18th May 2017

Is it your fault you’re having a bad holiday?

middle aged couple unhappy on holiday
Leon Della Bosca


Have you ever had the misfortune of arriving back home from your journey and thinking “well, that was a sh#t trip”? Chances are, some of the choices you made were responsible for your horrible holiday. Sure, we all set out with the best intentions – to have fun, to see the sights and try new things. But often, people go a little too far, or try a little too hard and the result is a trip that is more a chore than the fun it’s meant to be.


So, here are the mistakes to avoid on your next trip.

Trying to see too much
Okay, we all want to see the best of the city we’re visiting and, upon first glance at the travel guide, there’s so much to see and do. But, if you take a breath, you’ll realise you’re never going to be able to see and do it all. And besides, think of the time you’ll spend in a cab, train or bus just trying to make it to all these ‘attractions’. Great way to spend a holiday …


So, make a list of everything you want to do in order of preference. Then prioritise or, more’s the point, just cross off the second half of your list. Go for quality over quantity.


And here’s the best piece of travel advice you’ll read all day: don’t plan it all. Plan to do one thing a day. Yep, one thing. Then allow for opportunity and chance. Try to think of each day on your holiday as a local would their weekend. Choose one activity, then soak up the neighbourhood, walk into a random bar, try the churros from the food truck on the corner, accept an invitation to a live performance. The only way to experience the country you’re visiting is to do it like the locals do. Don’t get sucked into the guide book or all those advertised attractions.

Booking a red-eye flight
Unless you’re saving hundreds of dollars on your flight, don’t book a super early flight. It’s meant to be a holiday, so give yourself a nice sleep in and arrive at the airport at a decent time of day. It’s not worth the hassle.

Taking too much stuff
You know what, I’ve written about overpacking before, so without going into too much detail (you can read more about it here), overpacking makes holidays hell. Dragging a bloody big bag all over town is, well, just not enjoyable. Here’s a tip: you probably won’t ever wear half of what you pack. So, whatever you pack: halve it.


woman dragging big suitcases


Not booking ahead

If you do want to see Alcatraz or that blockbuster Broadway show, you may need to book ahead. Before I went to San Francisco, everyone told me I had to see Alcatraz. What they didn’t tell me is that I had to book a berth three to four weeks ahead of time. While it didn’t ruin my trip (I wasn’t really that keen to see it), it may have if I was hell-bent on visiting the infamous island jail.


Going overboard on the food and bevvies
It’s fun to let yourself go, but going too far can have consequences. Overeating can make for a rough night’s sleep and having too much of a good thing means you may have to miss out on some others. When possible, stick to sample sizes or entrée portions (although it pays to remember that entrée means main course in some countries) and go easy on the booze. Hangovers make for nasty next days.


Booking accommodation too far out of town
Sure, there are cheaper hotel deals outside of the city, but the time and money you spend commuting will quickly erase any savings.


Taking too many photographs
Now, I have been guilty of this travel sin. I once spent so much time taking photos that, when reviewing them back home, realised I didn’t truly soak up the surrounds. Sure, I have digital memories, but I’d prefer to have smells and sounds ingrained on my brain. A snap or a selfie here and there is recommended, but keep the camera in your pocket and live the moment. The best memories are the ones you make, not the ones you take.


tourist photographing food


Staying too connected
Constantly checking your email or Facebook will mean you spend less time taking in the sights around you. Just think, the 30 minutes (or more) a day you spend with your head down looking at your phone means you’re missing out on an opportunity, a chance encounter or a freaky occurrence you can experience physically, not digitally. And checking email is the quickest way to be sucked back into life at home. You’re on holiday! So be on holiday!


Expecting perfection
You may head to a destination with the ‘guide book’ image in mind, but you know what? That’s advertising. McDonald's doesn’t show you the crap burgers, only the ‘model’ ones. If you walk around your home city, you may not notice many of its imperfections, because you’re used to them. When you go to some new place, you do so with fresh eyes and an ideal impression of your destination. Just don’t sweat the small stuff and you’ll have a good time.

