What to do when things go wrong on vacation!

Too often we waste our precious vacation time fuming over the tiniest things that veer us from our meticulously planned trip. Giving it far too much importance due to the heightened emotions we experience whenever we get time to travel.

Remember when you had a transfer driver that failed to show up exactly on time? We’ve all been there. The obvious thing would be to swear for a minute or two and then make other arrangements, but no, this is our holiday and those bit part players had damn well better stick to the script.

So what does Mr Average Traveler do? He spends three hours stuck at the airport on the phone arguing with anyone from the Travel Agency or Tour Company unlucky enough to have answered his call, all while Mrs Traveler and the little Travelers wish they could get on with the fun stuff.

It’s only natural to be on edge

Sure you are on edge after a long flight, and sure it would be better if things went as planned but why start off the trip in a bad mood? Most people would agree that the worst day on vacation is still better than a good day at work.

things don't always go to plan at the Mona Lisa

How many peopled have planned a trip to the Louvre Museum on their Paris trip with the intention of seeing the famous Mona Lisa? Well, that’s an hour of my life that could have been spent looking at plenty of other outstanding artworks but without the 100 selfie sticks in the way. And I could have bought a better photo of her at the gift shop anyway.

I could have spent the rest of the day stewing over my wasted time but instead chose to look on the brighter side… we saw the Mona Lisa, and, we have a photo of the people waiting for ages to get a bad selfie with her. It makes for a better story than just saying you saw it.

You never expect the unexpected

There are times when unexpected events happen, a protest might close a street, maybe a TV show has blocked off a few shops to film an episode, or maybe the place you wanted to go has now shut its doors for good (but the 1998 review I read on the internet said it was “not to be missed”). These have all happened to us.

The obvious thing would be to find something else fun to do or even get involved, but once again Mr Average wants someone else to feel his pain. Grumbling, sulking, whining to, or actually at, anyone caught in his path of misery. And it’s usually his unlucky family that ends up being swept away in his misery.

There is really no reason for you to be in a bad mood but even worse that you want to ruin other people’s time away. Have a look around you… it’s probably somewhere far more amazing than home so why waste a minute.

some things are out of your control like weather at Tulum

Your friends will almost certainly get quickly bored with your gushing over the majesty of the Grand Canyon, how remarkable it was to see the Mona Lisa, or how you had a lovely photo with the Queen’s Guard at Buck House.

Stories without a little tragedy are dull

But tell them the tragic backstory of how a squirrel stole your $12 sandwich at the GC, or that you fought the crowds for two hours to get a view of a postage stamp-sized painting through 100 extended arms holding camera phones, or better yet, that after the “lovely photo” was taken at Buckingham Palace how you accidentally stepped in a pile of Royal horse poo, and they will laugh with you, and at you, every time you tell the tale.

Tell them how you had been dreaming of seeing the incredible blue waters and golden sand beneath the Mayan ruins of Tulum, and how it was grey, wet, and cold. Not the picture you had before you went but an experience to be treasured. I speak from the experience pictured above.

Sometimes the weather goes wrong on vacation

Or the time you hiked over an hour up part of the Inca Trail at Machu Picchu to visit the Sun Gate for the spectacular view back over the famous site, only for the clouds to come in and give you a stunning view of, well… clouds!

You can’t quite see Machu Picchu in the background of this photo but I assure you it is there.

Forget it now, remember it later

Nobody likes a whinger, vacation time is rare enough without wasting it on the small things that go wrong. Move on but remember what happened because those things make the holiday stories your friends want to hear, and the ones you will recall and laugh about every time you bring out the photo to remind yourself.

The irony of these situations is they often become the basis of our best, most told, and usually, funniest stories once we are home and the emotion has been left behind. In most cases, even Mr Average Traveler can finally see the funny side, although Mrs Traveler will most likely include the part about how her hubby carried on like a baby and seemed intent on ruining the trip for the whole family. A part her hubby will surely deny.

Vacation time is such a rare commodity for most of us that it seems like a travesty to waste it. Remember where you are, remember why you are there, and remember how hard you worked to get there. Live the dream! Calm the farm or take a chill pill. Whatever you need to do, get over it.

Dean Williamson
Dean Williamson
Dean is the main creative force behind Reasons to Visit. A road trip veteran with over 35,000 miles of driving in more than a dozen countries. He has also worked in the Australian travel and tourism industry for the past 10 years.

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  1. Certainly! Those experiences are what makes us better the next time. It’s just harder when there are also other people (in the team) that’s counting on you and yet here are the unfortunate events happening. LOL. but yeah, we must remember how hard we got here and what we did to get here, and we should just have fun or just shrug off the bad vibes XD

    • I always shake my head when I see people carrying on like idiots when the slightest thing goes wrong with their plan. Maybe they’d rather be at work.

  2. We’ve certainly all had times like these where it seems like the end of the world. It’s tough in the sense that you’re always slightly on edge while traveling because a lot can go wrong when you aren’t in your comfort zone. Though, after traveling enough I’ve learned to just embrace it! 🙂 Losing plane tickets… oh dear, I’d be a MESS!!

    • Funny you should mention lost plane tickets Dawn. In 2006 we were in the USA with friends and on the morning of departure couldn’t find our tickets. This is before e-tickets so it was a bit scary. All was eventually sorted and after getting home our friends called to say they found our tickets in their suitcase!

  3. Haha, I used to whine when things wouldn’t go as I wished, but I changed my attitude on my first solo trip when I basically decided to just welcome things as they are and not worry too much. As you can imagine, that was the best trip ever. 😉

    • That one was based on me Beth. Being the researcher and also a travel agent I feel like I let everyone down if things don’t go perfectly. It more anger at myself but I am getting better at controlling it and moving on.

  4. I’ve certainly experienced some meltdowns on vacations, when things didn’t go as planned, but I’ve learned you are right — better to laugh it off and draw on your faith and goodwill to turn it into a better situation.


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