6 Tips to Ward Off the Post-Vacation Blues

By , SparkPeople Blogger
One of the running jokes on my recent trip to Turkey with two friends was "first-world problems." You know, problems that really aren't problems at all in the grand scheme of life, that have little consequence on your life, that you sometimes feel embarrassed to vocalize. Our problems were of the first-world variety: during a trip to the Aegean Sea, it cost $150 to fill up the tank of our rented Volkswagen Golf; after sitting on the veranda late into the night chatting with my girlfriends, I was covered in two dozen very swollen mosquito bites; we didn't have time to go to the gym and make it to a friend's house on the Asian side of town for cooking class in the same day. Each time we "complained" about one of the aforementioned "problems," one of us would exclaim, "First-world problems!" and we would all laugh and remember we were on vacation. The joy of being on vacation is that you can live in the moment without worrying about anything else back home.

While in real life we're all globally-conscious, career-minded women who juggle stressful and busy (but happy and fulfilling) personal and professional lives, for those weeks we spent together in Istanbul and on the Aegean coast, we could forget it all.

One friend went home after one week and soon posted on Facebook that the post-vacation blues were descending upon her. An engineer who's training for her fourth marathon and preparing to demolish and renovate her kitchen, she quickly felt the peaceful ocean breezes and laid-back mindset evanesce.

For me, I must admit that as much as I love my life, those first few days after a vacation can be rough for me--and I'm sure I'm not alone. As fantastic as your vacation might have been and as much as you enjoy your life back home, the actual and proverbial distance between the two can be rough on the psyche, especially if you face a long journey home. To ease the transition into real life (and by now I think you've caught on that I know I am fortunate to have a pretty wonderful life whether I'm at home or away and that this too might seem like a first-world problem), I have a few tips:

  1. Eat right. I've said before that I get cranky if I don't eat my vegetables. On some trips (rural Guatemala, theme parks with family, road trips), it has been difficult for me to eat enough fruits and vegetables to make my body happy and maintain a healthy vegetarian diet. That wasn't the case on this trip. I ate salads at least twice a day and often finished meals with fresh fruits like cherries and melon.

    Then I began a 23-hour journey home starting at 3 a.m. Knowing that I would be eating three meals plus at least two snacks on planes and in airports, I planned ahead. I packed some snacks and loaded up on water after I passed security. During a long layover in Amsterdam, I sought out yogurt and a veggie sandwich on whole wheat bread so I wouldn't need to rely on questionable airplane food. I ate all the veggies in my airplane meals, skipped the cookies, and asked for a banana and a fruit cup instead. (I was upgraded to first class because the headphone jack in my seat was broken--sweet!) Even though I was exhausted and didn't want to cook, I went to the supermarket and bought plenty of salad ingredients and prepped them so I could eat right without much effort.

    Traveling is stressful, and your immune system needs all the help it can get to ward off all those new germs. Eating right can help. Even if you need to take a few shortcuts from the supermarket, your body will thank you later for reaching for a healthy meal instead of heading to the nearest fast-food joint.

    If you've perhaps stretched the definition of moderation while on holiday, consider those first few days back home a way to get back on track.

  2. Start talking. Or writing. Whether you're gone two days or two weeks, vacations have a magical power. For me, they're like the reset button. No matter how stressed I am before I leave or what I have to do at home when I get off that plane, I am able to return with a clear mind and calm demeanor. Holding on to that mood isn't always easy, and as you return to life's daily tasks, it helps to have something to remind you of the feelings and experiences.

    While I try not to be one of those annoying people who talk incessantly about their vacations, I do like sharing photos, mementos, and stories with those I love. Not only does it help me cling to that feeling of sheer bliss, but it allows them to learn more about me. Whether you catch up with friends over a cup of coffee, call your mom on your way home from the airport, or show photos to your co-workers, talk about your vacation.