Going during peak season
Want to know why you’re waiting an hour for the ski lift? Or why, when visiting the Louvre, all you see is the backs of people’s heads? Try finding out when shoulder season is. The crowds will be smaller, the food and drink cheaper, the locals a lot friendlier and your holiday less stressful and way more enjoyable.


Do you want to share the ways you’ve contributed to a horrible holiday? Have any tips for making a trip more enjoyable?


Related articles:
10 first-time travel mistakes
Don't book these plane seats
Five ways to ruin a bucket-list trip


To make a comment, please register or login
20th May 2017
Not sure if you are a seasoned traveller Leon. Some of what you say is spot on but a few things are a bit hollow:

1. Planning - when fail to plan you plan to fail! Never was that saying more correct than taking a holiday. Having said that we have just returned from an extended time in France. The skiing was crap, mainly due to lack of snow, but the south of France was a gem.

2. One thing a day - sound advice and I can see the sense in that but one month was too short even though we were flat out for the whole time. Our busiest day was 4 major sites in the one day. Too much for sure but got it done!

3. Too many photos - you are starting to sound like my wife (ouch!). You can never take too many photos. This became clear to me after stumbling on Hautecombe Abbey and not being allowed to take any pics. Here we were in probably the best site in all of France with a history and carved statues which would blow your socks off and no pics. AT least I have a laminated dinner coaster. The pain is still clear.
Whilst I took several thousand pics in practice I would only short list a couple of hundred as good. The rest go onto the external hard drive...never to be used again?

4. Booking accommodation out of town - this can be good and bad at the same time. We mostly booked in the historic centre. Out the door and arrived where you want to be. No parking though. Same every location. We did book a few places out of the main centre and wished we had done the same with a couple of others. Ended up in 2 very bad places and wished we had gone further out. If there is ready and cheap transport it is an easy and sensible thing to do. Depends on the location though.

5. Food - self contained is one way to reign in your expenses. If you eat out every day you burn your capital. I remember a doctor we met on a tour in 2015 you said 'we travel cheap and often' and that has been the way we go every year...not once every decade. Of course you have to deny yourself a lavish time and some people forget what they are there for. Personal choices!

Enjoy the travels. They can be regular if you can be bothered but I know it is all too hard for some folk. That is the difference between people.
20th May 2017
It is nice when a trip is planned and works out as planned. For me though, the really great trips have been when there was enough time/limited demand and I/we could just follow our noses. If the kids were enthralled by something or if an afternoon in some gallery turned out too little, what the hell, take another day. If we wanted to get a broad view of something but were really eager to be somewhere else, 1000 klm detour in a day in lieu of a 200 klm superhighway 'dash' was good too. When a sleeping train due at midnight didnt arrive until 5:00 meaning we would have to find another connection that was the most minor hic-cup in the face of the great time we spent with the monks met on the filthy siding.

Watch your pennies often means booking return flights but if I had my way I would only ever book one-way as finding your way back can become a very good time.

Food. Yes, eating high and often is costly (though it is hard to deny that it can be beneficial) Self-preparing can easily be just as good as mid-range fare but it is hard to beat street food for flavour and conservation of funds.

From the above you would have no trouble believing that I have never taken a directed tour or cruise, not even a bus trip with a talking driver. It is true I have not yet it is something I would be interested in trying particularly those of the technical variety or those covering history or analysis better than a few nights of reading can.
21st May 2017
Great and well-balance article, Leon. Especially, I liked the comment "Go for quality over quantity.". About this point and about "Expecting perfection", I would add that some make the mistake of not researching specific locations they go to, and end up disappointed when they see crap (places not meant for smart travellers to see or enjoy).
Chris B T
21st May 2017
Buyer beware, After the BS photos and BS commentry.
Arrive at pre booked accommodation not expecting you. Than show your email of booking and payment or as another traveller the accommodation went bust and still took there booking. We met up with to compare our sad stories.
Restaurant Over priced and Child size portions.
Room service nonexistent.
Pre paid so the commitment of of this XXXX place is more like XXXXXXXX for poison.

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