closet into one suitcase – you know, “just in case” we need both the magenta and the forest-green leg warmers for our trip to Miami. It’s stupid. And it’s especially stupid when you’re going on a blissful, relaxing getaway where the whole point of the trip is to simplify. So, where do you start? First, make a list and be realistic. You truly need only a few items: necessary toiletries & undergarments, sunglasses, about 2-3 bathing suits, a pair of sandals, sneaks and maybe heels, a few light sundresses, one cover-up in case it’s cold and maybe 1-2 outfits for dining out. Remember: minimalist-chic is in these days, anyway.

Tip: As for choosing which outfits will make the cut, the trick is to honestly ask yourself “would I wear item X right this moment if I was at my destination?” If the answer is no, then you probably won’t wear it period.  Only pack your absolute favorites!

A Good Book

… or five. Thanks to some wonderful gift-giving friends, I’ll be bringing The Paris Review Interviews Volumes I & II for skim-reading, Amy Poehler’s Yes Please! for laughs, and a T.S. Eliot classic to delve into for good measure. I like having different books for different moods, but magazines are always a great poolside hit, too. If you’re more of an auditory learner, download your podcasts or books on tape before you get on the plane so you don’t have to worry about getting a good wifi connection. 

Podcast Suggestions: Alan Watts, Freakonomics, Planet Money

Your Version of A Journal

Call me a dork, but I grew up journaling while traveling and it’s something I’ve always held onto. The act of handwriting something down triggers a different area of your brain and facilitates better recall – and if I want to remember anything, it’s definitely how I felt while on vacation. It’s also therapeutic to take a few moments to reflect and soak up the relaxing vibes. Of course, reading back through vacation/travel journals is a little gift in and of itself and only gets better with time.

Side note: for people who really have a tough time “turning off” from the daily grind while on vacay, journaling is even more helpful. Create a small section of “to do’s.” Next time you’re trying to sip on a Pina Colada and that nagging voice pops up reminding you of an e-mail you forgot to answer before you left, just jot the item down along with a reminder to yourself of why it’s not urgent. Trust me, it helps – this goes for any type of anxiety, too, not just the work-related kind. It’s like transferring your problems to a sheet of paper that you can pick back up on when you return home.

Good Health 

The last way anyone wants to feel when they de-board the plane for vacation is stressed. Unfortunately, that’s usually exactly how people feel, especially when you hail from the Northeast. We work harder and longer than most folks and endure some of the worst winter weather, period. And it’s hard to turn off from all of that sometimes. Personally, I’ve been terribly guilty of this in the past, so there’s a few things I’ve learned.   First, cut out heavy drinking for a full week before you leave, if not more. You don’t want to risk being sleep-deprived, bloated, and worst of all, sick. Second, eat healthfully. It doesn’t mean you need to starve yourself, but you want to look and feel good for your trip. I stick to lots of fruits, vegetables, fish and olive oil before I head out for vacation (and try to in general, as well). Naturally I still allow a little bit of cheese and a glass of wine if I want it (after all, I am preparing for vacation.) For some added health benefits, I also plan to incorporate a fresh juice or smoothie these next 3 days prior to leaving!

A Positive Attitude

Attitude is everything in this world. Whether your flight gets delayed or you forget something important, there’s always something that is bound to go askew. And even if things pan out well logistically, we sometimes build up high expectations around the most irrational aspects of our trip, allowing minor things to bother us much more than they normally would (e.g. a silly quarrel with your significant other or having a sub-par meal out). But just remember the age-old saying that goes “don’t sweat the small stuff… and it’s all small stuff” and you should be just fine.

How do you prepare for vacation? Leave your ideas in the comments below!