Tips for easing the last day blues

//Tips for easing the last day blues

Tips for easing the last day blues

At the beginning of a trip, how much thought do we give to the last day? In my experience, the time between checking out of the hotel and arriving at the airport is when fatigue, melancholy and the feeling of “not belonging” may occur, making the impending end of our vacation hard to bear. However, the last day blues can be lessened if we prepare ourselves ahead of time to handle it.

Making travel plans can be thrilling: we research our destination, write a to-do list, and await a relaxing break from our daily routine. Then we pack and go, hoping to arrive safely and on time. We are likely preoccupied with deciding what to see right away and where to eat, rather than our plans for the last day. The time to go back home is hours of sightseeing away – but it does come. And when it does, it can leave even a seasoned traveler feeling uneasy.

By this point, we have become familiar with the destination: its sounds, smells, tastes, customs, climate. All of a sudden, we have to pack again, start the mental switch to our post-trip selves, and head back home. The change does not always come easy.

Even if a part of us is ready for the return – we know our departure date, we’ve seen enough and would like to be home – another part may not accept that the vacation is over, that we have to go back to our responsibilities. And if you have several hours to spare after you leave the hotel, you might not enjoy yourself when you keep checking your watch and when you don’t have any private space. You can’t go lie down or shut the door to be alone. It’s just you and the streets. You’re temporarily homeless, surrounded by people you don’t know.

What a strange sensation.

Unless you have had a terrible time on your vacation, experiencing some degree of distress on the last day is inevitable. However, there are simple ways to make your return to “the real life” more pleasant:

1. Putting together a flexible itinerary

When you are planning your trip, make a list of activities suitable for the last day. Think of a few that you could choose from, depending on how your day unfolds.

  • It is best to not include time-consuming agenda items and popular attractions in the day’s schedule, and focus instead on low-hassle options, such as a lunch at a casual diner, sitting at an outdoor cafe or a walk in a park. If you run out of time, you should not feel that you have missed out on something.
  • The last day can also work well if you want to be adventurous with your photography and take more shots of the places you have already captured, e.g. from unusual angles or in different lighting conditions.

2. Getting organized

  • Deal with logistics the day before to avoid a stressful last morning: pack, print your boarding pass, find out how to get to the airport/station, and check with your hotel if you can store luggage for a few hours after you check out.
  • To increase your level of comfort when you no longer have hotel access, consider keeping small personal items handy throughout the day (e.g. tissues, medicine, eye drops, hand sanitizers/moisturizers).
  • Getting up earlier than on the other days will allow you to maximize the time you have left to explore.

3. “Taking” the place with you

Newspapers, magazines, books and e-books by local authors, songs, podcasts and movies about the destination you are leaving behind are great tools to keep you entertained while you wait at an airport or train station, and during long flights or rides. They also help make the transition back home smoother by letting you experience the place long after you have left it.

  • When time allows, the last day of your trip can be a great time to visit local book- and multimedia stores. If you are in a hurry and you are flying, airport shopping may come in handy. Many terminals have increasingly good product selections.

4. Planning activities at home

Short of booking another trip, perhaps the best cure for end-of-vacation low spirits is having something enjoyable to look forward to when you get home – something that will feel like a vacation. It could be a dinner at a new restaurant, a weekend staycation, or exploring a neighborhood you’re not familiar with.

By | 2012-09-17T18:53:22+00:00 August 27th, 2011|STORIES|20 Comments

About the Author:

Pola Henderson is a travel writer, city explorer, expat, and event host. Traveling has been a part of her life since she was three. Pola grew up in Krakow, lived in Chicago for many years and is currently based in Paris, where she teaches Business English.


  1. avatar
    Leah Travels August 1, 2012 at 8:43 pm

    There’s only been one place that I was truly ready to leave and that was China. I totally agree with you about getting everything ready the night before. I like to squeeze every little bit of enjoyment out of my trip, and I don’t want to spend that last morning shoving my stuff into a suitcase.
    Leah Travels recently posted..Texas Tuesday: A Devil of a RiverMy Profile

  2. avatar
    Francesca August 2, 2012 at 6:51 am

    I know this feeling all too well. You’re right, the last day of a trip is inevitable, no matter how much we wish it doesn’t come. I’ve found that tip #4 works quite well for me :-)
    Francesca recently posted..On driving and surviving in Costa RicaMy Profile

  3. avatar
    @mrsoaroundworld August 2, 2012 at 11:02 am

    I was so ready to leave Moscow, I couldn’t get to the airport fast enough! It is so funny how people who have never met have such similar habits?
    I always pack early for a trip (min. 2 days) and the day before I leave – I really don’t want to have to rush on the last morning. God, and now I am thinking of the times I have visited multimedia/music stores on sundays – they are the few that are sometimes open!!
    @mrsoaroundworld recently posted..Summer cocktails, anyone? Mojitos and Sangria onboardMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around August 3, 2012 at 5:55 pm

      You’re so right about music stores, Ana! When away on Sundays, I usually go back and forth between coffee shops and record stores. :) Well-said about similar habits – pretty amazing, isn’t it?

