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How to cope when bad weather destroys your trip

How to cope when bad weather destroys your trip

My family has always had good luck with the weather on our travels.

Wherever we went, we’d generally be treated to whatever weather we were hoping for. My Mum used to joke about us having the “Wheeler weather fairy”, who made sure that whenever we travelled, the weather was great at our destination.

Seeing as I had weather luck on my side, I never really worried too much about what it would be like on my travels. I’ve never been affected by extreme snow storms or hurricanes or volcanic ash clouds. Bad weather usually clears up before I arrive, or begins after I leave.

Until now.

Robert and I were craving some sunshine and nature, so in an effort to take a break from winter, we booked a spontaneous 4-day trip to Big Sur. Not only did California look much warmer than the current conditions in New York, it was also in drought so we thought we’d have a good chance of some sunshine.

Painted Ladies, San Francisco

San Fran looking gloomy on Saturday morning

On the days leading up to our flight to San Francisco, I continuously checked the weather report. It didn’t look great – heavy rain was forecast for our Friday arrival into San Francisco, but it looked like it would clear up on Saturday and stay cloudy and cool for the remainder of our trip.

I wasn’t entirely happy that we weren’t going to get a sunny and warm California trip, but it didn’t matter too much. As long as it stayed mild, then it would be ok.

Sure enough, we were greeted with rain and wind on our arrival. We ventured out into the storm later that evening in order to keep our dinner plans with an old friend.

By Saturday morning it seemed as though the rain had eased up, though it was still cloudy, windy, and cool. No matter, we thought, we can still do our sightseeing in this.

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

Just before the rain started again

We drove our rental car around San Francisco for a few hours, keeping an eye on the threatening clouds. It only held off until lunch time, when we were yet again drenched with some heavy showers.

Our drive down to Monterey was mostly wet, and our stop in Santa Cruz (one of the best known Californian sunny beach towns) was less than enjoyable as we braced the cold wind for a quick walk along the pier.

Thankfully, the wind and rain eased up around dinnertime. We went out to grab a bite to eat, happy that we weren’t getting soaked for once.

Again, I checked the weather report to see what was forecast for the next day. It would be nice to have some sunshine for our scenic drive down Big Sur. No sunshine, unfortunately, but I was relieved to see that it was forecast only 30% chance of showers which should ease up around 9 or 10am.

Monterey, California

In Monterey, where the rain finally stopped for a while

We left Monterey at 10am the next morning, and it was still raining, hard. We considered waiting it out, but we had nearly 5 hours of driving ahead of us that day and we didn’t even know when or if it would ease up.

It didn’t ease up. It rained, and it rained, and it rained.

A few times along the drive, we attempted to get out of our rental car at the scenic vista points only to get back in 30 seconds later wet and shivering. We tried to stop at some of the hiking trails along the way, only to find that they were closed or too muddy and wet to walk along. We attempted to drive to scenic view points or popular beaches, only to find that the roads were closed due to the conditions.

At one stage we even parked the car, took our shoes off, and walked through a shallow flowing river to access a beach 500 metres down the road. Unfortunately the park ranger turned us back before we managed to get there, as we weren’t allowed to park the car on the side of the road. We grudgingly got back in and kept driving.

Big Sur, California

Our lunch stop with ocean views covered in fog

We ended up arriving at our lunch stop at 11am, 2 hours earlier than planned, as our time had been cut short with all our failed stops. This well known Big Sur restaurant was meant to have spectacular ocean views, all of which were obscured by a thick fog. Instead, we kept driving for another hour or two through the fog, knowing full well that the scenic coastline was right beside us and seeing absolutely none of it.

I usually make sure that my expectations aren’t too high for any trip, but I’ve never been so disappointed. Even if the weather had have been cloudy and cold, I still would have been able to deal with it. But for it to be raining, cold, windy, and foggy while we were driving down one of the most scenic roads in USA – I can’t think of anything worse.

I sulked over our bad luck for the rest of the day. I knew there was nothing we could have done about it, but I still felt like crap for organising a trip like this when the weather was so bad.

Santa Barbara, California

Leaving Santa Barbara on Monday morning

By the time we arrived at Santa Barbara, the awful weather seemed to be behind us. It was cloudy when we first arrived in LA the next day, but the afternoon finally gave us a taste of that Californian sunshine we’d been so desperately chasing.

As Robert and I talked about our bad luck, I also realised that the weather hadn’t completely ruined out trip. I’d still enjoyed exploring parts of San Francisco that I hadn’t seen before, as well as driving along the windy roads with Robert and stopping at the towns along the way.

