Beautiful Sorrento coastline overlooking the horizon. Sometimes beautiful views can turn into bad travel experiences.
Elevated Travel Ladylike Secrets

Bad travel experiences and how to graciously deal with the disappointment

When your holiday plans don’t work out, it may leave you with bad travel experiences. But how do you graciously deal with travel disappointments and still have a good time?

We’ve all been there! You’ve spent hours researching your next holiday destination and meticulously put together the perfect itinerary from where to stay, to things to do and restaurants to dine in. All are listed in the must-see section of your spreadsheet.

You’ve been really looking forward to this holiday. It will be the perfect escape you desperately need. That Chanel bag you said no to so you can say yes to more luxe to your experience is going to be worth it!

Then you arrived at the destination and your heart sank. The dreamy white sand beach you were dying to dig your feet into was covered in seaweed. That nicer hotel wasn’t as luxe as you expected. Tourist hotspots were overcrowded with tourists. And the list goes on. Does this sound familiar to you?

We can all agree that we’ve all had bad travel experiences and holidays that have not lived up to our expectations. A and I went to Sorrento over the summer holiday and I’m even exaggerating when I say everything that could go wrong went wrong! Think food poisoning on the first night and by the time I got better, we were rained in with thunderstorms and blowing a gale.

It was disappointing but hey ho, such as life. We still managed to have a great time and fun experience! The lesson here is learning to deal with disappointments in a gracious, kind and ladylike manner. In this post, we are delving into 5 ways you can adopt to help overcome travel disappointments and turn bad travel experiences into unforgettable memories and unique stories.

Beautiful Sorrento coastline overlooking the horizon. Sometimes beautiful views can turn into bad travel experiences.
Bad travel experiences aside, we indulged in some of the most beautiful views of the Sorrento coastline overlooking the horizon.

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5 ways to graciously deal with bad travel experiences

I have now been to 38 countries and I’ve definitely had my fair share of disappointing experiences! I’ve really had to learn the hard way when dealing with travelling disappointments so that it doesn’t ruin my holiday.

In summary, boils down to a mindset shift and seeing things from a new perspective (you can apply these to any disappointments in life, not just to travelling):

  1. Transform your mindset from ‘entitled’ to gratefulness
  2. Manage your expectations
  3. See the beauty in the imperfections (I really struggled with this one!)
  4. Have a plan but be flexible
  5. Be kind to yourself and others

You will find the details for each of them further down below.

What can go wrong while travelling

First, let’s look at what are some of the common things that can go wrong while travelling which can cause bad travel experiences.

I have been to nearly 40 countries and 80+ cities, so I personally experienced them all. In fact, on our most recent holiday in Sorrento during summer, we’ve encountered all of them!

The number one cause of travel disappointments is setting unrealistic expectations

Having unrealistic expectations is one of the biggest causes of disappointment, in particular travel expectations. In this digital age, there is a plethora of amazing travel content all over the internet and social media enticing you to travel. Not to mention thousands of picture-perfect travel photos on Instagram! Naturally, you’d develop high expectations for your holidays before you even get to your destination. It’s not hard to romanticise your holiday experiences and sometimes with unrealistic expectations.

Twirling in this spectacular dress on the famous Positano beach lined with sunbeds and beach umbrellas.
Positano was the one place I looked forward to the most as I’ve seen so many picture-perfect photos on Instagram! I imagined we would hire a sunbed and bum there for the day. But that idea quickly dissolved after I learnt about the crazy tourist pricing! But I still had fun twirling in this spectacular dress with that gorgeous backdrop!
Twirling in famous Positano. That could've been a bad travel experience but I dealt with it and still thoroughly enjoyed myself. Read on to see how I dealt with it.

Inevitable weather issues impacting your plan

The best plans in the world cannot escape our unpredictable weather. From rainstorms to heatwaves. It is inevitable that our travel plans will be disrupted by sudden weather changes. When we went to Sorrento, we had two whole days of thunderstorms and heavy rainfall. That’s 2 out of 5 days of our trip! In the next section, we’ll discuss how you can still make the most of your holidays despite the uncertain weather conditions.

The worst case of bad travel experiences is getting sick

Getting sick is one of the most frustrating things that can happen to you when travelling. This could be because you’ve not acclimatised to the local conditions or just catching the cold and flu due to sudden changes in temperature. I am normally pretty resilient when it comes to getting sick on my travels and generally have a pretty strong stomach. But I still managed to get food poisoning in Sorrento! Luckily it didn’t ruin the whole trip.

