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9 Ways You’re Making Travel Miserable (and How to Stop)

It always seems like such a great idea at first: “I’ll save $100 by booking the 6 a.m. flight! I can save money and get a jump on the day.” Fast-forward to your departure, cursing yourself for having to get up early and spend money on a taxi (since it’s too early for public transit). Are you making travel miserable for yourself? Here’s how to stop.

Ways You’re Making Travel Miserable (and How to Stop)

Cramming in Too Many Destinations

If you’re spending a lot of money and time on a flight, it makes sense to want to see everything possible in the surrounding area of your destination. After all, when will you ever get back to (insert far-flung country here)? The internet certainly doesn’t help with this—once I start researching a vacation spot, I instantly find five more places nearby that I have to get to on my trip. But with limited time, how can you fit everything in without making travel miserable?

Jaime Kurtz addresses this issue in her new book, The Happy Traveler: Unpacking the Secrets of Better Vacations. Kurtz says we tend to only think about the big picture when we book a vacation—for example, day dreaming about all of the amazing spots you can hit on one trip. But, once you actually sit down and plan out your day-to-day schedule, you soon realize that you’ll be spending way too much time shuttling between train stations/airports/buses. Instead, take time before booking to think about what an entire day on your trip would look like, and consider if you want to be that rushed. This will maximize your happiness in the long run.

Booking a Super Early Flight

Who doesn’t gravitate towards the cheapest flight available when doing a search? But before you hit book on that 6 a.m. deal, take a minute to think about if it’s really worth it. Since it’s so early, will you end up having to take an expensive cab to the airport if public transportation isn’t running that time of day? Even if it does save you money, backtrack to what time you’ll have to get up that morning to catch your flight. Is sleep-deprived really the right way to start your trip? Sometimes, it’s worth it to pay extra for that better flight time.


If, despite your best intentions, you find yourself shamefully gate-checking a too-big carry-on bag or struggling to carry all of your luggage to your hotel, you may be guilty of this. Overpacking is a surefire way to make travel miserable: it adds stress and aggravation, can cause drama and fees at the check-in counter, and steals time in the morning when you’re digging through your over-stuffed bag trying to find essentials. Streamline your packing and you might find that your entire trip feels less stressed.

Not Planning Ahead for Popular Attractions

Who wants to spend their precious vacation time waiting in line? Not me. Plan carefully if you’re hoping to visit a popular attraction on your next trip. Whether that means visiting at an off-peak time or simply buying tickets that allow you to skip the line, a little research can go a long way in ensuring you’ll actually enjoy visiting those bucket-list type attractions—or that you’ll make it there at all.

Booking a Too-Tight or Too-Long Layover

Of course, choosing a nonstop flight over one with layovers is a no-brainer, but if nonstop isn’t in the budget (or on the airline’s schedule), make sure you carefully consider your stopovers before booking. Don’t book a short connection and spend vacation time fretting over missing a leg of your journey. On the other hand, booking a too-long layover that’s still not long enough to leave the airport can add on unexpected expenses in the form of airport food and beverage, plus it’ll eat up your vacation time and patience.


Travel and cuisine are inextricably linked—everyone wants to sample as much of a new culture as they can while abroad. When you’re eating out for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, plus throwing in glasses of local wine or exotic cocktails, it’s no wonder that you may feel miserable toward the end of your trip. If you generally eat healthy at home, tossing indulgent meal after meal at your body may make it revolt after a few days. This doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the local treats, but if you make some swaps you may have a bit more stamina by the end of your vacation. Consider hitting the local grocery store for a lighter breakfast, opting for local vegetables over fries, etc.

Staying Far from Your Destination

Booking inexpensive accommodations outside of the city center is often touted as a money-saving travel tip, but how much money will it really save you? Before you press “book” on that deal, make sure you research just how much money (and time) you’ll be spending commuting to and from the city that you came to see.

Checking Email

According to a survey by Adobe, 79 percent of Americans check email while on vacation. That’s a guaranteed way to pull yourself out of a relaxing-vacation mindset and back into work, so resist the temptation! If your job allows, make sure you set an email auto-response that lets people know that you will not be checking it until you return, and tell your boss that you’ll be unreachable.

If going totally off-grid isn’t feasible in your line of work, set designated boundaries: only check it once a day, only respond to emergencies, etc.

Going During High Season

Visiting a destination during high season (for example, Italy in June or Disney World during spring break) will ensure crowds, long lines, limited availability for reservations, and high costs. If you can, try to time your travel for shoulder season, that glorious period where the weather is great but the crowds (and costs) are tiny, and the destination will be way less miserable.

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Caroline Morse is a Senior Editor with SmarterTravel. Follow her on Instagram @TravelwithCaroline and Twitter @CarolineMorse1 for example photos of how not to travel miserable around the world.

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