The art of the summer holiday lies in a precise, well-chilled cocktail of pleasure, leisure and stimulation. Such a delicate balance requires careful preparation and specific tools, so here's a handy packing check-list to cut out and keep.
Sunnies, sunscreen, bathers, water bottle, books and/or Kindles for holiday reading. A second pair of sunglasses, because you will lose the first. A bag to carry all of the above to beach or pool. Thongs, slip-ons or slides (don't wear strappy sandals in countries where you remove shoes before entering houses, or you'll be the one still buckling up your shoes while everyone else has moved on.) A broad hat, because you will be eating outdoors. Insect repellent, because you will stay at the lunch table until dusk, and your ankles will be exposed.
For many of us, the summer holiday means sun, sea, sand and water, but consider, if you will, the mountains. The air is cooler, the crowds fewer, the people more chilled and you don't end up with sand in everything.
Avoiding the heat while on summer holidays is as enjoyable as it is desirable, if it means scuba-diving in azure waters, strolling through ancient forests, or meandering through the cooling air of a tall-ceilinged, stone-walled museum. And wherever you are, there will be that deeply cultural symbol of the summer holiday, the ice-cream; be it Italy's gelato, Mexico's paleta, Turkey's dondurma or Malaysia's ice kacang.
Try giving your mobile a holiday as well, by not checking in every 10 minutes to see what you're missing. The whole point of going on holidays is that those left at home and work should be missing you, not you missing them. If that's a step too far, then keep the phone and upload some great summer playlists (eg. Barack Obama's) and podcasts for your listening pleasure.
Consider, also, the "when in Rome" rule, and do what the locals do. If they sleep in until noon, then so should you, as no shops will be open. If they remain decently clothed at all times, so should you. If they rent deck chairs and umbrellas on the beach by the day or the week, so should you. You can't just take your own holiday to someone else's summer.
Naps and siestas are great survival strategies, ditto the "I'm not asleep, I'm just resting my eyelids" post-lunch snooze.
The optimal outcome is to be relaxed without being bored, which requires an ability to live in the moment and enjoy what comes your way. Do that, and you will always have a great summer holiday - even when you're not on holidays.