The dreaded accommodation problems

Have you ever been so excited about checking in to the accommodation only to be less than your expectation? From overcrowded hotels to uncomfortably damp Airbnbs. These things happen and it’s hard to detect them from the photos on the internet. When we were in Sicily last year we stayed in a nice-looking boutique hotel that was so damp, that broke out in rashes!! I will share how I dealt with that awkward situation whilst giving grace and dignity to the hotel owner.

5 ways to turn travel mishaps into valuable life lessons and memorable experiences

I have experienced all of the above disappointments in my travels (and life) over the years. Every setback is a lesson about kindness and resilience. With every experience, I gained a bit more wisdom and tenacity to manage my frustrations and not let them impact the rest of my holidays. It hasn’t always been easy but once I changed my mindset and saw things from a new perspective, it became really easy to deal with disappointments.

Because the truth is, we’ll never be rid of disappointments in life so we need to figure out a way to co-exist in the most comfortable way possible. We prevent our plans from being derailed. It’s inevitable. But we can change how we react to the situation. Do we want to be that angry and resentful person or calm, and collected with the ability to handle it with maturity, grace and kindness?

What does it mean to act gracious and ladylike?

Before we get into the tips on how to deal with travel disappointments graciously, let’s first look at what it means to act gracious and ladylike.

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, graciously means “pleasantly and politely”; and ladylike means “graceful, polite and behaving in a way that is thought to be socially acceptable for a woman”. Basically, it means to behave in a kind, polite and courteous manner towards others in all circumstances, just like a classy Lady. It involves showing empathy and understanding towards others, even when faced with adversity and disappointment, without being rude.

This is just a brief summary to highlight some core gracious behaviours of the Modern Lady. If you want to learn more on this topic, I have another blog post for you here. In this post, we are talking about the most essential qualities of a classy Lady.

Now, without further ado, let’s get into it.

1. Changing from an entitled mindset to a gratitude mindset

This may be contentious but I want you to change from having an ‘entitled’ mindset to a gratitude mindset. And I don’t mean this in an obnoxious or spoilt princess kind of way. But sometimes when you know you’ve worked hard to earn the privilege to travel or stay in a 5-star hotel, it can create a sense of entitlement and you come to ‘expect’ everything to be perfect with 5-star services. Of course, you are entitled to have a good time and deserve great service. But it’s not guaranteed, many things are out of our control.

When things don’t turn out exactly as planned, we will feel disappointed, upset and frustrated. If you have an entitled mindset, your frustrations can come across as obnoxious, princessy and rude without realising it. When you’re in the zone, it is impossible to be gracious and ladylike.

Having a grateful mindset, your attitude towards the situation will be completely different. It will help you to focus on the positive aspects of the trip and see the silver lining rather than dwelling on the negatives. That way, you will be able to remain calm and handle the situation with grace and poise.

When we were in Sorrento…

We were stuck in our hotel for a couple of days due to thunderstorms and heavy rain. This also meant we had to cancel our plan to visit Capri Island. It was disappointing of course. But I was grateful that we had moved into the nicer hotel by then.

Our room came with two beautiful balconies. The rain meant I was able to enjoy the balconies more than I could otherwise. It allowed me to relax with a book and watch people in the street running for cover, and feeling grateful that wasn’t me. Sure, it wasn’t part of our plans but I took it as the universe is telling me that I need to slow down and I was really thankful for that because as soon as we came home, life got hectic again!

Hanging out in one of two balconies in our hotel room whilst we were rained in.
Hanging out in one of two balconies in our hotel room whilst we were rained in.

A great way to cultivate a grateful mindset is to keep a gratitude journal. I love this beautiful Five Minute Journal from Intelligent Change which I’ve previously shared here. I’ve found a couple of more budget-friendly options that are equally nice below.


2. Manage your expectations

As I mentioned above, having unrealistic expectations is one of the biggest causes of travel disappointments. So it’s important you manage your expectations… realistically!

Let’s face it by the time you arrived at your destination, you would’ve seen most photos and read every blog post about the place. In a world full of wonderful influencers and travel bloggers, who are getting paid or incentivised (e.g. free stays) to promote, they will obviously showcase the best parts to entice you to book the trip. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that! But just know that these picture-perfect photos and exclusive experiences are often orchestrated, staged or photoshopped. It’s not all real. Have you seen those Instagram vs. Reality posts on Instagram?