  3. Dip your toe back in to real life. When I was younger, I was determined to stay on vacation until the very last moment. That meant flights at odd hours, rushed trips from the airport to the office, and a rough first day back. These days, I am much more relaxed. I try to return home with at least one day to rest before I have to go back to work.

    I arrived home on Friday night, with two days to unpack, put away laundry, call friends, cuddle with my cats, and prep for the week ahead. I was able to enjoy a restful weekend and arrive in the office today with a smile on my face.

    Instead of returning every personal email, cleaning the entire house, and trying to attend every social engagement to which I was invited, I spent a low-key weekend at home, leaving only to go to the supermarket and a wedding shower.

    If you find yourself stressed even before you arrive home, build some R&R into the tail end of your next vacation. After three days in the car with the whole family, ask your partner to give you a few hours to yourself, then reciprocate. If you've just returned from a week on a remote beach with no access to email or the news, start slowly. You'll feel better and more relaxed as you ease your way into the daily grind.

  4. Catch up on sleep. As I said above, I have broken my habit of stretching vacations until the last moment. That means that when I come home, I make sure to get a good night's sleep. Even though I really wanted to drink a cup of coffee and stay up late talking with my boyfriend about my trip, I crashed at 9 p.m. Instead of pushing myself to go for a run, I napped on the couch. And instead of staying late at the wedding shower, I went home so I could get to bed early.

    Lack of sleep affects so many aspects of our lives. By waking up on the right side of the bed, you'll be ready to ease back in to your healthy habits and alleviate lingering jet lag effects.

  5. Let the vacation live on. Among the items I brought back with me were tiny, hand-painted ceramic bowls, several nazars (evil eyes), and a cookbook on Turkish cooking. Today for lunch I packed a salad with bulgur, arugula, carrots, beets, hummus, stuffed grape leaves, and Greek yogurt. Every bite reminded me of my trip. I'm excited to try more recipes to continue to evoke memories of Istanbul. As for the other trinkets, they'll also bring the trip to the forefront of my memory.

    Whether it's a T-shirt, a dish, or a piece of art, something tangible from your trip will be a lasting reminder of that special time in your life. Make room in your budget for something special, or just print some photos from your trip. Whatever it is, don't pack it away. Integrating objects from my travels into my home d├ęcor makes me feel like my memories will never fade.

    All those tickets, trinkets, and receipts that piled up in the bottom of your bags can become time capsules, scrapbook materials, or the basis for your next Vision Collage.

  6. Plan your next trip--or a mini vacation! Part of the excitement of a trip is the planning. My friend and I pored over guidebooks, imagined ourselves lounging on beaches, and monitored the currency exchange for months. Though I'm a firm believer of living in the moment, having something to anticipate is fun. When your employer and wallet will allow, start planning another trip. Imagine the adventures that could await you!

What is your best tip for avoiding the post-vacation blues? How soon after a vacation do you start planning the next one? Do you always go to the same places or choose different ones?

