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Handling Stress on Vacation

Vacation is one of those things that when it’s good, it’s usually really good.  However, when it’s stressful, it can be REALLY stressful. Case in point: We have an upcoming trip to Hawaii. 

We knew this trip to Hawaii was going to be trickier than when we have gone in the past due to COVID-19 restrictions. To prepare, we have been diligent in keeping track of Hawaii’s requirements & making sure we have everything in order. As is fairly common knowledge at this point, one of their requirements is that you have to have a negative COVID test in hand when you arrive. The trick is, you can’t take it more than 72-hours before the departure time of your final flight into Hawaii.  They also state they will only accept tests from organizations certified by the state of Hawaii.  So, we did our research, made our appointments with Walgreens (the one & only place certified by Hawaii in Utah that could get us our test results in time), & we were ready to go get our test yesterday afternoon. 

Infinity Pool at Aulani, Oahu

When we arrived, there was a vague sign in front of the testing area stating they were not doing tests & giving their corporate number. We panicked. What do you mean I can’t have my test? I have a confirmation number & I’m here when YOU told me to be here. Why didn’t you notify me my appointment was cancelled? Are we going to have to cancel our trip because we can’t get our tests? Why aren’t they doing tests? Are they going to be back open tomorrow? Can we get it somewhere else? The questions flew fast & hot. We called corporate, sent my husband in to speak with store management about options, called other locations, etc. For TWO HOURS we tried to get somewhere with someone & ultimately all we got was told “F— You” by the assistant store manager. That’s not a metaphor. My husband & several others in the EXACT same boat as us who had gone in for help (and who, by all accounts, were all quite calm) literally got that yelled at them in addition to a very special viewing of some “birds.”

It was bananas. And those that should have been helping us, were definitely not. We went home last night defeated, angry, stressed & unsure if this trip was going to happen. After talking about it, making online reviews, tweeting about it, etc., we decided the only thing to do was to show up on the doorstep of the one & only other Walgreens location in the state (45-minutes away) right when they opened this morning & hope that they would squeeze us into their already full schedule.  So, that’s what we did. We were nervous wrecks. Fortunately, my husband had made some friends yesterday of people in the same boat & they were there too, a few cars ahead of us.  They pulled up; the workers took their information & they gave them the test! We were so relieved.  Then it was our turn.  Same thing! They gave us the test! Yay! And! We got the results back within an hour.  Good news – we are negative for COVID! Our trip is back on track!

This experience though has reminded me of other extremely stressful situations we’ve had on vacation: lost luggage, being given an already occupied room at a hotel, really terrible service, etc. The list could go on & on. As with life in general, not everything goes smoothly while on vacation. I’m of the opinion that the better you plan, the less stress you’ll have (see my blog on “Planning Never Hurt Anyone”), but things happen that are simply out of our control.  So, what can you do when you’re in the moment & things seem to be falling apart? Here are my suggestions:

Place Blame Where It Belongs

When things go wrong, it’s easy to accost the nearest employee and demand they make things right. Although not completely inappropriate, keep in mind that most often, the first person you come in contact with, has limited ability to fix your problem. These poor front-line employees don’t get paid enough for you to be rude to them.  By all means, let them know of your problem & hopefully they can help solve it, but don’t be a jerk.  If they can’t solve it, it is important not to “lose it” on them & lay blame to them if it is literally out of their hands.  In our situation yesterday, their machines broke down. It’s obviously not anyone’s fault, so it wouldn’t have done us any good to yell at the poor cashier inside because they were the first person we saw.  That being said though, problems still need fixing & asking for someone in a management position to help you is not inappropriate. Likely though, even the manager isn’t to blame, so make sure you’re being respectful. Remember the old adage, “You catch more flies with honey than vinegar”? That is particularly relevant when trying to resolve issues. You will almost ALWAYS get better resolution to your problem being respectful rather than rude.

