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We’ve all been there. You rush out of work, grab your bags, just barely make your flight and spend a few hours cramped in an uncomfortable seat. But who cares, because you’re on vacation! You arrive at your destination, ready to hit the beach, SFP and sun hat in hand.
And then it’s raining.
Fortunately, bad weather doesn’t have to ruin your trip. The first step? Don’t panic and stay positive. Then, follow these tips to ensure you have a fun and relaxing vacation, rain or shine.
Planning ahead can help you avoid inclement weather altogether. Be suspect of amazing hotel or flight deals, especially to tropical destinations — the rock bottom price offered may be because it’s hurricane season. A quick Google search can tell you what time of year your destination has clear skies. When traveling through Asia, for example, I always use the Selective Asia weather section to pick which destinations are driest during the month I’m traveling.
If you know you’ll be traveling to a rainy area, search for indoor and cultural activities you can do during total washouts. Also make sure to pack accordingly with a poncho and rain boots if you know you’ll be outside.
Finally, buy travel insurance (or use a credit card with trip protection to book your vacation). Certain policies will cover you in the event of canceled flights or severe weather-related delays.
Hit the Road
Many island or mountain destinations have varying weather patterns. Simply changing beaches or driving 30 minutes might deliver different weather. For example, the northern side of Tenerife, one of Spain’s Canary Islands, tends be overcast, cool and may even have rain. But drive 30 minutes to an hour south and you’ll likely find sunny skies and warmer temperatures. Precipitation patterns around the mountains in spots like Arizona, Utah and New Mexico can be similarly strange, too. So if you have a hike planned, consider trying a different trail on a different mountain, or at a different altitude.
Have a Spa Day
If it’s pouring rain, pay a visit to your hotel spa or one nearby. Once, during bad weather in Morocco, I spent an afternoon in a local hammam, soaking in the hot tub, meditating in the steam room, getting a massage, relaxing in a robe reading French fashion magazines and nibbling on Arabic pastries. It was amazing after several days of walking and hiking — and it ended up being a highlight of my trip. A spa day is the perfect activity to do alone, with friends or with your partner.
Eat, Eat and Eat Some More
A crummy day is the perfect opportunity to explore the local cuisine. Visit food markets, join a street food tour or sign up for a cooking class. If you’re not sure where to start, your hotel concierge or Airbnb host can probably arrange a restaurant reservation or at least make some suggestions.
Depending on your destination, you can have a leisurely lunch in Spain, spend the day at a covered hawker food center in Singapore or learn how to make arepas in Colombia. You don’t even have to eat out, either. One of my best (most delicious) travel memories is from traipsing around Milan in the rain with an umbrella, searching for the nearest deli to purchase Italian cured meats and cheeses. I found a tiny hole-in-the-wall spot, and brought bresaola and burrata back to my Airbnb for an impromptu rainy day charcuterie and Barolo happy hour with friends.
Order a Drink
Assuming you don’t plan on driving, spending an afternoon sampling whatever beverages are most commonly sipped in your destination can be a fun way to pass a dreary afternoon or night.
Whether it’s an Irish pub in Dublin, a mezcal tasting in Mexico, a Malbec winery in Argentina or a piano bar on Bourbon Street, throwing back a drink (or two) will certainly make the bad weather pass more quickly. Plus, visiting a popular watering hole is a great way to practice a new language and make friends with locals. Just drink responsibly!
Break a Sweat
If the rain doesn’t show signs of stopping, take the opportunity to get a solid workout at the hotel gym — you won’t even have to skip the stretch session because you’re late for work.
Or, go a step further and do a workout that’s unique to your destination, like Thai boxing in Phuket, capoeira in Brazil, traditional yoga in India or bachata in Mexico. Sure, it may be out of your comfort zone, but it will make for a great vacation memory and it will let you indulge in the aforementioned rainy day activities like eating and drinking with zero guilt.
You may even find you can use your gym membership from home in your destination at spots like Exhale, Crunch Fitness or other gym franchises around the world.
