Seven tips for a stress-free vacation

Soaking up sun and sand on the beach, sipping something fruity poolside--vacation is supposed to be relaxing, right? Unfortunately, for many of us trying to get away from it all, vacations can easily become just another source of stress. If you're feeling frantic about an upcoming trip, melt away anxiety with the expert tips below.

1.  Plan ahead.  When vacationing with a group, plan accommodations, travel and excursions in advance.

"This will ensure everyone's expectations are met and there are no surprises while on your trip," says SmarTravel CEO David Wise. He warns that tension can result when one person is really looking forward to the nightlife and another only budgeted enough to stay in the hotel or at the beach.

To avoid such a scenario, it's a good idea to discuss expectations before you go.

"You may have different needs than others but as long as you are clear that you like to sightsee or like quiet time, the less pressure and expectation is placed on you," advises Karol Ward, a licensed clinical social worker with a private psychotherapy practice in New York City.

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2.  Craft a budget.  Wise recommends figuring out how much you want to spend as a group and as individuals prior to leaving for your vacation to eliminate unwanted stress on the trip.

Not only will a budget prevent you from spending more than you can afford, but it will also let you see the number of times you can comfortably eat out, enjoy drinks or go on excursions.

3.  Choose your companions wisely.  "When you're on vacation, you're typically spending anywhere from a few days to a few weeks straight with your travel companions," says Wise.

Don't waste your time off with people you can only handle in small doses; vacation with spouses, family and close friends to minimize frustration.

4.  Allow time to unwind.  Having arrived at your destination, it can take up to three days to shed the stress of everyday life and reach a state of relaxation. "The biggest misconception people have is that they should feel calm, happy and at ease the moment they get to their vacation spot," says Ward.

Be sure to save room for some down time when scheduling vacation activities.

5.  Try new things.  Stretch yourself mentally and physically while you are away. Ward encourages doing "some form of movement that is pleasurable and letting yourself explore new places even if it's a short walk down the beach or through the woods.

"A change in perspective does allow us to view our lives differently," she says.

6.  Remember to refuel.  According to stress reduction/relaxation consultant Zoe Sameth, "When you are out of your regular routine and don't always know where and when your next meal will be, it is especially important to make sure that you stay hydrated and keep your blood sugar at a good level."

She recommends bringing along a water bottle and some juice boxes, power bars or fruit and nuts to replenish energy during vacation activities. "This will make an enormous difference in keeping your stress levels down and raising and maintaining your sense of well-being," says Sameth.

7.  Take a deep breath.  Unexpected stresses inevitably accompany travel--If your plane is delayed, or a communication error arises, rather than feeling miserable because you are experiencing anxiety when you're supposed to be on vacation, Sameth says "understand and accept that life, including vacations at times, does contain stressors."

Her instructions for dealing with unforeseen stress: tell yourself "this too shall pass," take a deep breath, listen to an inspiring or relaxing CD or MP3, hydrate with some cucumber water or tropical juice, eat a yummy snack, and simply enjoy your time away.