It’s that time of year when people start heading off on their summer holidays. Whether to far flung destinations or to visit friends and family, holidays can be times of relaxation and play or stress and just a bit too much over indulgence.

Last year I ended up having to go to an all-inclusive resort in Mexico. I know saying ‘having to’ makes me sound terribly ungrateful but anyone who knows me knows that an all-inclusive ubiquitous hotel is not my idea of an idillic holiday. For one reason or another though that is where I ended up and to be honest, whilst I don’t want to make it a regular occurrence, it was better than I expected. This helped me work out my personal Holiday Survival Guide and gave me another lesson learnt about not being too judgemental about things I haven’t experienced!

The School of Balance – Holiday Survival Guide

1. Before You Go

Preparing for a good holiday starts before you go, in fact before you even book it. Firstly, work out what you (and those going with you) want to get out of the holiday. I know that may sound a little daft but if one of you wants complete relaxation and the other lots of activity then it’s a recipe for disaster if you don’t pick the right place.

Working out what sort of holiday you want also helps you prepare before you go. What are you most worried about? Leaving work behind? Putting on weight whilst your away? Not being able to relax? The logistics of the holiday?

Once you know what you are worried about put in place an action plan to address the concern for example if you’re worried about work start working toward your holiday a month or so beforehand and give yourself the deadline of two days before you go to complete everything so you have some contingency. I once told everyone except my manager that I was going on holiday 2 days before I really was so I was able to have two days buffer without meetings to resolve urgent actions.

2. A New Improved You

I don’t know about you but surely the whole point of a holiday is to come back feeling better than when you left. I know in the past I’ve come back from holiday feeling like I haven’t had a break at all (as I haven’t I’ve ended up working almost constantly) or so exhausted that I need another holiday to get over my holiday!

[Tweet “The whole point of a holiday is to come back feeling better than when you left”]

About two years ago my partner and I made a pact that we would come back from every holiday feeling better than when we left and so far it’s worked well for us.

For example an all-inclusive resort could be the perfect opportunity to eat and drink your body weight and not move for the entire time you’re there. We decided to approach it a little differently and afterwards joked that we thought we were the only couple to come back lighter than when we left, drink more water than alcohol, worked out and did yoga daily, walk everywhere and not use the shuttle train, not turn on the television and be in bed early every night! Now I’m not saying everyone has to be as ‘weird’ as we were but have a think about what will make you get the most out of your holiday and feel better when you get home than when you left.

3. Conscious Eating

I’ve been on holidays where I’ve eaten so much that by the third day I feel like I need to be rolled into my room. Food is a huge part of my life so naturally it’s a huge part of my holidays. I LOVE going to local markets and even supermarkets whilst I’m away and will always seek out the most interesting restaurants and local specialities. I try and eat in places locals would eat to get a real taste of the place and also try and do a cookery course (formal or informal) wherever I go.

[Tweet “I’ve been on holidays where I’ve eaten so much that by the third day I feel like I need to be rolled into my room.”]

That said I now like to make a conscious decision about food so that I don’t end up feeling stuffed and putting on 10 pounds every time I go away. If this rings true for you consider implementing as many of the guidelines below that feel right for you:

– download The School of Balance Guide to Eating Out (in the box to the right) and follow the tips to eating out e.g. pick ONE out of alcohol OR dessert OR bread/pasta/potato

– consider booking a self-catering place so you can eat in sometimes

– try and ensure most of your plates look as close to ‘the ideal plate’ as possible

– drink a glass of water every time you eat or drink an alcoholic drink

– find a local place to buy fruit and veg to snack on if there isn’t much available

– eat slowly, sitting down, preferably outside and take your time over meals. Enjoy conversation with your company.

– if you want to eat something that isn’t the healthiest ask yourself is it either something you can only try there and/or the very best. If the answer to one of these is yes then eat it, but savour it and enjoy every mouthful totally guilt free. Make it worthwhile!

– if you’re going to an all-inclusive place consider that the food will be available every meal, in great quantities. You don’t need to eat it ALL on the first meal. Also, even in a 5 star resort the food won’t be that great so consider the point above. There will always be healthier options.

4. Get Moving

Not all the time. You are on holiday after all!

