How to get over a bad vacation


So, you’ve had a bad vacation.

Your kids were unruly, you got food poisoning, and your father-in-law couldn’t stop talking about politics.

The good and not-so-good news? Time to go back to work.


To avoid feeling like you’ve been cheated out of some much anticipated time away, and to ease into a busy week without feeling more harried than usual, workplace and travel experts offer these tips:

Get The Weekender in your inbox:
The Globe's top picks for what to see and do each weekend, in Boston and beyond.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

 If you can’t think of anything else except your trip’s worst moments — a fight you had, a tantrum your toddler threw, or cutting remarks from a relative — it’s OK to vent to a friend, or journal about it, said Theresa Nguyen, a licensed clinical social worker who focuses on workplace mental health.

“It’s very hard to concentrate when you have those thoughts running through your head,” said Nguyen, vice president of policy and programs at Mental Health America. The first step is to catch yourself and realize that you’re having that ruminating thought, she said. If you share with a loved one, you’ll feel unburdened, she said.

 When it’s time to go back to work, block out some time Monday morning to catch up on what you missed, said Laura Vanderkam, a time management expert and author of “Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done.” Don’t worry about getting through all of your e-mails. Read through messages from the last few days. It’s unlikely anything from a week ago will be that pressing without someone bringing it to your attention when you return, she said. If you really want to focus on getting caught up, keep that out-of-office message on until you feel ready to jump back in.

 When planning for future trips, adjust your expectations, experts said. Young children will be the same kids, only in a different place. They likely will be more of a handful because they will be out of their routine, might not sleep as well on the road, and all the conveniences of home won’t be with you. Your travel companions will be the same people, too, with the same tendencies. If your vacation didn’t meet expectations because your young children were misbehaving, don’t take it personally. “It’s good to anticipate that if you’re traveling far away with young children, it’s going to be much harder than being at home,” Nguyen said. “It’s good for you to just know that.”


 Go into the trip knowing that some travel will be difficult. A family trip to Disney World will have its ups and downs, but if you recognize that ahead of time, that helps. Remember why you’re taking the trip: to spend time with family, or to see the joy on your kids’ faces when they’re on a ride or meet their favorite character, Nguyen said. Try to remember to have extra patience for those companions who have different travel habits than you, whether it’s deciding where to eat, when to get to the airport, or how much sightseeing to do.

 If you know you’re going on a trip with a big group of people, plan an escape for an evening, or shorten the trip if that will help you handle it better, Vanderkam said.

 It’s important not to construct a narrative in your head that the whole trip was bad if you had a few miserable experiences, Vanderkam said. There were probably some good moments. “Focus on savoring the good stuff,” she said.

 Get out of the dichotomy that work is bad and time off is good, Vanderkam said. Schedule “vacation moments” during your life at home, whether it’s lunch in the park, dinner with friends, or a day trip. Don’t let your expectations for your “regular life” be too low. “The vacation doesn’t become do or die because you’re filling the well at other points,” she said.

 When preparing to leave work for a vacation, clean your desk, so you feel less pressure to get organized when you get back, Nguyen said. If you haven’t done that, taking an hour to do so when you get back might help you to reset and refresh yourself, Nguyen said.


 Tell your colleagues early that you will be gone, so that they can prepare to pitch in during your time away, said Katie Denis, lead researcher for Project: Time Off, a research organization funded by the travel industry. “We leave so much on ourselves,” she said. At certain workplaces, vacation can be a taboo subject, and people wait to bring it up to their colleagues. Be supportive of co-workers and helpful when they’re gone, and maybe they will return the favor.

 If you know that reentry into your work and home life will require an adjustment, build a day in to your time off to catch up on laundry, to handle the mail that has accumulated, and for getting back into a routine, Denis said.

Jill Terreri Ramos can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @jillterreri.