Politely Stand Up for Yourself

Don’t be deceived. Being polite & respectful does not mean you can’t stand up for yourself. Some people don’t like conflict and are willing to take a loss to avoid it. This will not serve you well when you travel. When I say place blame where it belongs, that also means not unnecessarily taking it upon yourself.  If your luggage is lost by an airline & now you have no clothes for your week-long trip, ask for compensation to buy replacements! If your food comes out cold or has a hair on it, ask for a new one! If one Walgreens location won’t give you a test or help you reschedule, show up on the doorstep of another one! It is your job to make sure you’re politely standing up for yourself & things are put to right as best as possible. Sometimes the only advocate you have is yourself. That is definitely what we experienced with our testing issues yesterday. After two hours of trying, they claimed no one could help us, so we had to take matters into our own hands.

Use the Resources Available

Speaking of taking matters into your own hands, it is imperative that you use the resources at your disposal. As mentioned before, with our issues yesterday, we called the corporate phone number they had on their sign, we went in to talk to store management, we called other Walgreens locations, we did everything we knew how to do. Was it time consuming & sucky? Yes.  Would it be worse to not go on our trip? Definitely. When those things didn’t work, we started reaching out to the company in different ways. Both of our friends going with us tweeted Walgreens about our experience and guess what? They responded almost immediately. My husband messaged them through Facebook and guess what? They responded! Don’t underestimate the power of social media. Businesses do not want bad reviews or to be tagged in negative posts. Point being, use the resources available to you. Again, you don’t want to be a jerk, but being honest about the issues you’re experiencing through multiple platforms can yield results.

Acknowledge Corrected Mistakes

Being gracious goes a long way. Last night, in addition to the social media posts, we also left some negative reviews for the Walgreens location we had so much trouble with.  I do not think this is inappropriate as long as you keep it classy.  However, if you’re going to leave a negative review when a mistake is made, you need to leave a positive review when it is corrected.  As we anxiously waited to see if we would get tested this morning, our friend said, “If this works out, I’m going to leave a great review for this Walgreens.” And he did. Acknowledging when wrongs have been righted is powerful. It shows other potential customers that although issues came up, they were also fixed. We all deserve forgiveness & recognition for when we rectify a situation. Please make sure you adequately thank those that help you whether in person, online, or in any other way you can. As already eluded to, often the people with the ability to fix your problem are NOT the ones who created it in the first place. Give credit where credit is due.

Overall, stay classy out there. Stand up for yourself, but don’t be a jerk. Two wrongs never made a right & just because you’re stressed about the issues that WILL come up during vacation, doesn’t mean you have to ruin someone else’s day too.

If you need help relieving some of the stress of planning a vacation, we’d be happy to help you! Feel free to request a quote through our website: http://woodbreyfamilytravel.com/

Chronic Over-Packing

I admit it.  I have a problem with bringing too much stuff on vacation.  My husband and I joke that I’m a “chronic over-packer,” and it’s true. We obviously travel quite a bit & it takes practice to be able to pack enough to take care of yourself, without trying to fit your entire closet in your suitcase. I’m proud to say, I’m making positive strides, but I’m still a work in progress. That being said, I felt it incumbent upon me to pass along some of the strategies I’ve put in place for myself to try and curb this issue. I know I’m not the only one who packs too much, so here we go! A few thoughts on how to avoid over-packing.

Check the Weather

Whenever we are traveling, I like to start checking the weather at the location we will be going about a week before we leave.  I then routinely check it leading up to our departure date. I do this for a few reasons.  First, if I know what the weather will be, I can make sure I’m prepared. For example, we have watched many people show up in Florida in January & expect it to be 85 degrees every day. It’s Florida, so it’s hot, right? Wrong. Even warm locales have cold spells & if you’re dressed for 85, but it’s actually 55, you’re going to end up very uncomfortable & in need of buying warmer clothes. The inverse is true as well.  Maybe you’re heading to London & you assume it will be 60 and rainy, but they’re having a warm spell, so you’re completely over-dressed. If you check the weather in advance, you can be prepared for what is reality instead of what you assume it will be. It also helps you avoid “packing for everything.” As someone who obviously likes to be prepared, sometimes I go overboard & bring everything I could possibly need instead of paying attention to what I’ll actually need.  Don’t do that! Check the weather!  

