The day you return home from a vacation―also known as departure day, since you are leaving the place you came to visit―can bring on feelings of longing or stress. As a result, many travelers don’t make plans or take advantage of those final hours before returning home.
“Departure days can be so overwhelming, and it’s easy to spend the day waiting to get to the airport,” Claire Summers, the travel blogger behind Claire’s Itchy Feet, told HuffPost.
But you don’t need to get too excited about going to the airport or the train station, especially if it means you miss out on opportunities on that final morning. Below, travel experts share their tips for making the most of your departure day.
Pack the day before
“When I travel, I like to have all my things packed and organized the day before my last day,” said Katie McIntosh, travel blogger and creator of The Katie Show. “That way I can maximize the time I have on my last day there without too much stress.”
Take the time to put most of your belongings back in your luggage the day before your departure. That way, you won’t have to scramble to get it done before you get to the airport, and you can relax or explore on your final morning.
Book a flight later
Perhaps the most obvious way to make the most of your departure day is to choose an evening or late afternoon flight if you have the flexibility. This frees up your morning for one last activity or walk.
“One of the things I try to do is book a later flight so I don’t wake up really early to get to the airport,” Jessica van Dop DeJesus said., founder and editor of The Dining Traveler.
Ask for a late departure
“If I have an afternoon or evening flight, the first thing I do is request a late checkout,” Summers said. “If that’s not possible, I make sure I can store my luggage in a safe place and that they have a bathroom that I can use to change into and maybe even take a quick shower. “
Alternatively, you can choose to depart earlier and leave your bags at reception, freeing you up for morning exploration. Whatever you decide, just make sure you know what time you need to leave for the airport or another transportation hub.
“I recommend working backwards to figure out when you need to leave for the airport,” said Ben Julius, founder of travel platform Tourist Journey. “Once you know how much time you have, ask the hotel about the possibility of late checkout or at least luggage storage.”
Choose a casual activity
“Any time you have left in the day should be treated as a bonus,” Julius said. “Look for short tours or experiences that can add another dimension beyond what you’ve otherwise planned or expected to see. It could be a cooking workshop or an art tour, or just a visit to a few shops you didn’t visit earlier in the trip.”
If you’re in town, consider taking a walk, visiting a museum or gallery, or having a long breakfast at a local cafe. If you’re at the water’s edge, take a last swim or take a slow walk on the beach. The idea is to do something casual with your extra time.
“I like to get up early, watch [the] sunrise, walking around town and having breakfast or my favorite dish that I had tried in this destination one last time,” McIntosh said. “I don’t try to rush with an agenda, but rather explore and be in the moment, absorbing this destination one last time.”
Prepare a “go bag”
If you’re somewhere hot and want to take one last walk to the beach and one last day at the pool, it’s useful to have a change of clothes ― and even deodorant and a toothbrush ― to cool down. and make sure you don’t get cold during the flight. The same principle can apply to virtually any destination.
“I recommend packing a small duffel bag filled with your travel gear and necessities for the day you leave,” said Victoria Yore, travel blogger at Follow Me Away. “That way you can enjoy your morning or your afternoon, and when it’s time to go, you can change your outfit to be ready for a flight.”
Even if you don’t have a small “travel bag”, you can still travel more comfortably by storing the items you’ll need before the flight in a more accessible part of your suitcase.
Visit an attraction near the airport
“If my flight is late afternoon or evening, then I like to get to the airport early, check in my bags and go somewhere nearby to explore for a few hours before getting back on the plane. “said a travel blogger and TV host. La Carmine.
She recommended looking for attractions within 30 minutes by train or car of the airport, to avoid the risk of getting stuck in heavy traffic. Try to grab a bite to eat while you’re there, so you don’t have to pay for overpriced airport food.
“For example, if you’re flying from Tokyo’s Narita Airport, take the train for 30 minutes to the nearby Shingon Buddhist temple, Narita-san,” La Carmina suggested. “If you’re at Mexico City airport, take a 20-minute Uber to Sonora Witchcraft Market. It often makes more sense to visit attractions like these on the day of your outbound flight, as they are located near the airport. This saves travel time and transportation costs.
Yore also recommended visiting the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa in Iceland before flying out of Reykjavik.
“Originally, the Blue Lagoon is only 20 minutes from the airport, so you can make the most of your morning relaxing here,” she said. “Just have extra travel clothes and shoes in your travel bag and you’re ready to fly.”
But watch the time
As you make the most of the last hours of your trip, be sure to give yourself plenty of time to get to the airport and clear security and other lines. If you are traveling abroad, remember that you will need even more time.
“One handy thing that I practice is to set a clear ‘start time’ that indicates the the absolute last time I should leave wherever I am, to get to the airport or train station with enough time,” said travel blogger Rocky Trifari. “By having a clearly defined ‘on the road’ time that includes a bit of a buffer for unforeseen circumstances, I can always plan to do things ahead of time without feeling stress or guilt.” I’ll keep an alarm on my phone to make sure I don’t leave later than planned.
Samantha Patil, co-founder and CEO of booking platform Well Traveled, is also taking steps to make the check-out process less stressful.
“I try to plan a trip to the airport in advance so you don’t have to worry about it later,” she said. “And you’re free to go exploring without stress for a few more hours.”