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Thank you for these great tips! I like to sit down and plan the next vacation right away when I return from vacation. This gives me something wonderful to look forward to. Report
excellent article, Among the items I brought back with me were tiny, hand-painted ceramic bowls, several nazars , and a cookbook on Turkish cooking. Today for lunch I packed a salad with bulgur, arugula, carrots, beets, hummus, stuffed grape leaves, and Greek yogurt. Report
i haven't been on a real vacation in years Report
I don't have this problem. I plan ahead but leave some open time while on vacay so not stressed. When I returned to work, yes I would rather not go back to the office however a necessary evil. However I just jumped back into the routine. I come back a day early but only to help w/ time zone changes & allow an extra day for emergencies like flight delays, weather conditions, etc. Also when younger I only got a week for time off. Last decade that changed, most times gone for 2-3 wks but not every year. Used to fly a lot & now prefer road trips.
Recently retired & drove across country to see some family. Was glad to get back home, only sorry I'll need to do it again when we relocate to another state. Report
Thanks for the great information! :) Report
I stopped reading at Vegetarian diet. Too much stuff on this site for vegetarians and women Report
Dearly Beloved and I are heading to Williamsburg later this year. Lots of walking and I need to remember the veggies more. We plan to pack lunches for the drive but I will also pack our hotel frig with veggies and fruits. Report
Good tips. Report
Great suggestions.
glad you enjoyed your vacation. I should get planning one soon . Report
I like your wonderful ideas. Report
I'm just back from vacation today so this is very timely. I got back from my trip on Tuesday and took Wednesday as an additional vacation day. I took a crafts vacation which is typical for me. So I came back with 7 wooden bowls that I had turned on a lathe - the best reminders. I think I've gotten the woodturning out of my system as it's a little too stressful for me. You need to think about every move and angle and a moment's lapse in concentration results in a big gouge in your work which then translates into a much smaller piece after you remove enough to get below the gouge. I went to bed early just about every night. A lovely time. I posted photos on facebook (coming to a blog here soon) and am keeping the vacation alive by the back and forth of comments. Report
Definitely trying to not stretch the last ounce out of the vacation but leaving that cool-down, re-entry phase is very helpful....vacation time is also a tremendous time of temptation for me to just over-indulge in the wrong foods..and I mean go hog-wild! Kind of a "I can go off my DIET" for awhile sagotage. I really have to keep the lifestyle change, moderation attitude at the forefront of my consciousness. Not only helps my attitude, physical well-being, but my wallet.
I went to London in March. I had a marvelous time. I really wanted to stay longer. However, as much as I enjoy being out on the road, it's nice to come back home to a routine.

I've traveled to a bunch of different places. I like seeing something new each time I go somewhere. Am I planning my next trip ? Totally ! I'm thinking either Ireland or Spain may be my next road trip overseas in the winter. I love traveling ! Report
I will be going to France in early October and plan to spend a full week in Paris. Too short for such an incomparable city I know. I will be attending a wedding in Normandy. I recently began a new job and will not be vacationing extensively. I already plan to go to Brazil or Morroco on my birthday in February. Again, just a short leave, a week or so, to treasure myself under the sun. I love to travel and I wish to travel the world in this lifetime. When back, I give myself time to reajust to everyday life. Vacations are a time outside of time. I also try to make any moment a vacation. Since I am single without any children, week nights and week-ends are all free time for myself (even if I have to do some house cleaning and groceries). I just try to cherish every moment and plan fun things to do. Report
My best tip is to vacation often! Right now we have 4 vacations planned. One in two weeks (yay!), one in November, one in April, then another next July. Can you tell we love to travel? We go to Jamaica in November and April, and to our cabin at the lake every summer, so I guess we do go to the same places! We also come home on Friday so that we can unwind before going back to work on Monday. It really works :) Report
Nice blog. I do find that the day at home after the vacation and before returning to work is helpful. It's interesting...it seems to me that part of the beauty of time away from work is that we tend to focus on the "here and now" more than we do when we are at home. I try to focus like that more in my everyday life. Report
I haven't had a "real" vacation in a while, but your tips are great even if like me you end up with a staycation. Just returned from a weekend "ladies trip". We had so much fun planning and organizing. We even had our menus typed with everyone's name as to what she was responsible for bringing. I think it is ok to indulge on vacation as long as you make healthy substitutions as much as possible. I gave up sodas long ago, so I brought a case of bottled water. For breakfast, we had fruit and yogurt and coffee. For our Mexican night, whole wheat tortillas. I tell everyone all the time to schedule a day or 2 off before returning to work. That way you are refreshed not stressed! Like your blog! Report
I think this whole entry is about a "first world problem". Report
My family and I just returned from a trip to Italy, Greece and Turkey, too! We were in Ephesus, though, not Istanbul. And, yes, we brought back "evil eyes," too!

I don't know how to privately email you, so I hope you can read this. I think you know a good friend of mine who was a copy editor at the Enquirer. Her name is Kathy S. I'm pretty sure you're the only Stepfanie at SP, aren't you? She said you worked here when I told her I had joined.

