Cry the end of summer vacation? Here are 6 ways to cope.


I start to cry a trip even before it ends.

The stages of grief came in full force on Day 5 of a six-day bike trip through Maine, complete with negotiations to extend the ride; anger and depression when my boyfriend said we couldn’t; and, finally, acceptance, which comes just a few kilometers from our final destination.

It’s not that I hate life at home, or that I will never travel again. It is knowing that each trip is like a snowflake: unique and fleeting. You can plan a similar trip or return to the same place, but you will never be able to capture its exact magic again.

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As far as life’s struggles go, it wallows at the bottom of the barrel, way, way below the really painful stuff. But I’m not the only one who feels this way.

“We hear it from patients, our friends and our colleagues; I think it’s pretty normal,” said David Rakofsky, a psychologist and president of the Wellington Counseling Group. “No one wants to say goodbye to a good time.”

For travelers who share my sense of despair, this time of year may be the worst, as we watch summer vacations fade in the rearview mirror. Here are six ways to cope.

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Put joy, and more travel, on your calendar

The most obvious way to get on the road to recovering from the post-holiday blues is to start planning your next trip. Many clients of Anthony Berklich, travel consultant and founder of travel platform Inspired Citizen, use this tactic to give themselves something to look forward to in the future.

“Whether it’s a vacation, a school break, or a family vacation, they have something on the horizon that can serve as a milestone,” says Berklich.

Rakofsky recommends thinking of three specific “future-oriented items” to put on your calendar to anchor your optimism, and they don’t all have to be travel.

The first should be something simple and should arrive soon, a couple of days or weeks after you get home from your trip. It doesn’t have to be extravagant; it could be having coffee with a friend, booking a massage, or taking a nearby hike.

Your second article should fall in the distant future, perhaps a trip you take in a year or two that requires planning ahead. The third item should be a dream in the distant future. “This can be something like a retirement plan or a big retirement trip,” says Rakofsky. “Have a vision of your future that feels realistic, but also has a small scope.”

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Whether you’ve chosen a place to go or are just figuring it out, you’ll need a way to pay for your trip.

To motivate yourself to save, you can start a travel fund, find a budget buddy who will hold you accountable to your spending goals, track your efforts in a spreadsheet, or try financial planning apps like Mint, Marcus Insights, Dollarbird, TravelSpend and YNAB.

You can also start collecting miles through a travel credit card and learn the complicated world of points, rates and benefits.

Set price alerts for possible future trips

If you need to fly for your next trip, set up price alerts as soon as possible. You can track specific flights, routes, and dates based on your preferences, and then get notified when the price changes. Those daily or weekly emails can give you a jolt of optimism for the next trip.

If you can be flexible with your travel dates, you are more likely to find good prices on airfare. If you can be even more flexible, sign up for airfare newsletters from sites like Scott’s Cheap Flights, Thrifty Traveler, Airfarespot and Airfarewatchdog, and plan your trip around a great deal.

Once you book something, whether it’s airfare, hotels, or a rental car, you should feel a certain “anticipatory pleasure,” says Chloe Carmichael, a clinical psychologist and author of “Nervous Energy: Harnessing the Power of Your Anxiety.” By solidifying any details of your journey, it makes your brain “feel more excited about reality, because you’re certainly one step closer.”

Be your traveling self at home

Carmichael says people tend to have a black-and-white attitude when it comes to travel: Home is for work and vacation is for fun. The end of a trip means that you have returned to calm.

Don’t relegate your best self to your vacation days. Incorporate some of your traveling self into your daily life. Think about what made you happy on your journey and find out how to emulate those experiences.

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Were you happy on vacation because you were having adventures with friends? Spend more time in nature? Eating delicious foods? reading good books? Can you do that at home?

One way Berklich recreates his favorite mornings on St. Barths is to bring home croissants from his favorite bakery, freeze them, and pop them in the oven to enjoy with his coffee.

Invest in pre-trip skills

Use your next trip as an incentive to learn skills that will enrich your trip, like taking samba classes before a trip to Brazil or reading books on art appreciation before going to the Louvre.

If your trip will be full of action and adventure, create a training plan to improve your endurance.

Go somewhere where they speak a different language? Learn in the months leading up to your trip. Travel writer Malia Yoshioka swears by choosing useful phrases about food, like “This is delicious!” and “What do you recommend?”

I’m a big fan of Mango Languages, an app you can use for free with a library card. But there are plenty of other foreign language tools out there, like Duolingo, BBC Languages, and Language Learning with Netflix.

Cherish your old travel photos

When we were in lockdown at the start of the pandemic, we were encouraged by mental health experts to look at our old vacation photos to get a dopamine boost. Take their advice when you return home and dig into those vacation memories. You took those photos for this reason!

To go a step beyond scrolling through pictures on your phone or iPad, “spend time collecting your vacation photos and make a photo journal or scrapbook,” says Rakofsky.

As someone who loves to keep a travel journal, I can attest to Rakofsky’s advice. I love making them while traveling or when I get home, and flipping through them for a dose of nostalgia months or years later.

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