Can bad weather spoil your trip? I’m changing my mind

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Can bad weather spoil your trip? It’s a question I’ve wrestled with for a long time. In fact, I wrote about it a few years ago in a post where I came out on the “no” side. It can certainly change your trip to Europe, I wrote, but it doesn’t prevent you from having a good time. These days I’m tending more toward the “yes” side.

That’s not a hard “yes”, to be sure. Just about any trip can turn out to be a great experience if you stay flexible and go with the flow. But bad weather can sometimes give you a very different impression of a city or country, one that stays with you for a long time.

Two years ago, I took a Viking river cruise that started in Paris and ended in Prague. Paris was sunny and bright — though I don’t think any weather could make it a bad place to be. But when we got to Prague, it started to rain. And it kept raining through most of the five days I spent in the city. It Prague statues didn’t stop me from seeing the city or doing some great things. But some days I just did what I could find indoors, and frankly, there wasn’t that much. Nowadays. when I think of Prague, it’s as a dark place, cast in gloom.

I had a similar experience with Vienna. On my first visit, in the early winter of 2013, I arrived expecting some chilly weather. But hopping out of bed on the first morning, I looked out the window to see snow falling. A cold front had swept in, and for the rest of the week I spent a lot of time ducking into stores and museums in an attempt to stay warm.

I returned to Vienna last spring on another Viking cruise. This time I was determined to experience the city as it should be, in mild, balmy weather. But the weather gods frowned on me again: a day that started out chilly turned downright frigid within an hour, and stayed that way. My most vivid recollection of that morning is shivering on  streetcorners while we  toured the old city centre. When the tour was over, I headed straight to the famous Café Landtmann to thaw out with some coffee and strudel.

Bad weather can put its stamp on a tropical holiday too, of course. I’ve never been caught in a hurricane like some unlucky vacationers. But I’ve been in tropical destinations where the rain clouds swept in and just took over. I have memories of lying in my room in Kuching, Malaysia day after day, waiting for it to stop raining so I could walk to the waterfront for a couple of hours of respite before it started again.

Then there was my long-ago visit to Arenal, Costa Rica, for some birdwatching. The trip went well — until the rains began. Then, you ventured Costa Rica rainout only when it cleared for a few minutes. On one of those forays, I was caught in an open field when a torrential downpour started. By the time I wrestled my raincoat out of the bag, I was soaked — and so was everything in the bag. The next day I looked through my telephoto lens and saw … nothing but fog. It was useless. A day later my companions and I headed north to Nicaragua, just to see the sun shine.

So, can bad weather spoil your trip? I can’t say it made these trips bad experiences. In fact, I enjoyed every one of them — though there were some days I’d rather forget. But the bad weather certainly cast a different light on these destinations, and often not one that really reflected their true characters. When all your photos have grey skies looming overhead, it’s hard to conjure up sunny memories. More critically, the weather can prevent you from doing the one thing you came to do, like taking a boat trip or a cable car ride.

So these days when I plan a trip, I pay a little closer attention to the weather forecasts. This week I came across a great offer on an air fare to Costa Rica on Copa Airlines. But it’s for late September, and according to the Costa Rica tourism website, that’s the height of the rainy season in some areas. Remembering my experience in Arenal, I decided to pass. I’d rather pay an extra $200 in dry season and watch birds in the sun.

Finally, some constructive advice on what to do when bad weather throws a pall over your holiday. The first option is to adjust your schedule. If you’ve booked a tour and the forecast says heavy rain, consider moving it to a better day. And if the bad weather just won’t let up, start looking for indoor activities: this might be the time to see those museums you’ve been walking by.

If that doesn’t appeal to you, and if your hotel reservations aren’t too binding, consider moving to another location. Bad weather rarely covers an entire country: it could be sunny and bright an hour or two away from where you are. So get on the train, or rent a car and take a road trip. You might not get to do all the things you’d planned, but you’ll see another part of the country, and have some experiences you didn’t expect.

Oh, and one last piece of advice: always bring some warm clothes. And an umbrella.

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About Author

Paul Marshman is a retired journalist who spent 30 years as a writer and editor on Canadian newspapers, while travelling to the ends of the earth. Now he continues to travel while passing on his travel experiences to you.

8 Comments

  1. Paul, I agree that weather can be a huge factor in whether or not your holiday is a success. However, I disagree in regard to cities like Venice, Rome and Florence here in Italy, where I live. These cities are being loved to death by tourists and museums and galleries have to be booked well in advance and the hordes converging in these places from mid- June to late September are frightening. Yet go to Venice in late November, or Florence one can enter St Mark’s or the Uffizi with relative ease and nary a tour group in sight.
    I suggest to guests that it is preferable to invest in a good waterproof coat and shoes, hat, scarf, gloves and umbrella. Then go and enjoy immersing yourself in the city of your choice rather than braving the heat and hordes. Service in most places at that time of year is pleasant and one can linger and watch the world go by from inside a cafe or restaurant.
    These days it is also to accurately predict the weather so while travelling, the most important thing I believe, is to be flexible.

    • Thanks for commenting, Winnifred. I guess there are exceptions to every rule. I just read an article about the hordes of tourists that descend on Venice, so travelling off-season sounds like a good idea. Sometimes bad weather is the lesser of two evils.

  2. I recall vividly the all day rain we experienced in Jamaica. So much that we had to wait two days before it was safe to climb Dunn’s River Falls. We spent the rainy day in the hot tub and wrapped up later in fresh warm towels. It was dry season but unexpected rain. In cottage country again rain drove us to museums. I like your advice about warm clothes.

    • Thanks, for commenting, Gail. Bad luck to run into rain in the dry season, but it can happen. Glad you finally got to climb the falls. And yes, take some warm clothes: it can get cold, even in hot places.

  3. You’re absolutely correct. I avoid rainy and winter season when I travel to countries. Our recent trip to Rome was lovely!
    I remembered my family went to a resort in Philippines and had a typhoon welcome us there. Some of the amenities were closed down, although the staff were very helpful with our situation. From that day on, I really check weather forecasts of a place before booking anything.
    Erica Lindeman recently posted…Top Wheelchair Travel BloggersMy Profile

    • Bad luck with the typhoon, Erica — so far I’ve been lucky to avoid one of those. But it can happen, and it’s always a good idea to check what might be coming over the horizon.

  4. I suggest to guests that it is preferable to invest in a good waterproof coat and shoes, hat, scarf, gloves and umbrella. Then go and enjoy immersing yourself in the city of your choice rather than braving the heat and hordes. Service in most places at that time of year is pleasant and one can linger and watch the world go by from inside a cafe or restaurant.
    These days it is also to accurately predict the weather so while travelling, the most important thing I believe, is to be flexible.
    terracotta recently posted…لشکر سفالین چین | یکی از تماشایی ترین عجایب دنیاMy Profile

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