Attitude,  Honesty,  Stress,  Vacation

Dealing with Disappointment: 5 Things I Learned from a Rough Family Vacation Last Week

I know, I know. Simply being on vacation should be reason enough to not complain, right? Having money to pay for gas, a cabin, and fun activities should override any thoughts of disappointment if it didn’t go as you planned.

Aaaaand there’s the issue: it didn’t go as I planned. 

Before you roll your eyes and label me “entitled,” hear me out. I realize none of us actually deserve to go on vacations. The majority of the world has probably never come close to even having such thoughts. 

But since I live in middle-class America and my husband and I both work hard to be able to play, here we are. If you’re already annoyed, feel free to shut me down and go back to scrolling social media from your couch.  

If you’re somewhat in my boat though, I have a question for you: 

How do you deal with disappointment on vacation? Not disappointment in a normal week when friends cancel your movie plans. Not on a regular day when you thought someone else was making dinner.

I mean on the trip you worked hard to afford. On the trip you spent time planning for. The trip you got sick on or had to go home early from.

Definitions of Vacation:

Webster’s: An extended period of leisure and recreation, especially one spent away from home or in traveling.

Mine: A time away from home with no chores, work, or problems, relaxing with friends or family in a beautiful setting and an awesome rental we got for a smokin’ deal. Daily housekeeping and complimentary cookies not necessary, but colds, flus, or fractured body parts are not allowed. 


Is assuming everything will go smoothly and we’ll have the time of our lives too much to ask? Apparently.

Our youngest has dealt with Long Covid since January 31. You know… back when we wore coats and still had Christmas lights up.

The medical community thought it would last approximately two-to-eight months. Now we’re hearing about people who have dealt with it for over two years with no end in sight.

*s i g h*

We naturally assumed his immune system was weaker, but never dreamed he’d get the obnoxious virus again (for the third time) while on vacation.

After looking forward to high school camp since 2019, disappointment hit hard when he woke up sick the day he was leaving. He went back to bed, his good buddy went to camp solo, and I had a few questions for God.

What the heck? Hasn’t he dealt with enough this year? Aren’t daily headaches, brain fog, fatigue, and body aches enough? Isn’t missing four months of school and a whole lacrosse season enough? Wouldn’t you want him to go to camp and learn more about You? When are You gonna give him a break?

To say our son has dealt with some disappointment this year is an understatement. He made the most of our wonky vacation and still pushed himself to have fun.

Four days after we all celebrated his recovery, one of the friends we were on vacation with got sick and their whole family had to leave early.

Insert disbelief and disappointment on top of an already weird living situation and other sadness. This not-great combo took my attitude from bummed to depressed.

Lessons Learned

Here are 5 things I learned about disappointing vacations:

1. I can’t control the weather.

No doy, Sherlock. So why do I assume other people might have to deal with no snow on their ski trip, but expect to have fantabulous weather on our vacation? I’m sorry you had rain in Hawaii, but there better not be high temps in the forest!

2. We take our issues with us. 

Because, you know—people. If you’ve ever moved to another town, state or country, you know your issues get packed too. So unless you’re going to vacation alone, buckle up. ‘Cause that argument you had in the car with your super fun sugar pie honey bunch on the way to the super fun cabin in the mountains? It just might resurface while you’re eating watermelon and swinging in a hammock by the super fun lake. 

And your first day on vacation will not. Feel. Fun. 

3. You can only plan so much.

For heaven’s sake, I made a spreadsheet for meals, a list for grocery shopping and another one for things not to forget. You’d think with a fair amount of planning you could avoid issues, inconveniences and pitfalls.

Even with the best of intentions there needs to be some element of flexibility. Especially for times when you lose your list.

4. Inconveniences aren’t the same as suffering.

  • Did our only car get stolen? No
  • Was anyone dying in the hospital? Nope
  • Did anyone get bit by a hippo? No siree

5. You can probably have a do-over.

Just because the last vacation felt like a train wreck doesn’t mean our next one will. So I talk to myself and ruminate on next summer:

You still had some great moments. You still made memories. You still smiled a bunch. Focus on the positive. Work hard, save money, plan another trip.

