Many of us have an extremely limited number of vacation days, so it can be tempting to squeeze as much into your trip as possible. That may not always be a good thing. In fact, on trips longer than a week, I recommend taking at least one day off mid-trip to give yourself and the rest of your travel party some down time to rest and relax. On longer trips you can sprinkle in even more rest days. This is especially important if your trip involves a great deal of sightseeing, including time waiting in lines, on your feet, and walking from place to place.
Think about your day to day activities – most people don’t have lives where they are on the go for hours on end every day for multiple days in a row. Those who are are often very stressed, which can lead to getting sick. The same thing applies to travel, only there are additional things to think about:
- If you’ve flown to your destination, you’ve probably been exposed to a whole host of germs and spent time in the very dry recirculated air of an airplane.
- Jet lag. If you’ve traveled a significant distance, your body takes time to adjust to a new time zone, leading to lower quality sleep.
- You’re probably eating and drinking things that you wouldn’t normally eat and drink at home – even if its just in greater amounts because you’re in vacation mode.
- You’re not sleeping in your own bed – sleeping in unfamiliar places can lead to lower quality of sleep for many.
What to do on your day off?
There are a huge number of things to do on your day off from your travels. My first recommendation is of course, stay in or head to a coffee shop and read a good book. Bonus points if you read a book that takes place in your travel destination (side note – this is one of my favorite ways to get to know my destination before and during my travels) – especially a good fiction or historical fiction that paints a picture of your destination through various sets of eyes. However, reading a book isn’t for everyone – and there are plenty of other things to do. Here are some suggestions on how to occupy your time:
- Write letters or postcards to friends and family – and put them in the regular mail. I know I know – mail can sometimes be slow and arrive after you’ve already returned home, especially on shorter trips. But, there is just something about returning to old school travel tradition that gets me nostalgic. Plus, I’ve never met anyone that didn’t like getting a postcard or hand written letter in the mail.
- Go to a local gaming cafe. Even if you’re not a ‘gamer,’ going to a gaming cafe to plug in and zone out for a little while can be a lot of fun. You don’t even have to play the latest first person shooters – many gaming cafes have classics that will take you back to your early days playing Pong/Burger Time/Super Mario/Pacman in the basement with your friends and family.
- Go to the movies. Movie theaters are popular across the world, and in most cases you’ll find the latest Hollywood blockbusters. Bonus points if you can find a movie that is dubbed or has subtitles, as this is a great way to learn a few words in a new language – especially if you’re seeing a movie you’re already familiar with. You can also look for theaters that are running local films, which is another great way to learn about your destination.
- Spa day! What better way to rest and relax than to head to a place that is designed for just that. While a spa day can also be considered a traditional tourist activity, it also provides some excellent downtime for weary travelers. The great thing about spas is that treatments can vary greatly across the globe – don’t be afraid to try something new. One of my favorite vacation from my vacation days was when I got an olive oil and sea salt massage in Sienna – definitely something I wouldn’t have tried at home!
The bottom line
This combination of factors can lead to serious travel fatigue and put you at higher risk for getting sick – something nobody wants during their trip. Taking a day off during your travels, whether it is at the beginning of your trip to let your body adjust, or midway through to help you recuperate – your body and mind will thank you. One of my favorite activities to do on my day off is to find a cozy cafe, quiet library, or sunny park and spend some time with a good book. You might even find that spending downtime in ‘regular’ places will show you how locals go about their every day activities as well – providing an authentic experience and helping you get to know your destination a little better at the same time. Of course, you can always take your off day to the next level and book a massage, spa treatment, hammam, etc., but you certainly don’t need to spend money to relax during your travels.
Start with my travel planning strategy guide to help you book all the elements of your trip – booking your travel a la carte means you can schedule a rest day into your travels wherever you see fit!