AUSSIES kind of suck at taking holidays. According to Roy Morgan Research, our annual leave stockpile currently totals 129 million days.
Perhaps we're afraid to take a vacation. After all, holidays require a lot of planning. And, often, they're not all they're cracked up to be.
But it doesn't have to be the case.
Even if your holiday is simply staying home looking after children, you can still have fun.
Remember too that holidays are there for a reason - to give you a physical and mental break from work.
Taking mini-breaks throughout the year - three or four days here and there - as well as a longer break can help us recharge, says motivational speaker Mark McKeon, author of Get in the Go Zone.
He takes at least 12 weeks holiday a year and says you need a minimum of 10 days to get excess adrenalin (stress hormone) out of your body.
Taking holidays has plenty of other health benefits too.
Researchers from the State University of New York surveyed 12,000 men aged 35 to 57 and found those who didn't take at least one week-long holiday a year boosted their risk of dying from heart disease by 30% during the nine-year study.
When Finnish researchers tracked the health habits of 800 women and men for 28 years, they found those who didn't take a break from work-related stress over the weekend were three times more likely to have a fatal heart attack than those who got plenty of rest.
A vacation is good for the spirit too, according to Andrew McEvoy, managing director of Tourism Australia.
"Holidays help to build positive morale, which results in increased motivation in the workplace, making it a better place for everyone," he says.
So, ready, steady, here we go.
Work out what makes you feel good
What's your idea of relaxation? Do you like to lie around with a book, would you prefer to see friends or catch a concert or a movie?
Celia Gulpin, of holiday planning service Exclusive Concierge in Byron (exclusiveconcierge.com.au) says what makes some clients feel good is as simple as having a blender to make cocktails!
If you have to plan for children as well and can't be entirely selfish about what you do, think about having fun together.
What about a day at the beach or park, under a big umbrella with a picnic, ball games or boogie boards? Or an art class or some other form of hobby class where you can all learn something new?
If you can't find a happy middle ground, perhaps you could split the day up: kid's choice in the morning, adult choice in the afternoon.
Decide what your budget is
Holiday costs can blow out pretty fast if you aren't careful, so be sure to have a realistic idea of how much you can afford and stick to it.
Taking the kids away camping - or letting them camp in the backyard - can be just as good as staying at a hotel. In fact, it may even be less stressful.
If you do fancy a bit of travel, you can get bargains at websites such as lastminute.com.au.
If you can afford to splurge, get help costing your dream destination from a travel agent.
If you are staying at home to catch up with odd jobs, try to mix up must-dos and fun activities.
You don't want it to be all work and no play or you won't feel rested. And don't take it all on yourself; share the jobs around.
Do some pre-planning
If you are taking the family away, have a family conference and workshop where you might like to go and what you may like to do. If the kids are part of the decision making process, they are more likely to enjoy the holiday.
If it's a romantic break with a partner, get recommendations from others who have been there before and plan things together.
If you will be at home with the kids, think about creating a craft room, stocked with coloured paper, drawing paper, crayons, glue or whatever is suitable for your children's age group and let them exercise their creativity.
You may like to do the same.
Or you may like to sit down with a nice cup of tea and that good book!
Making tents from bed sheets, treasure hunts and baking are also great ways to keep them amused.
And print out a bunch of colouring sheets, join-the-dots, mazes and other projects.
You might be surprised at how much they enjoy them.
Get some support
If you're a mum, don't try to go it alone.
Get together with friends and organise play groups or sleepovers so you have help entertaining the kids, or some time to yourself.
Find out about local services that provide holiday care or activities for your kids if you need a bit of a break.
No thinking about work
More than 60% of Australians say they regularly monitor their work emails via a mobile device while on holiday, according to ZUJI research.
Wrong, wrong, wrong.
Unless you own the company, you want to switch off says Mark.
"No work and no thinking about work.
"Not being at work puts you in the No Zone, not the Go Zone, and the aim is to replenish you and get you ready for your next bout of peak performance.
Leave an automatic message on your email or your phone that says you are on holiday.
Colleagues or clients should only be able to contact you in an emergency.
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