There is no need to go jogging every morning. Well, unless you love jogging and it relaxes you. If you have a current workout programme there is also no need to carry on with it at the same intensity whilst away (in fact sometimes having a break can be the best thing in helping you achieve your goals)

BUT it is good to move a bit. Walk lots, swim, do yoga, try a local sport for the #SummerOfSport if you want something more active do sprints or make up a circuit with bodyweight exercises such as squat jumps, push ups and tricep dips.

5. Prioritise Relaxation

When you are away do whatever you can to switch off. If possible turn off all of your laptops/phones etc and get away from the world, or at the very least don’t take them out with you during the day. I used to leave my work laptop/phone at home and give my personal number only to one person who I knew I could trust only to contact me if really necessary AND I left it in the room during the day, only checking it morning and night. I know that it might feel like you can’t leave work but an old mentor of mine once gave me some very valuable advice – “no one is indispensable, not even you, things will carry on without you there, just give it a try and you will see that the world won’t end!”

[Tweet “No one is indispensable, not even you”]

Do something everyday you love.

Play more and be child like.

Meditate, do yoga, float in the pool.

Spend time really focusing on your surroundings. Just sit and be.

6. Staying with friends and family

Staying with friends and family can be a great way to save money, spend quality time with people close to you and get to know a place from a locals point of view. It can also be a nightmare.

Before you go or when you arrive make sure you set expectation and find out what they expect as well – are there any real deal breakers for them. It goes without saying to help around the house and clear up after yourself, but I also think it’s important to let them know you will want some time to yourselves.

If you’re worried about having to eat what they have in/prepare take or buy some snacks and suggest you help with cooking or go out for most meals.

7. Travellers Belly

There are loads of sites giving medical advice and of course you need to take the necessary precautions from mosquitoes etc, however one I will touch on is eating and drinking in foreign countries with different hygiene standards or water than you’re used to.

I’ve always been reasonably careful to only drink bottled water in far flung locations, but I would eat things that could have come into contact with local water like salad and fruit you don’t peel. I always thought the advice was a bit over the top but I’ve learnt from bitter experience that it’s not just risking a bit of an illness whilst you’re on holiday. I now wouldn’t eat any uncooked veg, fish, fruit you can’t peel etc when in risky countries unless I’d washed it myself in bottled water. I also take strong probitotics before I go and whilst away to give the good bacteria in my gut a fighting chance!

8. Have a Plane Kit

I always have in my hand luggage:

– an eye mask

– noise isolating ear phones

– a hoody, yoga trousers and a pair of socks to change into after take off (also useful to cosy up in whilst you’re away. Call me odd but even in a hot country I occasionally like to put on comfy clothes if the room is air conditioned)

– a bottle of water (they never give you enough!)

– food/snacks (one word for plane food – yuck)

– a real book or magazine for take off/landing

– my iPad

– a good moisturiser as the air is so drying

– my tooth brush and tooth paste, hair brush and make up to freshen up before I get off

9. Consider Development

A bit of an odd one to put on a holiday list maybe but it relates back to number 2 and probably 5 as well.

  • I try and download some books to read books that will help me grow and progress
  • I also try and learn a new skill wherever I go even if that’s just cooking a local dish
  • I try and learn more about the local people and customs and see how they relate to my life – the quotation below really sums up how I like to approach a holiday. Minimise the amount of things I ‘have’ to see and simply soak up what is.

10. When you return

  • Think about what parts of your holiday you might be able to carry over into everyday life to help you feel more relaxed or happier e.g. eating slowly, turning off your phone, playing more
  • Unpack and get your washing done straight away
  • When you go back to work skim read the titles ONLY of emails to make sure there is nothing super important or personal and the put them into a folder marked holiday (or if you’re really brave delete the lot). If it’s important the person will chase you up and you can always dig out the email or ask them to resend. Your time  on day one is more valuably spent catching up with your team than trawling through emails
  • If you have over indulged don’t panic or go on a crash diet. Just have 3-5 days of drinking plenty of water and eating mainly protein and veg before getting back to normal
  • Book your next holiday. This one is super important. It’s always good to know where your next break is coming from even if it’s just a night away.

[Tweet “Think about what parts of your holiday you might be able to carry over into everyday life”]

Where are you off on holiday? Do you have any top tips to add? Let me know.

Holiday survival guide


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