How to have the holiday of your life
From not having a wardrobe fail to actually enjoying the airport, seasoned travellers share their insider tips.
Holiday season is in full swing. But how can you get the best of your treasured time off, rather than ending up a complete stressed-out wreck on the beach?
Packing like a pro
The wardrobe aspect of holidays stresses many people out enormously – although it's fair to say this is more of an issue for women than for men. Worrying about underpacking and not having the appropriate garb inevitably leads to overpacking and possibly additional baggage fees.
The key, according to stylist Courtney Smith, is edit, edit, edit. "Make a proper plan for each day and make up your outfits for them. Where possible, rework key items like denim shorts into different looks so you don't overpack," she says.
Her holiday item must-haves are light, comfortable dresses; swimsuits and bikinis; comfy sandals and light jackets/cardigans for cooler evenings. As for hero pieces, she advises: "A killer white dress always looks great in the sun; a cool kimono works effortlessly from beach to bar and denim shorts are versatile enough for day-to-night looks."
As for other elements, Tim Magee, MD of travel and hospitality PR company Host & Co, suggests leaving the bulky stuff behind. "Large toothpastes, suncreams and shaving and shower gels are available in other countries, unless you are planning to leave civilisation completely. They take up far too much room and it is too stressful to take them through security," he says.
Knowing what you're booking
You've looked at the hotel gallery website so you've an inkling of what awaits, but an important consideration is whether the price quoted is per person or per room.
"Special offers are often the former but based on two people sharing a room, which isn't how everyone likes to travel," says Independent.ie travel writer Pól ó Conghaile.
When booking your flights and hotel, Host & Co's Tim Magee says seat selection and hotel location is all. "Don't try to save a few quid on flights or hotels when you'll end up paying for it in taxis and stress," he says.
Having a super-stylish airport experience
Firstly, your 'look'. "Departure lounge attire needs to be stylish, comfortable and convenient," says stylist Courtney Smith. "Going through security means having to remove shoes, belts, etc, so keep accessories to a minimum.
Light layers work best as airplanes can be chilly, but airports stuffy and warm. Cool cardigans and kimonos or kaftans work well in these scenarios. Slip-on sandals or shoes mean a speedier access through security too."
If you do have to spend a long time in the departure lounge, Tim Magee advises some kind of lounge pass as an investment purchase.
"They're typically about €25 a head and, aside from the complimentary drinks and snacks, you will be in a quiet, clean environment, as opposed to the food court shopping mall vibe of most airports, and you can plug in in peace."
Nabbing that upgrade
Sadly, there is no foolproof formula for this, but you can do things to further your cause. "Dressing smart can help, as can flying solo – one business class seat is always more likely to become available than two," says Independent.ie's Ó Conghaile.
"It's pretty basic advice, but I'd also recommend asking nicely. . . you've nothing to lose, and the passenger who treats tired and stressed staff like human beings is bound to get more results than the jerk who ruins their day."
When it comes to hotels, he suggests Sunday night as being a good time to blag an upgrade. "These tend to have fewer leisure guests, and business customers have yet to check in," he says.
There are few of us who get off a long haul flight without looking a bit of a state and feeling grotty. Melanie Morris, editor-in-chief of Image magazine, says the trick to long-haul success is to bring a trolley bag as your hand luggage.
"You can bring an awful lot more in it and you can include a little change of clothes so that when you get to your hot, summery destination, it's easy to slip into your sandals, T-shirt and loose trousers," she says. "You can bring as much stuff to freshen up with as you want and you can bring a really healthy meal as opposed to relying on airline food."
She recommends taking sealed, boxed salads, which you can bring through customs, and packets of nuts – which means that at least when you arrive at the other end, you won't have a nasty processed food hangover.
In terms of the boredom factor that always kicks in when you're stuck on a flight for several hours, her top tip is to break it down into segments of activities – one hour for reading; two hours for a movie; one hour for a snooze, a crossword, or whatever else you might like to do.
Getting your glow on
Holiday skin can be a nightmare – sunburn, heat rash, sweaty visages, open pores and the ravages of rich dinners and lots of booze all showing on your face.
Studies have shown that we apply a third of the recommended amount of SPF, according to cosmetic doctor Dr Katherine Mulrooney of the Dr Mulrooney Clinic. She advises an SPF 50, reapplied every four hours and more frequently if you're swimming or playing sports in the sun, and putting it on 20 minutes before you venture sunwards.
Sunscreen often blocks pores, leading to breakouts in people prone to them, and Dr Mulrooney advises finding a sunscreen that suits your skin by trial and error. "Use a glycolic acid cleaner at night to keep skin gently decongested, and only moisturise where needed to avoid overclogging the skin," she says.
For amazing holiday skin, preparation is half the battle. "For a fortnight before holidays, exfoliate regularly – and have a spray tan one day before you leave, bringing a gradual tanning lotion with you to top up as you need. Try to eat healthily on holiday and not overindulge in alcohol as you'll really notice the dehydrated skin the following day," she says.
But really, holidays should be about chilling out, not fretting about how you look. "You're on holidays, so relax and enjoy," she says. "Even supermodels find it hard to pull off the beach babe look."
Holiday season is also high stress season and for many the trip away has been spoiled by arguments ranging from what to do on your holiday to disagreements about alcohol consumption and who's minding the kids.
There's also the added pressure of high expectations of a holiday that may not tally with the reality. The key to circumnavigating problems is to have a little respect and to step away, according to psychologist Allison Keating of the bWell Clinic in Malahide, Co Dublin. "Treat your family and your partner as you would a work colleague. You wouldn't snap very irritably at a work colleague the way some people do at their family members," she says.
"Just take a deep breath; be mindful that you're feeling overwhelmed and a bit stressed but it really does have quite a negative impact when you are taking it out on your nearest and dearest, which people do."
If you're really feeling intolerant, she suggests taking some time out before you fly off the handle.
"Recognise you need a little bit of time and that one hour to yourself will do you the world of good – a walk on the beach will clear your head and then you come back."