Visit a Museum
The quintessential rainy day activity, visiting a museum gets you out of the rain but keeps you entertained. If you’re worried everyone else will have the same idea, avoid the famous spots and instead visit a quirky or under-the-radar museum. For example, trade the Louvre for the Rodin in Paris, or the Prado for the Sorolla in Madrid. You may be pleasantly surprised with what you find — instead of pushing and shoving to get a glimpse of the Mona Lisa over selfie sticks, you can get right up close to original sculptures in an old mansion.
Stay in Bed All Day
Vacation is all about relaxing, and while you may not allow yourself the luxury of lounging the day away in bed while at home, curling up for nap in your pajamas on a rainy day is a seriously underrated activity. You’ll be glad you took the time pre-trip to download a few films and novels you’ve been trying to carve out time for. Plus, who doesn’t love ordering room service?
See a Movie
I never considered seeing a movie on vacation until I found myself in the middle of a stormy summer in Bangkok. I paid around $25 for a VIP movie ticket at a fancy cinema in a mall, and convinced my boyfriend that “Magic Mike” was actually an action flick (he’s still never forgiven me). I spent the afternoon with Channing Tatum in an almost lie-flat, first class-esque theater seat with wine, popcorn, ice cream and a foot massage. If that’s not money well spent, I honestly don’t know what is.
Get a Little Wet
While you shouldn’t be outside in storming, dangerous weather, don’t let a little drizzle deter you from sticking to your travel itinerary. You might even find you have a city all to yourself.
While visiting Prague a few years ago, I booked a Segway tour, thinking it was the perfect way to get up the hill to see the castle. I was a little hesitant to go through with it because of on-and-off April showers, but the guide convinced me the tour ran rain or shine, and even included ponchos. You can imagine how ridiculous I looked on a Segway with my helmet and yellow poncho fluttering in the wind. But it was actually a great day. I was one of the few people at the Prague castle — the rain had scared most other tourists away. Plus, the hot chocolate I drank after getting out of my wet socks was infinitely more delicious knowing I’d braved the elements earlier.
A little rain may not hurt anyone, but it can make trails slippery and treacherous. So I don’t recommend pursuing any extreme outdoor activities such as rock climbing or mountain biking when it’s really raining.
Retail therapy cures any ailment, so if you’re feeling rather blah about the rain, hit the shops. Most major cities have so much more than the typical mall, and may have an entire section of town filled with vintage shops or boutiques where you can search for some one-of-a-kind garments and souvenirs. Gourmet shops and design markets are also fun places to pass a rainy day.
Write Postcards or Journal
Do you remember when people used to write things on paper? When’s the last time you got a postcard in the mail? Bring a little joy to your friends and family back home by picking up a bunch of postcards and writing notes from abroad. You’ll feel a personal sense of satisfaction, and your loved ones will be thrilled to receive your cards in the mail. Or, write down notes in a travel journal the same way you’d write your blog or social media status updates. It’s not only therapeutic, but will help you keep preserve your vacation memories while you wait out the storm.
If You Have Kids …
Crummy weather can be especially frustrating if you’re traveling as a family — kids get bored and rambunctious, which can drive adults crazy. Sometimes, a change in routine can help make a day indoors with the family more fun. For example, eat pizza for breakfast and pancakes for dinner, or order something exciting from room service like a hot fudge sundae.
Let your kids do something they normally aren’t allowed to do, like watch two movies in a row, or let them take charge of a cookie bake-off in your home rental. Build a fort out of bed sheets, have a dance party or fashion show. If you’re staying at a hotel, ask if they have any indoor activities specifically for kids. Assuming there’s no lightning but it’s warm, take the kids to the pool anyway. They don’t care about sunbathing — they’ll be just fine swimming in the light rain.
Summer Hull, TPG’s resident family travel expert, has a few tips of her own:
While a rainy day can be a great excuse to take it slow and stay in, if your family isn’t in the mood for a low-key day, hop online to research local indoor activities and head out with an umbrella or grab an Uber to whisk you away to a children’s museum, indoor play area or maybe even a movie theater. The rainy day blues happened to us in Madrid and we simply borrowed an umbrella from the hotel, stopped at a shoe store and brought some bright red rain boots for our daughter and had a blast continuing to eat, shop and explore despite the weather. By the time we ended the day at the Madrid Zoo, a bit out of town, we were out of the rain — but kept the boots!
Featured photo by Anna King/Unsplash
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