My son, Doogan, counseling in Day Camp, where I counseled 6 summers.
My niece, Stingray, counseling in Child Care, where I counseled 4 summers.

Friends for life. No, we weren’t drinking.
Mom friends, counselor sons, crazy photo-bomber.

Amazing how a few days in a different environment and routine can make some of the annoying, inconvenient details fade. I can still get sad about all the changed plans and things we didn’t get to do, but I’m moving on.

don’t ask

Have you ever experienced a disappointing vacation? Tell me in the comments how you dealt with it. Your experience could inspire another reader!

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  • Alexa Kvande

    I sympathize and have a similar (current) story. We’re just coming home (early) from a 3-week vacation for my niece’s wedding. It took more than a year of planning and saving money for my husband and me to afford to make this trip. I’m close to my grown kids but hadn’t seen either of them in almost year (we’re scattered across the country). Day 5 we contracted COVID (our first time) and spent our week in the Airbnb recovering, until we felt well enough to start the drive home. No visit with family, no attendance at wedding or any other planned-for, paid-for activities, no sightseeing, and I still feel lousy. I think the name of this vacation is: We drove 1600 miles to do laundry. Now I have to figure out how to tell my congregation: no I didn’t enjoy my vacation. So hard. Sigh.

    • Carrie Talbott

      Oh my goodness, Alexa… that sounds awful! I’m so sorry that happened to you! Driving 1600 miles to do laundry could be a very catchy title of a blog post, but that is no bueno. Wow–I truly hope you get a re-do one of these days. Hang in there!

  • Kelly

    One summer a few years back I got strep throat while up at Mt Hermon too…as if it wasn’t bad enough that I had to stay back & miss train day, we had issues with our bathroom door locking from the outside…I totally forgot about it & decided I needed a bath. Left my phone on the nightstand & settled in. When I was ready to crawl back into bed, I realized my mistake. So…I took a nap on the bathroom floor of my Lakeside room. Two hours later…maybe 3, my family returned to find me. I don’t remember ever rebuking Satan as much as I did that day! Lol. Not the way I saw that week going, for sure.

    • Carrie Talbott

      Oh my gosh, Kelly… I can totally picture that! It kinda made me laugh, but I’m so sorry that happened to you. A nap on the bathroom floor sounds rough!

      Also… I didn’t remember that you were a MH family! Do you go every summer?

  • Brenda

    We had a somewhat similar situation with our Mt Hermon week as well. On Monday, my youngest called me during the morning session to say he was sick. Ugh! We got a test, and granted that was the longest 15 mins of my life waiting for the results (negative). The whole time I was questioning God why. This was the first day! Luckily we did all the things to fight the bug and he was down only a day. Wednesday we were all healthy for train day, then Thursday my oldest got the same bug and was down a day! Ugh! Needless to say, we were taking turns with the kiddos in our room, and never connected as a couple. On Saturday morning, I took a walk in the redwoods to complain to God about what had happened. He gently reminded me that while we didn’t connect as a family, there were special moments my kids had with each of us individually, moments with my kids’ grandparents and reunions with old friends from the past for all of us. It may not have looked like what we expected, but happened the way God had planned. And I got to see and visit with Pickle!

    • Carrie Talbott

      Oh, friend. I’m so sorry your week was impacted like that too. Doesn’t it just feel like Mount Hermon should be a germ-free zone with no heartaches? So sweet that y’all had special moments with each other individually. Sometimes large group memories are fun but kinda shallow. Those deep moments are priceless. And how fun that you got to hang out with Pickle; I missed her by 2 days! Thanks for sharing your story, Gidget. Love, Slugger 🙂

  • Donna Vernier

    Hi Carrie,

    My last vacation was the best of times and the worst of times. We drove from California to Rexburg, ID pulling our travel trailer. We try to keep our distances short and enjoy the adventures. The second day of our adventure took us from Sparks to Elko. As we passed through Winnemucca, we pulled off to take a bathroom break. We pulled into a parking lot that from Google Maps appeared to have an adequate space to pull through. In reality, it did not. So, after a 15+ point turn around, we headed out of the parking lot. At the edge of the lot a group of bikers started yelling at us. We stopped to talk to them and they told us we were dragging something. Thinking it was a tumbleweed, imagine my surprise when I see the entire plastic sheath the protects the trailer’s underside dragging on the ground along with all of the heater duct works.