I'm glad you had a good trip! We did, too! Report
Thanks for the great tips! I too have suffered from the lack of vegetables and fruits while traveling, sometimes not realizing what the problem was until after returning. I am traveling to Patagonia later this year and will keep your tips in mind. Report
Hey, thanks. I needed that. I just had surgery (not really vacation), but I needed some advice on how to ease back into my regular life. Report
I go to someplace different, since there are so many places to see. One thing I always do is go to a laundrymat and wash ALL the clothes the day before we get back, so I put away CLEAN clothes when I unpack, as I am tired and don't want to do laundry when I get back. Report
I am always planning for my next vacation, and the next! I love to plan, look for restaurants and interesting sights, and just basically determine all the things that I'd like to see and do while on vacation. I usually don't plan a day-by-day itinerary. I just gather information about things I'd like to do, then make an outline of a plan, leaving room for events and possibilities that just present themselves once I arrive. Report
I enjoyed very much reading your article. Me and my family will be traveling to Turkey in October and I will be thinking of your tips. Thank you. Report
It's a must getting back a day or two early. Sometimes I even come back in the middle of the week so I can take my time before returning to work that Monday.
Traveling is my love. Next trip it's back to Senegal. Report
We have been planning our vacation for 9 months now! This trip is going to be like no other I have ever taken! I am going to Jamaica with my fiancee! I am going to be marrying my best friend there! I have been with him for almost 3 and 1/2 years! We have shared so many up's and down's, but managed to stay together! I believe in my heart that we are soul mates! We don't get to go on many vacations due to work schedules, but when we do, we really enjoy it and love to take pictures so we have the memories to look back on! After Jamaica, life will resume as normal, but the one thing that life can't take away is the memories you will always cherrish in your heart! Report
First: I LOVED Istanbul when I went there!
Second: I just got back a couple weeks ago from vacation to Spain and Morocco, and although I gave myself a day and a half to re-adjust, I never expected to have such a hard time now that I'm back in the US. Everything seems so mundane and unimportant now that I'm back at my desk job doing administrative work. Every day I daydream about quitting my job and spending all of my money backpacking across Europe, but I know that's not realistic, since I have bills to pay and am lucky to even HAVE a job in this economy. I left my heart in Spain, and have been comforting myself with the potential of one day going back to find it. Report
I also take an extra day at the end to re-align before going back to work. Fortunately my job is the kind that when I leave every day, it completely stays at work and my vacations are the same. They are truly vacations away from the everyday grinds.
I leave tomorrow for Colorado and can't wait! Report
I generally have the, 'I love to be back home and finally be able to sleep in my own bed with the cats and eat right and not have to think so hard about taking care of myself' elation as opposed to the post-vacation blues. And a commitment to never leave home again. Of course, my vacation was a 6 day road trip with the kids with four of us in the same cheap motel room. But with great pools and wonderful scenery and swimming in rivers as we passed by. Report
I start planning another one! Report
We travel by RV every summer. I work from the road part of the time we are gone, so that usually keeps me somewhat tied to the "real world". However, I agree that planning the next trip is the best cure. I am always poring over the atlas on the way home, planning for next year!
I ALWAYS take an extra day off work before returning from vacation. I absolutely hate flying (or driving) back from somewhere on a Sunday and going back to work on Monday. Made me such a grouch! With that extra day, I hang around the house, do some laundry, Spark--whatever I want to do. I think my coworkers appreciate this, too! Report
Good ideas. I always get the blues. Since I am decluttering my life I bring back not much in the way of souvenirs but cool fridge magnets and for the last few years I have extended each vacation by one extra day. Report
I do bring back special prints for my walls. they are usually no more than 8x10, or 5x7 just a reminder of my travels. I try to group them together. My travel wall! Report
I haven't had a vacation in 5 years since we drove to CO for my sil's wedding. Even that wasn't really a vacation because we spent 2 days driving with kids ages almost 5, 2, and 5 months. Decided to go last minute. It was nice to get away, just wish we could have stayed longer. Anyways, we haven't had the money to go anywhere big since then. We like to do staycations and our kids haven't complained yet. Report
You've shared some great trips to make a vacation a true vacation! Report
I have no vacation blues this year simply because I don't have the cash (impending layoffs) and I have a back injury that means I have to heal up, so long distance driving is out...so I have to stay home for my breaks. In my job that bites, as one never truly leaves the work unless one leaves the town. Ah well. Normally I plan my vacations a year ahead, not firm dates or plans but simply ideas. Then it all goes into place depending on finances, who is around, my mood and whether I want to spend it with people or run away for the majority on my own...it shifts and moves throughout the year. I normally take one week out to camp on my own, this year I cannot camp so that is out. I stayed at home instead and slept but it wasn't nearly as exciting or interesting. I am a huge believer in exploring your own backyard, its really cool to be a tourist in your own province, territory or country. Then again Canada has so much to offer that I could travel a lifetime and never see it all. :) Report
It seems we always pick the same spots because we don't have much money but this year we went 2 different places, 1 close and 1 far away. That way we had a short trip that was a convention that we incorporated other places into it and one several states away. We spent about 5 days looking over the sites, museums, and monuments, soaking it all in, just in case we never got back. Report
Being a teacher - I have most of my summer off - my vacation. But also being a teacher, I don't do many things during the school year and use the summer to catch up - on cleaning my son's room out to reading - during school I feel guilty if I read something other than a text book. So although not at work - I'm at work catching up for most of the summer. When I do go away it's generally with family - my sister -who is also a spark member and we do try to eat right and get in exercise - it's just what we do now. I don't have the post vacation blues until the first week of school, not when I get home from where ever I've been.

