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6 smart strategies for maximising your vacay

So it sucks you only have that many days of paid leave — here’s how to make the most of what little time out you have.

1. Take a trip that’s at least eight days long.

Many of us make a habit of going on as many super-short three-day weekend trips as possible, whether it’s a city jaunt to Hong Kong or Bangkok, or a beachy break to Bali or Phuket. 

But according to a Finnish study, people’s happiness levels only peak on Day Eight of their vacation. It notes that employees are often unable to recover sufficiently during short breaks from work, due to the long hours they’ve been putting in, increasingly permeable boundaries between work and time off, and prolonged physiological activation as a result of pre-occupation with work.

In other words, it takes time to unwind and relax. But with a short getaway, you don’t even get sufficient R&R before you’ve got to get back to the office. Possible solutions could include remaining in Singapore over long weekends (plan a spa day or even a staycation to give you the feeling of being on a holiday, minus the extra time, cost and hassle of hopping on a plane), then save your actual leave for longer overseas trips lasting 10 days or more. Think quality over quantity.

2. Tie up loose ends at work, and prevent work from tagging along.

The best way around this is to make sure you do a proper handover of any ongoing projects with relevant colleagues and clients before your trip. Then, make sure you draw up an out-of-office response along the lines of: 

“I am out of the office from (start date of your vacation) to (end date of your vacation), and will not be able to access my inbox. You may resend the email after (end date of your vacation). Alternatively, in my absence, you may contact (names, designations and contact details of your relevant colleagues) instead.”

Of course, do let your boss know that if there’s something really urgent and important that only you can address, he/she can always text or call you, but you may only be able to address the issue during a specific one-hour window each day. You don’t want to return from your vacay only to find out you’ve been fired.

3. Don’t try and do too much on the first day.

It can be tempting to try and pack as much as possible into your first day, the moment you’ve checked into your hotel and unpacked. But this can end up creating more pressure and exhaustion, which is ironically, what you’re trying to get away from. 

Ease into your break by doing something chill for starters. Lounge by the pool, book a massage, have a leisurely meal in a relaxing spot, sleep early.

4. In fact, don’t try and do too much the entire holiday.

According to the same Finnish study, engagement in passive activities, savouring, the amount of pleasure derived from activities, relaxation, a sense of control over holiday activities and getting enough sleep, were associated with improvements of perceived levels of health and wellness during and the week after a vacation. 

While you may want to maximise your vacay time by doing as many things as you can, whether it be adventure sports, sightseeing, shopping or clubbing, it may do you good to fit in more downtime between these energetic endeavours.

And feel free to sit out certain activities your friends want to drag you along to — if you don’t think you’d enjoy them, or if you’d prefer to catch up on some zzz’s or do something different altogether. 

5. Choose your return flight carefully.

In an attempt to squeeze the most out of your vacay, it can be tempting to choose a return flight that gives you just enough time to hop off the plane, head home, shower, then go to work. Here’s the bad news — that’s actually the fastest way to dissipate your post-holiday glow.

Instead, plan to arrive back home in the night two days before, or in the afternoon a day before you return to work. That way, you’ll have time to unpack, do boring (but necessary) things like the grocery run or the laundry, and check your work emails, plan your back-to-work outfit, and (sob!) get used to the sad fact that your bedroom will never be as gorgeous as that plush hotel room you left behind.

6. Make that holiday afterglow last as long as possible.

Apparently, your health and well-being levels on holiday return to baseline within the first week of you resuming work. To make those feelings last, try not to work in beast mode, if you can help it. 

Look through the pictures you’ve taken, use that exotic body scrub or aromatherapy spray you bought from the hotel spa’s gift shop, try and sleep as many hours as you did on holiday, continue to practise the more healthful lifestyle habits you engaged in (such as eating a plate of fresh fruit for breakfast, instead of the usual lard-laden chye tow kway from the office canteen). Treat yourself to a meal from a restaurant that serves the cuisine you enjoyed on holiday. And maybe, start planning your next one.