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Opening Doors to New Possibilities

Great Escapes

by Michele Novotni, Ph.D.

Do your summer vacations cause you more stress than a week at the office? Carry these away-from-home strategies in your suitcase.

What if you woke up one morning and everything was different? What if your bathroom had moved? And your dresser had shrunk? And your favorite toiletries had been replaced with little bottles of unfamiliar stuff? And most of your things had disappeared?

Don't panic. Every summer, millions of people have this experience: it's called a vacation. And the key to a successful one begins with choosing the right destination and planning the right kind of trip. Preplanned vacations, such as escorted tours or cruises, tend to work best for those with AD/HD. Someone else maps out the routes, pinpoints the major sites, and makes all the travel arrangements (flights, hotels, even meals). All you have to do is show up.

Just make sure your destination meets your interests and needs. If you can&'t stand sitting quietly for hours watching waves tumble out of the ocean, steer clear of remote beach getaways that offer little else to do. On the other hand, if you want to relax and recharge, save quick-paced urban tours for another time. Here's a guide to great trips for folks with AD/HD and why they work.

The Right Trip
If you like to break up pool side relaxation with see-it-all tours, you'll love a vacation at sea. Cruise ships call in exotic destinations in the Caribbean, Hawaii, Europe, and Alaska, among other places, and make perfect getaways for families, couples, and singles because there's so much to do onboard and off. Plan your whole trip with one call to your travel agent. They're great for folks with AD/HD because they offer some structure, some downtime, and lots of flexibility. Unpack once and see the world or a good chunk of it.

With their tennis courts, pools, swim-up bars, spas, and gorgeous beachfront settings, all-inclusive resorts have become virtual summer camps for adults. One flat hotel fee includes meals, activities, and, sometimes, drinks. These sprawling luxury retreats are most commonly found along sparkling shorelines in places like the Caribbean and Mexico. They make sense for folks with AD/HD, because there's nothing else to worry about once you arrive. There are no schedules to adhere to, no research to do, no routes to map out. Your only job is to relax. But if too much downtime drives you crazy, make sure you find out about local excursions. Then just dial the concierge, and presto! he'll set it up.

If you want to visit a foreign place but don't want to do any legwork, consider an escorted group tour. You can find them all over the world -- China, Italy, France, Australia, Africa, even in the U.S. You'll probably need to pack and unpack a few times throughout your trip, but that's as hard as escorted tour life gets. These trips combine adventure and structure. No need to learn foreign languages, or drive on the wrong side of the road. Instead, a guide leads you to attractions, books your hotels, and plans your meals. As for you, sit back and enjoy the ride.

Hot Trip Tip:

To ease pre-vacation pressures, keep one organizer stocked with all of your toiletries ready to go in your suitcase. This way, you can't leave home without it.

While escorted group tours supply structure, they can make you feel like you're on somebody else's schedule. If you'd rather call the shots, arrange for a private guide to customize a tour for you. Generally, such trips are more expensive than escorted tours, but you don't have to travel by bus or in a large group. And your vacation is centered around your personal preferences and interests. For AD/HD adults, this means maximum flexibility -- you say when and where, and someone else makes it happen. You can even change your mind.

A vacation doesn't always have to mean leaving home. You can stay put in your hometown and still get a break. Just don't head for the sofa. Instead, pretend you're on a trip and explore local sights as if you were a tourist. Consider eating all your meals out to create the illusion of an away-from-home vacation. This works well for adults with AD/HD. At home, your support systems are already in place, and you know how they work.

Anytime, Anywhere
While a break from work -- and some time away from home -- presents a wonderful opportunity to see exotic places and enjoy new adventures, it also poses unique challenges for folks with AD/HD. Adults who have AD/HD spend time, energy, and effort developing strategies, structures, and supports. Going on vacation -- or any other schedule disruption -- can blow that familiar structure to shreds. Those who rely on routines to function find themselves without predictability, and being in an unfamiliar place only makes things worse. So, does this mean you should avoid vacations if you have AD/HD? Of course not, but you will need to pack some helpful strategies and take them with you.

Pack efficiently.
Make a list of the things you'll need on your trip. Include items for special activities (swimming, hiking) and things that might be difficult (or pricey) to purchase away from home. Check your list over twice to ensure that you haven't forgotten anything.

Make two copies of your list.
When packing for your trip, cross off items as you put them in your suitcase. Do the same when you pack for home, so you avoid leaving things at your hotel. Save your lists to use for future vacations.

Stow medication in perscription bottles in your carry-on bag.
Unfortunately, your checked luggage doesn't always arrive when you do. But be sure the prescription name on the bottle matches your ticket information.

Use structures you rely on at home.
If you keep your keys in a specific place at home, keep them in a specific place in your hotel room. Consider packing a small basket for your keys and other loose items. Keep your travel documents together. Some travelers find an accordion envelope handy for tickets and passports -- it's also a good place for receipts.

Book a quiet hotel room.
Live music, vending machines, ice machines -- hotels are full of sounds. For those with AD/HD who have sleep difficulties, this could mean a vacation without a good night's rest. When you make your reservation, specify that you want a room far from elevators, ice machines, pools, and restaurants. As an added precaution, pack earplugs or noise-cancellation headsets so that you can fall asleep, no matter what's happening outside your door.

Check out your new turf.
Examine your new surroundings before you settle in. Consider ways to make the environment work for you. Identify where you can keep your medication. Where can you keep your wallet? Your travel documents? Your clothes? If necessary, rearrange furniture, closets, desktops, so that the arrangement works best for you.

Give yourself extra time.
For those with AD/HD, time can be difficult to manage. But schedules play an important role in a vacation. Hotels charge for late check-outs. And airlines and cruises often require early check-ins -- arrive late, and you could miss your whole trip.

Stay on schedule.
Use watches with alarms and personal digital assistants (PDAs). If you're traveling with your family, designate a timekeeper for your group. Set goals and plan where you want to be by when. Avoid arriving at the last minute to allow for unforeseen events, like traffic, and spur-of-the-moment meal stops. Visit Web sites such as MapQuest or AAA to estimate travel time.

Plan a backup system.
Make copies of your travel documents. Keep a copy with you on vacation (separate from the originals) and leave a copy with a friend at home. If you lose your originals, you can still prove who you are and where you're from. Take extra medication with you, and keep it separate from your main supply, in case it gets lost. Or, bring a prescription that you can fill on the road.

Michele Novotni, Ph.D., is a psychologist and coach in private practice in Wayne, Pennsylvania.

This article is published by permission from ADDitude Magazine 2004. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part is prohibited. Subscribe to ADDitude online or via toll-free phone 888-762-8475.

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