Glad to have you back home - and that you had such a wonderful time with your friends. Report
I travel a lot, and my most recent trip to Europe was a month ago. Besides having a wonderful time, I did not gain an ounce. That made coming home less stressful all by itself. In past trips when I brought home a few extra pounds as a souvenir, the angst kind of nullified the good memories. This time, we ate well , and we walked 105 miles in two weeks. Report
I hate the post vacation blues...I feel it every time...but the best part IS planning the next one!!! Report
Making sure I eat healthy when I'm traveling helps me transition back to real life. Report
I too like to be home 2 days early. I totally need the readjustment. It doesn't matter if it's even a long weekend, 1 or 2 days to get back into the swing prior to hitting the office is necessary for me.

Great article, after the cruise we just took in May, it seemed even more difficult to re-adjust. I guess when you can completely shut down, once you are there, with no phones, computers, no responsibilities, no more planning, a total escape and just doing, makes it more difficult to get back to reality!! Can't wait to go again!!!! Report
Sounds like you had a great vacation. These are some great tips. I love that you extended your "vacation head" by eating foods at home that were similar to your vacation foods and took some time to relax over the weekend. Great! Report
Like you I plan to come back 2 days before I'm due back at the office. I used to come back at the last minute and ended up frazzled less than a day after returning home. Now I can ease into my usual routine and get ready for the work week ahead. We like to go to different places and we start planning the next vacation immediately upon completing the current one. Often we are actually planning 2 holidays at once, our winter one and our summer one. This summer we are going camping for a month. We leave in 2 weeks (Yeah). So that will be a busy one, driving, sight-seeing, etc. We are also going to Hawaii in February for 2 weeks, where we will only go to the beach and hang out doing nothing, or next to nothing. Having our next vacation to look forward to when we return from our current one keeps me from feeling depressed or blue. Report
I totally believe in a day between vacation and returning to work to relax, re-adjust, catch up on personal tasks at home, and mentally prepare myself for the return to work. Report
I haven't been on vacation for 5 years. Report
TIMELY article, in that I just got back from a 5 day vacation to Northern Arizona.... Report