Emergency medicine doctor and new mom Darria Long Gillespie, MD, shares her expert tips for making the best out of your vacation.

It’s Monday, and you’re exhausted—you did physical harm to your alarm clock, you have no groceries in the fridge and your clothes are all still crumpled in a suitcase. Hmm…sounds like you just came back from vacation.

How did we get to the point of needing vacations from our vacations? No more! Consider this your vacation intervention—tips and tricks for before and during your trip to make it go as smooth as possible.

Before You Go

  • Get work in order and clarify who will be in charge of what when you’re gone.
  • Arrange for a babysitter while on your trip so that you can have a couple of adults-only evenings. Trust me, the kids would love a (supervised) adults-free evening too!
  • Consider sleeping arrangements. There’s nothing worse than getting even LESS sleep on vacation because your toddler is sleeping in your room or your two children are sharing a bed and constantly waking each other up. Decide how and where everyone will sleep and make sure the arrangement is conducive to that. For younger children, try your best to keep it as close as possible to their home environment—bringing a blankie, a sound machine or any other tricks you normally use.
  • Pack toys or other entertainment. Make sure that there is plenty to keep the kids entertained. Often you can rent toys or equipment from the hotel (or a local agency that the hotel may recommend). This is especially important if you have small children who will otherwise acquaint themselves with the minibar, uncovered electrical outlets and eating the remote.
  • Pay attention to your return schedule. Are you getting home at 1 a.m. the night before everyone has to be back at work or school? This is the #1 cause of post-vacay alarm damage! Don’t do it! Consider returning a half-day earlier to give yourself time to recoup and maintain sanity.

During Your Trip

  • Don’t totally throw out your regular schedule—this is why that first morning back is SO rough. Try to wake up within one to two hours of your normal wake-up time. Traveling in a different time zone? Pay extra attention to factoring that in.
  • Consume in moderation. I know, I know…vacation isn’t vacation without a little indulgence! Just be mindful about what you’re eating and drinking and remember to consider the impact of any jet lag, higher altitude and sun exposure.
  • Keep it moving! Vacation is the perfect time to fit in a little more physical activity into your day—not only will it counteract any (ahem) additional indulgences, you’ll feel more energized throughout the trip. Getting moving is also a great way for the family to bond together. Consider this your opportunity to impress your otherwise disgruntled teen with your (insert here: table tennis prowess, body surfing skills, deep sea fishing know-how) or to all learn a new skill together.

Have any other favorite tips? Tweet them to me @DrDarria with #TakeBackMyVacay. Happy travels….and happy returns!