: This site uses affiliate links, you can read our affiliate policy here.

It is a common problem: You spend lots of money on a vacation and countless hours planning it and you want to have an amazing time. But then it happens, you end up sitting in a hotel room (or maybe on a trail somewhere) super disappointed and probably in tears.

How do vacations we are looking forward to turn into a major disappointment? Here are some steps to making sure you give yourself a fighting chance of having happier vacations.

Begrudgingly eating snow
This is me… begrudgingly eating snow on a hike because we forgot to pack enough food & water.

Barring major problems, like crime and natural disasters, I truly think most of us ruin our own fun. I have been guilty of it many times. I was the girl having a full-blown temper tantrum because we had to change plans at the last minute, couldn’t find our hotel, took a wrong turn, couldn’t find anything good to eat or the inconsiderate weather just wouldn’t cooperate! I was making myself not have a happy vacation.

Luckily, I’ve learned the error of my ways and want to share my steps to happier vacations:

5 Steps for a Happier Vacation

Step 1: Don’t Over or Under Plan

My dear hubby likes to wing it and I like to let my inner control freak plan to the point of insanity. But we have found that a middle ground between the two is perfect. If you want a happy vacation, just be sure you leave enough open time so you have time to breathe.

visiting bratislava - koun gelato

We don’t want to be so scheduled that we can’t spontaneously order dessert at a restaurant because we only have time for dinner. But we don’t want to just completely wing it. Because then we may end up with no available hotels and hours of aimless driving around.

My suggestion is to pick hotels and a few things you would really like to do, then see what you find on the way!

Spontaneous whitewater rafting trip, due to a free day on our honeymoon.

Of course, you are going to be excited about an upcoming trip, and you may even fantasize about all the awesome places you will see. But don’t make the mistake of planning out every single hour of your vacation.

Some of the best memories of a happy vacation are the unplanned ones! Plus, if you get hung up on seeing too many specific things it could be a day-ruiner if one doesn’t work out!

ireland road trip cliffs of moher

Step 2: Go with the Flow, Let it Go, etc.

Pretend you are a mental gymnast and be as flexible as possible. If there is rain on the day you planned to go on that epic hike you were looking forward to, maybe find an awesome café or museum to check out or just go hiking or exploring anyway.

sydney in the rain

This is your happy vacation, you have to choose how you want to remember it. If you want to think back to that time you got super pissed at the rain and pouted for three days, go for it. But me? I want to hold on to fun, happy memories.

It may not be what you wanted, but it is what you have. Make the most of it. Only you can make a potential bad vacation into a happy one.

Iceland Hike where the weather tried to prevent us from having a happy vacation
We went on the best hike of our lives, during the worst weather of our entire Iceland trip

The better you get at adapting to changing situations, the better vacations you will have. Surprisingly, the rain is a blessing in disguise at times.

Step 3: Don’t Forget to Eat

Do you or someone you love suffer from getting hangry? You are not alone. I have had many fights over not having immediate access to food. And it is something I still struggle with.

eating pasta on italian food tour in rome

It seems like the more fun you are having, the easier it is to forget to eat. So make sure to always have a granola bar, some almonds, an apple or SOMETHING to hold you over if you are out on an adventure and realize the hanger has hit.

Brooke eating a cake pop to prevent the hanger
Devouring a cake pop after a hangry episode.

If you happen to love someone with this problem, make sure to force feed them if ever they start to snarl at you for no apparent reason and cry over wanting french fries but not having any.

Step 4: Ditch Debbie Downer

You know the people… the ones that always find something to complain about. The ones who could win the lotto and be mad about the hassle of claiming the money. Yep, ditch those jerks, or you are not going to have a happy vacation.

Walking into the enchanted woods of mount tutu eco-sanctuary to get a deeper look at the property

If your friend who sends every plate of food she has ever ordered back to the kitchen asks you to go on a trip with her, run away and run quickly. Don’t even think about it. She is going to make it miserable for everyone.

Sometimes we have to go places or hang out with people out of obligation. But when you are planning a vacation this is not the time to get guilted into a miserable time. Say no and move on. Only travel with awesome people to make happy vacations!

Hubs being a good sport at Disney. He even wore mouse ears!
Hubs being a good sport at Disney. He even wore mouse ears!

If you happen to go on a vacation with a usually fun friend and midway through they channel their inner Debbie, nicely excuse yourself from them and find your own fun. Seriously!

I can’t count the number of times I have been out with people that randomly decide to be fun-suckers, and I just nicely tell them I’m going to go do my own thing. This is your trip too and you have a right to enjoy it. That being said, make sure to be considerate and don’t be the one dragging others down.

Step 5: Decide to have fun!

Seek out those amazing experiences you desire, don’t just wait for them to come to you. If you hit a bad patch on your well-deserved vacay, look around, find the best option at that moment and just do it!

drifta halla riga

Pretend you are having fun if you have to. You aren’t going to get your time or money back just because you had a crappy experience, so DON’T. Have fun instead!

You can even apply this to work trips and obligatory trips (like a wedding or family event). If you have to go somewhere you really aren’t psyched for, find something in the area you want to check out and make a point to see it! You can spare an hour or two. And it will make it sooo much better, I promise!

Brooke and Buddy at Petrified Forest. Even though it wasn't what we expected, we had a happy vacation
Taking sarcastic excited pictures at the Petrified Forest (totally NOT the “forest” we expected) on our way to a family reunion.

Remember, this is YOUR vacation. Yes, there are certain situations that just plain out suck. But usually, we can move passed most bad circumstances and enjoy our time despite them.

You just need a little creativity, a good sense of humor, and a positive attitude!

Some of Our Top Happier Vacations so Far:

Iceland Camper Van Road Trip

Rome Foodie Visit

Day Trip to Morocco

Great Barrier Reef Snorkeling

5-Day Ireland Road Trip

German Christmas Market Road Trip

New Zealand’s Northland

Romania Road Trip

While all of these sound (and were) amazing! They weren’t without bad weather days, plans not going our way, or moments of hanger. But, looking back, they are all amazing vacation memories because we followed the steps above!

5 Simple Steps to Having Happier Vacations