Vacations should mean leaving stress at home

Carolyn O’Neil is a registered dietitian and author of “The Slim Down South Cookbook.” Email her at

Keep calm and plan a vacation designed to soothe your body and mind. Whether it’s a 10-minute meditation imagining palm trees or a 10-day escape to the beach, downtime to unplug from daily stress is good for you.

“I can actually see our guests’ shoulders start to fall and relax after they’ve settled in,” said Felipe Barragan, owner of Chateau de Vie in Calistoga, Calif. “Most have rushed to get here and driven through traffic from San Francisco for a wine country getaway. It’s my job to make sure their stay is tranquil. We take the worry away.”

Guests finally getting the rest they crave are reassured they won’t miss breakfast — “because it’s served when you’re ready to greet the world,” Barragan said.

Actively pursuing a vacation that’s quiet is a lively trend in travel.

Tranquility is “the new luxury,” according to a report from Virtuoso, a global travel company. So, when all you hear at night are the waves lapping the sand at Parrot Cay resort in the Turks and Caicos Islands, it’s because guests there don’t want a casino or late-night cocktail crowd. They come for yoga retreats, spa treatments, a little swimming and snorkeling, hammock time and a gourmet menu of locally caught seafood and tropical produce.

Of course, not every trip is a vacation from stress. Quite the contrary, according to a study in the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life, which found vacationers had less energy when they returned to work after experiencing trouble managing transportation, unfamiliarity with the location, or a lack of feeling safe.

Perhaps that’s why travel agents are more popular than ever, to help take the worry out of vacation planning and to design every detail. “My clients don’t just want to know if the hotel has a fitness center, they want to know where it is and what it looks like, “ said Kelly Grumbach, travel adviser with Quintessentially Travel.

Ann Gerakitis of Century Travel in Atlanta said, “When they say they want ‘hiking,’ I have to know does that mean rock climbing? When they say ‘wellness,’ what does that mean to them? Gluten-free or golf?”

February is National Heart Month, and stress management is on the American Heart Association’s list of healthy habits. The body reacts to stress by releasing adrenaline, which causes breathing and heart rate to speed up and blood pressure to rise.

It’s good to know that starting to carefully plan your next vacation is just what the doctor ordered.