NB: I promise you, my photos are all real as I don’t know how to use Photoshop! 🙂

A Lady standing in the heart of Sorrento city centre on the main intersection. This intersection is shared by many cars and residents the like
Whilst this is not a very ‘Instagrammable’ photo it really captures the vibe of Sorrento

The best way to manage this is first to be realistic and reasonable with your expectations. For example, if you see an empty photo in front of the Trevi Fountain, know that it was likely captured at the crack of dawn. So don’t expect to arrive at midday and have the place yourself. Or travelling during off-peak when there are fewer crowds like our Sicily holiday, we had most of the tourist attractions to ourselves any time of the day, which was blissful!

3. See the beauty in the imperfections

Being the perfectionist that I am, I really struggled with this one! Everything had to be perfect. I used to get really upset they didn’t turn out perfectly as planned. However, the beauty of growing up is that you also gain wisdom (not just wrinkles ;)) and I’ve learnt to see beauty in the little things in life. Even when things don’t turn out perfect, it’s okay. I’ve learned to see the silver lining behind adversities and disappointments. Silver linings are a beautiful thing.

If you go searching for issues and imperfections, you will always find them. I used to look for reasons why things weren’t perfect!! Now I try to find beauty in all the little things in life. Keeping a gratitude journal has really helped me with this journey.

Too many people in my photos? It’s okay. It gives the vibe of us people-watching. Our nice hotel was next to a wedding reception with blasting music spilling into our room at night. It’s okay, we can dance to music on our balcony reminiscing about the night of our wedding. Yes, that happened to us in Sorrento!

Perfect or imperfect is merely a perspective. When you shift your mindset to focus on the positives, then you will see beauty and joy in all circumstances, even when things aren’t perfect.

The second balcony of Hotel Regina is a decent size. When nearby wedding venue was blasting music, it could've ruined our travel experience. But we danced on this balcony into the night. Completely transformed our whole experience!
The second balcony of Hotel Regina is a decent size. When nearby wedding venue was blasting music, it could’ve ruined our travel experience. But we danced on this balcony into the night. Completely transformed our whole experience!

4. Have a plan but be flexible

I am all for planning and goal setting. But there’s a say in Chinese, 计划赶不上变化 (ji4 hua4 gan1 bu2 shang4 bian4 hua4), meaning plans cannot catch up to change, metaphorically. This saying change is inevitable and it is fast-coming before we can plan for it. Therefore, we need to be flexible with our plans and have the mindset to adapt them to the new environment, circumstances and surroundings.

Not to mention, your goals and plans are meant to be kept alive. You should be constantly evaluating them against your current situation. Because life happens. And you just need to adapt. What was once important to you may no longer be as important now.

I know we’re talking about travel plans here. But the same principle applies. Plan for the macro in advance and keep the micro plans closer to the event to allow for flexibility. For example, I am currently planning for our trip to South Korea. I create a high-level travel itinerary before we travel such as 4 days in Seoul, 3 days in Busan and 2 days in Jeju Island. This macro plan enables me to organise the logistics such as transport, accommodation etc. in advance. For the micro plan, I’d create a list of things I want to do at each destination where I can slot them in closer to the day. This allows me to flex according to the situation when the time comes. I also encourage you to travel with a ‘there’s always next time’ mindset. This means if you missed out on a location, then it’s okay, you have a reason to come back next time. This way you will be less impacted when things don’t go to plan.

5. Be kind to others and yourself

Last but not by no means least, be kind to others and yourself. No one is deliberately trying to ruin your day or ensure you have a bad travel experience. When faced with adversity or things haven’t lived up to your expectations, it’s nobody’s fault. These things just happen. Don’t take it out on your other half or travel companions and definitely definitely do not take it out on the service providers or staff. Be kind and give them grace. Chances are, they probably already feel bad about the situation and trying to handle it to the best of their ability.

Remember a true Lady doesn’t not embarrass people or make them feel less off. She always acts and speaks in a kind and gracious manner. She is understanding and tries to make the most of the situation. They also don’t blame themselves for these setbacks.

There you have it Ladies. These are my 5 ways to deal with bad travel experiences. Do they resonate with you? Do you have other ways to deal with travel disappointments that I’ve not covered here? Feel free to share your tips in the comment section below. Let us learn together!

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  1. Simon says:

    What a great article and wise advice! Having things go wrong with what you hope or expect reminds me of a well-known Mike Tyson saying (which I may be misquoting) everyone’s got a plan until they get punched in the face. Even if not literally!

    1. Absolutely!! Hence it’s important to be flexible and resilient with your plans so you can easily bounce back and rebase yourself. Thanks Simon, appreciate you stopping by. I’m glad you enjoyed the article. X

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