    Needless to say, we spent the next three hours in a gas station in Winnemucca, with winds gusting up to 50 miles an hour, cutting away plastic, zip tying and duct taping the parts of our trailer into acceptable condition to carry on. We ate dinner in Winnemucca and carried on to Elko. Tired. Oh, so tired. By the time we reached Salt Lake City we had managed to get most of the sand out of our ears.

    The Yellowstone part of our trip had to be abandoned because flooding closed the park.

    That being said, we had a wonderful vacation. Our heater could not be used due to the fact that our ductwork was not to be trusted, but it was only cold enough to turn on one night. We rented a car to offset the high price of gas and drove over 1000 miles touring the area within a few hours of Rexburg. And best of all, I got to bottle feed a baby bear and pet him.

    We got home in one piece and our trailer goes to the repair shop next week. Even though the first two days we thought seriously about turning around and going home, we persevered and have a trip for the memories.

    Thanks for having a forum for me to share!

    • Carrie Talbott

      Ohhhhhhh my gosh, Donna. You win. I’m so sorry all that happened to you! I was picturing all of this happening years ago but then read that your trailer goes to the shop this week. Fresh painful memories! But getting to bottle-feed and pet a baby bear? Wow! Good job persevering through all of that. I bet Reader’s Digest would want your story. 🙂

      • Donna

        The bear was super cute. And I have great stories to share with my students. Did I tell you about the time when I fell in the chicken coop….

        • Carrie Talbott

          You’re right—stories are everything! But no, I definitely haven’t heard about you falling in a chicken coop. ????

  • John Kahler

    It took me a long, long time to learn to have no expectations. If things do not turn out like I thought they should, I tell the Lord that I wasn’t expecting that and then offer thanks to Him for watching over me. Thanks for all that I have. Thanks for what is happening. I don’t need to know why things change. I just need to be thankful for everything that happens.

    • Carrie Talbott

      Good points, John. Hope I didn’t sound like a whiner. I think it all just caught us off guard. After four decades of family camps, we kinda expected it to always be awesome and mostly effortless. Thanks for your great reminders to lower my expectations and be super grateful for all the good gifts God gives. We certainly have been spoiled!

  • Erin Nelson

    Those disappointing vacations are the ones we talk about the most! For some reason, they make the best memories – even though at the time it felt so unfair.

    We leave on Tuesday for vacation and this was a great reminder that the images in my mind may not match reality. And it will all be okay.

    Loved your photos – and also thinking about how tough long Covid is and how disappointing it is to live with the effects of this. Hoping he continues to improve, mama.


    • Carrie Talbott

      You’re right, Erin. Our worst family vacation as teenagers is now the funniest memory for my sister and me. We’ll probably laugh about this someday. Hope your vacation goes well. Having lowered expectations from the get-go is an idea I need to entertain a bit more for sure. Yes–Long Covid is a disappointment-producer for sure. Thanks for your thoughts and insights!

  • Brandon Ellrich

    I’ve definitely been on trips and had experiences that didn’t meet my expectations. That’s something I’ve had to learn about life in general – not getting disappointed when I set expectations that are out of reach or unlikely. Looks like you had a good time anyway. ????

    • Carrie Talbott

      Yep, exactly. My expectations definitely need to calm down. Haha. Yes, we had a good time anyway. Lots of fun memories made at the beginning and a few days in the middle. It was just a rough way to end with our friends leaving early. Thanks for chiming in, Brandon!