Open TicketVacation Anticipation: Waiting Is The Hardest PartStephanie Spitler

I love every part of planning for a trip. I love researching places and dates and airfares. I can’t get enough of obsessively checking reviews on TripAdvisor and playing around with fare finders (“If I leave Wednesday morning instead of Tuesday night, will I save any money? Would it balance out so I could stay an extra day?”). These kinds of scheduling maneuvers really get me excited. I feel like a super spy, or at the very least an extremely efficient travel agent. I love the feeling I get from finding a great deal, or discovering a way to beat the system and get a price much lower than everything else I’ve seen. It probably has something to do with our hunting/gathering past but, whatever the reason, I’m addicted to it.

But there’s a sad lull once the tickets have been booked and the hotel reservations have been made. When I’ve planned out my days and activities and the sights I’ll see, an uneasy calm descends over me. After I’ve made a packing list and highlighted my guidebook and downloaded some apps, I feel a bit lost and adrift. In that quiet time when everything that can be done ahead of time HAS been done, I get antsy. I’ve prepped and washed and packed and planned, and now all that’s left to do is sit and wait.

Sure, I could continue with my research, but I’ve found that that just adds confusion. Not long after confusion, doubt comes creeping in, and I start worrying. Am I really maximizing my time? Have I over-scheduled? Have I found the best things to see/do/eat?

I know from experience that once I start second-guessing, it can all go downhill quickly. I need to research, make my choices, and then step away from the information. I need to close the browser window, log out, and have faith that I’ve done my best. The only problem with that? I’m left with nothing to do but wait. And waiting is THE WORST.

I hate surprises (This only applies to surprises that I know are coming. I would LOVE a surprise party, because I’d have no idea about it. Christmas morning, however, is a different story. Waiting is torture, because I know I have something to look forward to.). I have a love/hate relationship with anticipation. I get so singularly focused on something that it feels like I have to wait years for it to finally get here. Try as hard as I can, I cannot “take my mind off it” or “just think about something else.” Those always struck me as ridiculous pieces of advice. I was never the kid that forgot about an assignment, or forgot a pencil, or forgot if you said you’d lend me that pink nail polish but then you never brought it in. Forgetting is for things you don’t care enough about to remember. And travel is pretty much the thing I care about most, so no; I can’t just “put it out of my head.”

I have, however, found some ways to cope with the excruciating torment of waiting. I continually check my packing list to make sure I have everything. I run through my to-do list in my head. I do things that I know I won’t want to do right after I get back, things like stocking up on non-perishable groceries so I don’t come home to only water and one lonely can of soup. I get my laundry under control so I don’t come home to crazy piles of dirty clothes and nothing clean to wear. I clean my place, because I seriously won’t want to do THAT anytime soon after I get home. Once I’ve prepared for my departure, the only thing left to do is prepare for my return, so it’s as easy as possible. And if all else fails, I start planning all the trips I’ll want to take as soon as I get back.

How do you pass the time before a vacation?

Featured Image via Shutterstock


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  1. The planning is always the worst part for me – I always feel so overwhelmed by ticket prices, room rates, all of it! Stephanie, you should write a traveling primer with planning advice!

    • Rebecca, I think thereason I like planning is because I look at it like a big game or puzzle (and I win when I find the best price). And thanks,I’d love to write one!

  2. I leave Saturday for a week at the beach and I am DYING right now at work! I’m too excited to be off work that I can’t focus on work…so glad someone can relate!!!

  3. You must have read my mind! I have pretty much planned my entire birthday beach vacation (5/20) down to the extra towels, flash light (no electricity in the beach bungalow), water shoes, books I plan to read while soaking up the sun! Great read! Next week is when I will clean & wash to come home to a clean apartment. Thanks for the fun read!

  4. I pass my time waiting for vacation…by planning my next vacation! I L. O. V. E. to travel and adore every second of the planning process so I never have less than a couple of trips in the hopper. I’m in the ‘waiting’ boat right now as I anxiously anticipate a three day trip to Chicago this coming weekend. It was ridiculous how excited I got when I found the hotel deal that I did, and I’m still trying to decide on the perfect place(s) to eat…

  5. I feel like you took all of this straight from my mind. i feel EXACTLY the same!

  6. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one obsessed with trip planning! Leaving for California on 5/21 and I literally can’t wait. I’ve been reading Trip Advisor too!

  7. I am pretty sure we are the same person, Stephanie. Leaving for Portland on Thursday and I am not sure what to do with myself!