How to Avoid Travel Burnout, From a Frequent Flier

The cities, the sights, the experiences. Frequent travel may look glamorous on Instagram, but in reality, it means time zone hopping, insufficient sleep, disrupted exercise and eating routines, and of course, airport annoyances.

It’s exhausting.

Of course, your level of travel exhaustion will depend on your threshold; mine is relatively high. This summer, over a period of 8 weeks, I found myself in San Francisco, Kansas City, Portland, Sacramento, Minneapolis, Bakersfield, Seattle, Richmond, and Boston. That’s 3 time zones, 19 airline legs, and more nights spent away than at home. (Makes me a little tired just thinking about it, let’s be honest.)

Maybe you don’t travel as much as I do. That’s OK. But if you have ever felt like you needed a vacation from a vacation… (I have), these tips on avoiding travel fatigue may help.

My tips for minimizing frequent travel exhaustion

1. Work your real-life routine into your travel time

What’s your weekly real-life routine consist of? For me, it’s hitting the gym or going for a run four times a week, preparing most of my weeks’ meals at home, and going to bed by 10 p.m. Blend that with periodic trips to the hair salon, the aesthetician, the nail artist, and all the other miscellaneous appointments… I keep pretty busy. (I make no apologies for my glamour-girl habits. Treat yo’ self.)

So when I’m traveling, I make a conscious effort not to throw my personal habits out the window. Luckily, I can hit up an Orange Theory class in any state. I grab yogurt and granola at Trader Joe’s. I check Yelp when my manicure is on its last legs. If I attend to these habits while I’m gone, I am less overwhelmed with “chores” when I get home.

2. Know your limits and don’t overdo it

Luckily, I’m used to bopping around. I know how to arrange my time away so I don’t overdo it. (As I’m constantly getting older, my limits are on a downward slide. Bah, humbug.)

If I stay up late one night, I try to go to bed early the next night. If I eat a late meal one day, I’ll skip breakfast the next. If I had a lavish day of shopping, entertainment, or meals out, I’ll follow it up with a day of hiking and grab something to cook at home. If I overdo it too many days in a row, I feel it. I stay level by balancing the splurges with the restrictions.

3. Extend work trips into personal trips

Now this one is a little counter-intuitive. Julie, you mean to tell me you want me to travel MORE? But I thought this blog was about how to beat travel fatigue? Yes, yes I do. Say you have a business trip in San Francisco. Instead of flying home after your meetings, jet somewhere else to do some exploring and be reinvigorated.

True story: SF to Portland is just a short little jaunt. Combine the trip to save time, money, and an airline leg — a win-win-win!

4. Schedule breaks from travel with stay-at-home time

Most of us use our calendars to schedule when we are busy. I do this, of course; but I also schedule myself to be free. When I’ve had a seemingly never-ending week, I deliberately schedule a “local weekend.” I make zero social plans so that I can catch up on all the things that have lapsed at home due to my absence: the laundry, the yard work, the book on my nightstand, and of course, sleeping in… and I feel refreshed and productive again.

5. Be intentional and identify the objectives of your trip

One unfortunate side effect of frequent travel: I’m always playing catch up.

I just got back from Boston. Before that, I was in Richmond, and before that, Sacramento. As I hopped along my travel game board, did I plan anything for the next trip or identify anything I wanted to visit? Nope. It’s really hard for me to look forward to the next trip if I’m still in the middle of figuring out the current one. While I’ll probably never be a “planner,” I am working on making a conscious effort to familiarize myself with all my upcoming destinations so I don’t have to plan on the fly.

While I love the mystery of an ambiguous itinerary, identifying a few loose objectives of the trip helps serve as a guide (IE: I want to spend time by the water. I want to try some local dishes. I want to experience some culture.) Luckily, these apps help plan ahead.

6. Leave yourself a rest day

My last tip is a little more tactical: leave yourself a rest day. When you’re booking a vacation, it’s definitely tempting to stay in your destination up until the very last minute; I’ve been there. I want to make the most of my trip! I’m going to fly out at 10 p.m. Sunday! Only by the time Sunday afternoon rolls around, I’m winding down from my trip, I’m dreading the mountain of work I’ll have the next day, and I just want to unpack and go to bed. So, after a long trip, I almost always fly back on Saturday — leaving myself Sunday to recover. (This is especially true for my international trips: Sundays are for jet lag recovery!!)

This advice goes for booking the flight in, too. If you don’t have to, don’t take the 4 a.m. flight. You’ll be kicking off your trip with a messed-up schedule, which may cause more disruption in the long run. Crap, I can’t check in to my hotel yet? There’s nothing open? What do I do now?

Now that my summer travel-a-thon has (mostly) wrapped, I’m looking forward to a few weeks of R&R until my next trip: Ireland. I’m coming for you, Emerald Isle… and you’re going to get my best self.

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2 thoughts on “How to Avoid Travel Burnout, From a Frequent Flier

  1. Very practical tips from you Julie. I think the main thing is we tend to add too many things to the itinerary. In the end, if something goes wrong in the middle then everything becomes too hectic and out of control.

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