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By The Way
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Take a buffer day after your next vacation

Your sanity will thank you later

(Min Heo/illustration for The Washington Post)

Welcome to The Upgrade, By The Way’s new series on travel hacks and hot takes. See how to submit here.

The way I travel in my 30s is much different from the way I traveled in my 20s.

Living in Phoenix right after college, I became intimately familiar with red-eye flights back home to Ohio, often taking one Sunday and rolling straight into work Monday morning, without even stopping at my apartment. Taking those flights accomplished two very important things at the time — scoring the cheapest flight possible and squeezing every last minute out of a trip.

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This kind of weekend-warrior traveling didn’t survive past my 20s. I became exhausted not having adequate time to recuperate in between work and trips. When the pandemic hit in March 2020 and travel came to a halt, like many others I found myself spending most of my time alone, which allowed me to look at what I value. When travel resumed, I vowed to approach it differently.

Enter the buffer day. Now, I prioritize scheduling an extra day off between when I return home to D.C. from vacation and going back to work. Because let’s face it: While travel is a joy (and a luxury), it can be exhausting.

I use this day to unpack, do laundry, run errands and take a bath. Then, I spend the rest of the day recovering. Even on relaxing vacations, being out of your comfort zone for a few days and around so many people can be draining — at least for me. I use the buffer day to look ahead to the next week and just enjoy my space again. Think of it as a mini staycation at the end of your vacation.

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There are times when a buffer day has been crucial: after an active bachelorette-party weekend spent with lots of new people and a short trip with long flights to the West Coast. And then there have been times I’ve regretted not taking one: after an exhausting visit with family or a weekend beach trip that took 10 hours of driving when it should have taken five.

Sure, it might not always be possible to incorporate a buffer day into your travels, but you’ll thank yourself for it later when you reenter the busy workweek, especially after a trip when you’ve traveled across multiple time zones. As I’ve gotten older, my version of making the most out of a trip looks a bit different — like cutting a trip a day short just to have this rest day. Honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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