  4. avatar
    Aaron August 2, 2012 at 1:54 pm

    I’m always ready the night before, so can squeeze a little more fun in. It’s almost a given that I’ll sneak a morning run in with my camera alongside, grabbing more shots of places visited or finding last minute hidden gems like another coffee shop. Like #3. Will load up on brochures, magazines, get a local newspaper, etc.
    Aaron recently posted..What does it mean to be “Out on the open road”?My Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around August 3, 2012 at 5:58 pm

      Aaron – I’m with you on coffee shops, you know that! Last week in Boulder, CO I had about 6 hours before my flight. It was also pouring rain for at least an hour, so of course I spent the greater part of the afternoon with a cup of coffee and a book. :)

  5. avatar
    D.J. - The World of Deej August 2, 2012 at 6:14 pm

    This obviously resonates with me following my bout with Post Trip Depression. I like your suggestions and need to use several of them. One thing I’ve always tried to do is to head home early on the departure day. The last day is hard enough, it doesn’t help having it spill over into the next morning while you hang around waiting to leave…
    D.J. – The World of Deej recently posted..The Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito on Two WheelsMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around August 3, 2012 at 6:00 pm

      You have a point about an early departure, Deej… It doesn’t always work for me schedule-wise, but it’s something to consider. I feel like post-trip depression starts knocking on the door on the last day, while you’re technically still “there.” Sigh…

  6. avatar
    lola August 2, 2012 at 7:06 pm

    we all suffer from post travel depression – WE ARE TRAVELERS after all :) i always have something on the horizon. it’s the only way for me. no matter how far off. i have it to look forward to. BUT i have realized recently that using our senses of discovery for the things that are really just at our fingertips is also a fab distraction for not “traveling”. not to sound hokey but great stories are all around us. it’s a matter of seeing them. thanks Pola. you always help me to open my eyes!
    lola recently posted..Cambodia Countdown – week 3My Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around August 3, 2012 at 6:01 pm

      Thanks for the nice note, Lola! I agree that there is a lot to be discovered right around us, no matter where we are. And it helps us “survive” until the next big trip…

  7. avatar
    Anita Mac August 2, 2012 at 7:12 pm

    I like to come home and catch up with friends. Keeps the fun going that little bit longer, and inevitably, it involves reliving the best parts of the trip!

    If I am on a multi-destination trip like the one I am leaving for in (yipppeeee) 1 1/2 weeks – I like to book myself into a nice hotel for my last night. Usually, my transatlantic flights are early enough in the day that there is little time for departure day travel, but it is nice to start the day in a nice hotel room. Before long, the hustle and bustle of airport security lines and multiple leg flights will take over and those precious minutes of serenity will be lost!
    Anita Mac recently posted..The Color Run – New EnglandMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around August 3, 2012 at 6:05 pm

      Hi Anita – welcome! Catching up with friends is a great idea. I like doing that sometimes too, except my friends run the risk of having to look at hundreds of photos… ;-) Have a great time on your trip and thanks for stopping by!

  8. avatar
    thelazytravelers August 3, 2012 at 10:02 am

    love this, pola! we’re constantly struggling with post-vacation depression, and this should help in the future! xo
    thelazytravelers recently posted..the wino is a rolling stoneMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around August 3, 2012 at 6:03 pm

      Thanks! :) Glad to hear you might find this post useful. As I was telling Francesca, #4 usually works best. ;-)

  9. avatar
    Craig Zabransky August 4, 2012 at 11:41 pm

    Just consider life a journey and every day is part of the adventure. I am not always in that mindset, but that is why I remind myself to stay adventurous…

    Craig Zabransky recently posted..A Visit to the Original York in EnglandMy Profile

  10. avatar
    Traveling Ted August 6, 2012 at 7:10 pm

    The last day does seem like a feeling of limbo. Good tips on how to make it not so depressing.
    Traveling Ted recently posted..Chicago River Friendly Float with Leinenkugel’s Brewery photo essayMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around August 6, 2012 at 7:21 pm

      Limbo is a great way to describe it, Ted!

  11. avatar

    […] Tips for Easing the Last Day Blues Leaving an enjoyable destination is always difficult, but Pola Henderson’s tips might help make the last day of vacation a little less painful. by @JettingAround […]

Comments are closed.