Know What You’ll Be Doing

If you’ve been following this blog, you’ll know that I am a big proponent for having a plan when you travel. I believe that you will always get more done & do the things you actually are interested in if you just put in a bit of research in advance (see “Planning Never Hurt Anyone”).  That being said, I believe that it will not only help you have the best time possible on your trip, it will also help you with your packing. I like to look at the activities we have planned & make sure I have the clothes that are appropriate for that.  For example, if I know we are going to be exploring trails in a national park, I will make sure to bring good shoes & clothes I don’t mind getting dirty.  If I know I’m going to the theater one night, I’ll make sure to bring a suitable skirt or dress. Having a plan allows you to make sure you have what you need for the activities you’ve chosen, but it also helps you know what you can leave home. Only bring what you’ll actually need & use.

Bring Versatile Items

If you know what you’ll be doing & you know what the weather will be, you can then start making specific packing choices.  As you do this, I recommend looking for how you can re-use the items you pack. This is particularly relevant to heavy items like shoes, jeans, sweaters, etc. Some travel experts say that if you aren’t going to use it at least three times, don’t pack it (underwear not included).  While I can appreciate this, admittedly, I struggle with this one.  However, I am getting better at it & I’ve gotten my own packing to where I will try to only pack things I’ll use twice & it really has made a big difference with my chronic over-packing.  If you need help on figuring out how you could re-use items you pack, there is a whole movement about using minimalist travel capsule wardrobes. Do a simple internet search & I’m sure you’ll find a wealth of knowledge about it.  For me, simply having a plan for my trip, knowing the weather & trying to re-use the heavy items in my suitcase has made a big difference.

Know What Toiletries are Provided

While clothes take up a lot of space & weight in your suitcase, toiletries can make or break you when it comes to packing.  I have naturally curly hair that can be pretty unruly, so I have a very specific routine with very specific products & if I were to try & bring all of my full-size products, there’s no way I would have the space or weight available in my luggage.  I have a few suggestions if you’re in a similar boat as me.  First, take a look at what amenities are available in your hotel.  Do they offer soap, shampoo & conditioner? Most do. Do they have a blow dryer? Most do. Once I have the answer to these questions, I then ask, how can I simplify my routine and bring less than what I use at home? For example, if they have a blow dryer, I will often just take my diffuser head instead of the whole dryer. If they have soap, I just bring my travel-size loofa instead of my normal soap too. I have come to LOVE the travel-size section of the drug store.  They have travel-size toothpaste, tooth brushes, deodorant, face wipes, shampoo, conditioner, hairspray, etc. If you don’t like the brands they offer, they also have empty mini-bottles you can put your own products in.  I would also recommend if you use make-up, try to pair-down what you’re bringing. Trust me. You don’t need all of your eye shadows & lipsticks.  Look at what clothes you are bringing & just like them, only bring the make-up that will go with multiple outfits. Doing these things will definitely help you think about what you really need & are taking, and overall, save space & weight in your luggage.

Invest in a Hand Scale

When all is said & done & you’ve done your best not to over-pack, the last tool I recommend to make sure you’re good to go, is a hand scale. Before we invested in one, it always made me nervous as we checked our luggage because I didn’t know if I’d have to do the mad scramble to unload whatever I could into my purse or backpack so I didn’t have to pay the ridiculous fees the airline will charge you when you’re over the weight limit. Has that happened to you? I know I’m not the only one. I’ve seen many other people in that situation as well. It’s not that fun. A simple $10 hand scale will fix this problem for good. You can find them at almost any store near the luggage section or online.  You can see a picture of mine above. It allows you to wrap the strap around your suitcase handle & by simply lifting it, it will weigh your suitcase. If you’re overweight, you can fix it in the comfort of your own home instead of having the public see inside your suitcase at the airport. Make sure to pack it too so after you’ve purchased all your souvenirs, you can check your luggage weight on your way home too.

Although I don’t claim to be a packing expert, I do know that the suggestions above have REALLY helped my chronic over-packing issue. We simply don’t need as much as we think we do & as with most things, if we just took a few minutes to really think & make a plan, we could be prepared without bringing our whole closets.