5 ways to make sure you actually relax on holiday
Travel Advice

5 ways to make sure you actually relax on holiday

Sarah-Kate Lynch sitting on deck chair talking on the phone with books and laptop around her


There’s nothing worse than coming home from your only big holiday of the year totally exhausted and in need of a break. Sarah-Kate Lynch shares her hard-won holiday relaxing tips.

I remember one family holiday when we were kids where my late father was in such a stew that we created Dad’s Rules for a Fun Time Away.

They went: “Don’t laugh, don’t talk, don’t stand up (there must have been a boat trip involved) and don’t – whatever you do – enjoy yourself.”

Now I realise that being in the car for hours at a time with his wife and five adorable offspring may not have been what he felt like after a year of hard grind at the office. Then I wonder why we bothered going anywhere at all.

Wasn’t there a family – in Belgium maybe? – who hid in their basement for two weeks, pretending to be on a vacation they couldn’t afford? I can almost understand why. I am a difficult person to go on holiday with because my schedules can be quite jam-packed. A few years ago I talked two girlfriends into coming to Europe with me on a story-gathering mission.

My favourite city was Salzburg, where we did two Sound of Music tours, a Sound of Music dinner and show, plus hired traditional Sound of Music dirndl outfits, which we wore as I whirled them around other Sound of Music hotspots. On day three, my friends separately told me they needed to bow out of my activities to do chores – then surprised each other by meeting up almost immediately at our Airbnb to put their feet up.

So, bearing in mind that lolling is not my strong point, here’s some advice for starting off 2021 with a whole lot of nothing.

1. Plan your downtime

Even if you’re going to the same place for your entire hols, earmark a couple of days for doing nothing. Pick a quiet spot, grab a magazine – preferably this one – and enjoy nodding off and having your loved ones take unflattering photos of you in repose.

2. Don’t come and go

In my decade or so of travel editing, I have discovered that three nights is the optimum for a stopover if you’re tiki touring. Yes, you can do overnight stays, but then you’re always either arriving or leaving. A three-day stay allows time for a fair amount of sightseeing, but you’re also able to stop at the beach for an afternoon or return to the café you loved on the first night.

3. Concentrate

Committing to a book you want to read “but can never find time for” is perfect forced relaxation. I still recall the me-shaped hole left in my lounger the holiday I tackled Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall. We have shorter reading suggestions on our books page but if you’ve been using The Luminaries as a doorstop, consider opening it.

4. Regime, schmegime

Yes, you’ve porked it on over the holiday period. But now is not the time to remedy this. Sometimes you need to be on a holiday from you as much as anything else. So give your exercise schedule a break too. Go for a walk. Or not. The gym/Pilates class/spin bike will still be there when you go back to real life.

5. Dial up the shut-eye

Sleeping in is one of a holiday’s great luxuries, so get it while you can, even if it means using ear plugs, an eye mask and banishing Old Snorey Face to the sofa. This is me time. Sleep is the answer to just about every question. So, knock yourself out!

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