Are you mourning the end of summer vacation? Here are 6 ways to cope.


I begin to mourn a trip even before it is over.

The stages of grief came into effect on the fifth day of a six-day bike trip through Maine, with negotiations to extend the trip; anger and depression when my boyfriend said we couldn’t; and finally acceptance, a few kilometers from our final destination.

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

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As far as life’s struggles go, this one wallows at the bottom of the barrel – way, way below the actually painful stuff. But I’m not the only one feeling this.

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

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

The rules of flight like a decent human

Put some joy – and more travel – on your calendar

The most obvious way to get yourself back on the road to post-holiday recovery 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 have something to look forward to.

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

Rakofsky recommends coming up with three specific “future-oriented items” to put on your calendar to anchor your optimism — and they don’t all have to be trips.

The first should be something low rise and arrive soon, around a few days or weeks after you return from your trip. It doesn’t have to be extravagant; it could be grabbing a coffee with a friend, booking a massage, or hiking nearby.

Your second item should fall in the far future – perhaps a trip you’re taking a year or two from now that requires planning ahead. The third element should be a dream in the distant future. “It can be something like a retirement plan or a big retirement trip,” Rakofsky says. “Have a vision of your future that seems realistic but also perhaps small in scope.”

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Whether you’ve picked a place to go or are finding it, you’ll need a way to pay for the trip.

To motivate yourself to save, you can create a travel fund, find a budgeting partner to hold you accountable for your spending goals, log your efforts in a spreadsheet, or try financial planning apps such as Mint, Marcus Insights , Dollarbird, TravelSpend and YNAB.

You can also start earning miles with a travel credit card and discover the complicated world of points, fees and benefits.

Set price alerts for potential 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, then receive notifications when the price changes. These daily or weekly emails can give you a boost of optimism for your next trip.

If you can be flexible with your travel dates, you’re more likely to find great deals 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 bargain.

Once you’ve booked something — whether it’s a plane ticket, a hotel or a rental car — you should feel “anticipated pleasure,” says clinical psychologist Chloe Carmichael and author of “Nervous Energy: Harness the Power of Your Anxiety.” By solidifying any detail of your journey, you make your brain “feel more energized by the reality of this one, because it’s definitely a step closer.”

Be your own trip home

Carmichael says people tend to have a black-and-white attitude when it comes to travel: being home is for work, and being on vacation is for fun. The end of a trip means it’s back to the doldrums.

Don’t relegate the best of yourself to your vacation days. Incorporate some of your travel self into your daily life. Think about what made you happy during your trip and find out how to emulate those experiences.

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Were you happy on vacation because you had adventures with friends? Spending more time in nature? Eat delicious meals? Read good books? Can you do this at home?

Berklich recreates his favorite St. Barts mornings by bringing home croissants from his favorite bakery, freezing them, and popping them in the oven to enjoy with his coffee.

Invest in skills before the trip

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

If your trip is filled with action and adventure, develop a training plan to work on your stamina.

Go somewhere where they speak a different language? Learn in the months leading up to your trip. Travel writer Malia Yoshioka swears by picking up useful culinary phrases, such as “It’s 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, such as Duolingo, BBC Languages, and Language Learning with Netflix.

Appreciate your old travel photos

When we were locked down at the start of the pandemic, mental health experts encouraged us to look at our old vacation photos for a dopamine boost. Take their advice when you get back home and immerse yourself in those vacation memories. You took these photos for this reason!

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

As someone who loves travel diaries, I can vouch for Rakofsky’s advice. I love making them during a trip or when I get home, and flipping through them for a dose of nostalgia months or years later.

About Gene Schafer

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