There’s always a chance that our travels are going to be interrupted by bad weather, no matter how ‘lucky’ we think we might be. Sometimes we can wait it out or change our plans, and sometimes we just have to follow through with our plans anyway and deal with whatever is thrown at us.

So while bad weather can destroy parts of our trip, it can’t stop us from having a good time.

Big Sur, California

How to cope with bad weather on your trip:

  • Consider that the weather back home might still be worse than where you are now. In an effort to cheer me up, Robert pointed out to me that it was still colder in New York than it was in California.
  • Remind yourself that it’s not your fault that the weather is bad. It’s easy to feel guilty for organising a trip at a time when the weather isn’t great, but it’s entirely outside of your control.
  • If you have some flexibility, find something fun to do that doesn’t involve dealing with the weather. Museums are great for these off days.
  • Remember that you can still have a good time. Even though the weather was awful for my trip, I still enjoyed having a break from work, spending time with my awesome husband, and exploring some areas of USA that I hadn’t been to before.

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12 Responses to “How to cope when bad weather destroys your trip”

  1. Danielle

    I know the feeling! I had spent months and months absolutely falling in love with the idea of visiting Lake Bled in Slovenia and typically the day that I decide to visit had a torrential thunderstorm and so much fog that we couldn’t see anything! Glad you persevered and still had a great time 🙂


    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Oh, that totally sucks! Lake Bled is definitely a place that you’d want nice weather for. It’s disappointing, but what can you do. Thanks for your comment, Danielle 🙂

  2. Melissa

    We recently took a family trip to Europe in Autumn. It poured the day we took the kids to Disneyland in Paris. We had to sit in puddles to ‘enjoy’ the rides.
    It bucketed down while we were bike riding around Versailles.
    All we could see was fog in Taormina.
    We lost our 5th umbrella in the cathedral in Milan.
    And our wedding anniversary was spent sloshing around in the rain in Montenegro.
    But we enjoyed sunny Spain, spectacular santorini and many other gorgeous parts of the world. I was adamant the weather was not going to ruin my trip of a lifetime.

    Ps. Last time we went to the states it was a torrential downpour when we went to Alcatraz, Hollywood, Venice beach.

    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Ouch, I can imagine most of Disneyland would be awful on a rainy day! It sounds like you’ve had a lot of bad weather luck, Melissa! I’m glad it didn’t ruin your trip though 🙂

  3. Diana Maria

    Honestly, sometimes the weather just doesn’t follow with your plans and that’s okay! It’s a little disappointing, but usually there are always at least moments of sunshine, and there are tons of things to do even if it is raining. I’m so glad your entire trip wasn’t ruined and that you managed to have a lovely time, that’s wonderful!

    • Ashlea Wheeler

      That’s absolutely right! It’s best if you have some flexibility in your plans so that you can amend them if need be, but if not, you’ve just got to do what you can. Thanks for your comment, Diana Maria 🙂

  4. Hilary Harrell

    OMG!!! I’m just like you, I try to not anticipate bad weather and try to enjoy a trip somewhere no matter what but seriously?????? When the weather sucks the whole time, it’s really easy to get grouchy and if you’re a crazy photographer it’s even worse because even though everybody says overcast skies are the best for pictures…..they’re lying. When I read your post it reminded me of almost every trip I’ve ever taken to Europe, when it pours down rain, is gray and windy and cold. Ugh. I sometimes tell myself that it’s mother nature’s way of punishing me for being lucky enough to travel the world;) Your pictures are awesome and hopefully you’ll have better weather next time so you can get those blue sky photos!!!

    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Exactly! Photography disappointments are the worst. I would have loved to get some awesome photos along that drive, but I had no chance at all. That sucks to hear about all your trips to Europe having bad weather – hopefully you get an equal amount of good weather on your travels, too! I justified this one trip of bad weather with all of the good weather trips I’ve had in the past 🙂

  5. Amanda | Chasing My Sunshine

    Oof. This always seems to happen when I try to escape the cold of the Northeast! At least I’m not the only one. 😉 I can’t agree more with comparing it to the weather back home. That usually makes me feel better in a snap!

    • Ashlea Wheeler

      So glad I’m not the only one that this happens to! I thought California weather would be a million times better than NYC in March, but it ended up only a tiny bit better. Nothing we can do about it!

    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Oh, damn! That sucks that NOLA had it bad, too. There must have been some sort of nasty weather system going over that weekend. I checked out some people’s photos of Big Sur on Insta the week after we came back, and they had blue skies and sunshine! I was devastated!


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