The Best Ways to Spend Your Vacation ‘Buffer Day’

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Photo: Dmitry Galaganov (Shutterstock)

Going on vacation, as enjoyable as it is, can also be exhausting. There’s the jet lag, the fatigue that comes after a packed vacation schedule, on top of which, if you are traveling with kids, there’s bound to be at least a couple of meltdowns. The same also applies to traveling with extended family, as there’s nothing more exhausting and predictable than family drama.

As Rachel Orr recently wrote for the Washington Post, one way to lessen the stress of travel is to take an extra day off to give yourself a little bit of time to rest and recuperate. As Orr puts it, “I use the buffer day to look ahead to the next week and just enjoy my space again. Think of it as a mini staycation at the end of your vacation.”

I discovered the benefits of a vacation buffer day a few years ago, and have been trying to incorporate it into my own travel plans ever since. In my own experience, although a buffer day can be an incredibly useful tool for rest and recovery, it’s important to be intentional about how you use this day. Otherwise, it’s all too easy to have the day fly by in a jumble of mindlessly scrolling social media and getting caught up on errands, only to find yourself not at all refreshed in the evening.

Make a plan 

A vacation buffer day is there to help you rest and recharge. That’s the reason to take an extra (very precious) day of vacation, rather than charging straight back to your normal life. What the ideal buffer day looks like will vary for everyone, but whatever that might be, it’s best to put a little thought into what will work best for you.

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If sitting down and reading an actual book is what you find relaxing, block off time to do that. If sleeping in, then going for brunch is your idea of relaxing, make a plan to turn off the alarm clock, and meet up with a friend at your favorite brunch spot.

If you want to spend some of that time on chores or errands so you can feel on top of things as you ease back into your workweek, list out your top priorities (and which ones can wait). If you want to spend your day in pajamas, watching Netflix and eating chocolate ice cream straight out of the carton, stock up the freezer before you head out of town. Whatever it is that helps you recharge, be intentional about making it happen.

Whatever you do, don’t work 

We’ve all been there: You have some extra time on your hands, so you check your work email just for a minute, and before you know it, the day has passed you by in a blur of getting caught up on work, when it isn’t even a workday.

I’m as guilty of working on off-hours, including on vacation, as everyone else. In the world we live in, that’s almost impossible to avoid. However, when it comes to your hard-earned vacation days, especially the very last one, it’s important to create that barrier. Work can wait.

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