Preparing for a vacation can be exhausting: You need to get your work done in advance; meticulously pack any necessities; and possibly find a responsible human to look after your house, kids and/or pets while you’re gone. Hell, you might even be forced to spend some precious margarita money on the in-flight W-Fi so you can send a few last-minute emails before actually attempting to enjoy your vacation.
The same can be said about returning from vacation: You need to respond to the swarm of emails that flocked to your inbox when you left your phone in the hotel room; relearn how to dress for work after wearing nothing but swim trunks all week; and take a nap immediately, right this moment, since, man, the jet lag is really coming on strong.
But you really don’t deserve to be berated by stress right when you’re about to leave for vacation, or right when you come back. So consider taking an extra day off both before and after vacation to give yourself some extra chill time. “A buffer day between returning from vacation and going back to work is like a pregame ritual: It provides time to rezone and get your head back in work mode,” says Paul Healy, the man behind the Anywhere We Roam travel blog. “It’s also a good opportunity to do the laundry, make sure you’ve got a shirt ironed, restock the fridge and perhaps catch up on a few of those important emails you missed.”
These days are particularly helpful when you’re traveling to and from different time zones. “A buffer day is most useful when you’re coming back from somewhere with a time difference, or coming back from a trip that was jam-packed and absolutely tiring,” Becca Siegel, of the travel and photo site Half Half Travel, reiterates. “A buffer day is good for catching up on sleep, doing travel laundry, getting back on track and running errands before a typical work schedule and routine ensues. For example, we came back from Vietnam this year to attend a wedding, and we left a buffer day in between landing from our long-haul flight and being celebration-ready for the festivities. We had to leave time for our bodies to adjust to the 12-hour difference.”
Jodi Ettenberg, who’s traveled the world for a decade, documenting her journeys on Legal Nomads, agrees. “Even if not for a big timezone jump, it’s the same logic as paring down excursions: More isn’t always better,” she explains. “Your brain does well with some cushion to readjust, and that gives you time to do some much-needed laundry and start the week off right.”
Of course, taking these extra days could mean sacrificing a day of actual vacation time. “It’s a bit of a luxury,” says Devin Feldman, who recently spent a year traveling around Southeast Asia. In which case, he suggests getting as much done as possible during that first buffer day — the one before going on vacation — so you can save the other buffer day for actual vacationing, rather than just recoup time. “A big thing that I’ve heard and totally agree with is cleaning your room and living space before you go on vacation so you come home to a nice clean apartment or house,” he explains. If you can pull that off, more power to you.
Now if only I could get my boss to agree to letting me take a buffer month…