ADHD-vacationIn 2005, Erin and I traveled to California for vacation. We stayed in San Fransisco for a few days, then drove down the coast to spend time in Santa Cruz, Monterey, and Pacific Heights. It was one of the best vacations we ever had. But we also got into one of the biggest fights of our entire 10-year relationship just hours into the trip.

We had just got our rental car at the airport and were driving to San Fransisco. When I asked what we should do for the next few days, Erin took out an agenda. I kid you not, ADHDers. My non-ADHD spouse actually took out a 7-page agenda for our 7-day vacation, and I freaked out.

I have a hard enough time staying on schedule in my day-to-day life. But she wanted me to be on a schedule on vacation? A 7-page schedule, no less? That was just a little too much for me to handle. And as much as it might suck for Erin, the truth is that my ADHD does dictate how we spend our time. Too much to do and I burn out. Too little to do and I get bored. Perhaps you know the feeling?

The good news is that through both personal experience and my coaching work with ADHD adults, I’ve come up with some guidelines for getting the most out of your vacation when you have adult ADHD:

  1. Have Some Structure, But Not Too Much.
    A 7-page agenda for a 7-day vacation is too much for most adults with ADHD. However, knowing what your goals are for the day is essential. Decide in advance, as a couple or as a family, whether you want to sleep in or set an alarm. Then decide what you’re going to do for the day. What’s important? Is there a certain meal you really want to have out? A certain restaurant you want to make sure you go to? And, of course, where do you want to spend the day? Visiting a landmark or two? Relaxing at the beach? Figure it out in advance, and know what you want to accomplish in the day, but avoid an actual schedule.
  2. Relax. Don’t Overdo It.
    Sometimes adults with ADHD get caught up in perfectionism mode and set themselves up for failure by placing too much pressure on themselves. Have you ever gone on a vacation in which you felt pressured to see every single landmark and tourist attraction? Like you were wasting your time there if you didn’t see all the things that a visitor is supposed to see? This happened to me when I was studying abroad in London while I was in college. I visited 8 countries and more cities than I can remember. In the beginning, I pressured myself to get to all the tourist attractions and take pictures of me and my friends… until I realized that I really didn’t care. To this day, I would much rather sit in a cafe and experience the local culture than visit the tourist spots. Yet, I would pressure myself to run all over the place taking pictures, because that’s what I thought I was supposed to do. Silly, right? Except many of us fall into that trap. Remember that you’re on vacation. The point of a vacation is to get away from the stress and pressure of your day-to-day life. If you add in a different type of stress and pressure, you’re not really getting away, are you? So make sure you leave plenty of time to relax and recharge.
  3. Prepare For Boredom.
    No matter how much or how little you plan in for your vacation, you can expect some boredom. It comes with the ADHD territory. Traveling by plane or car can get boring. Sitting on the beach can get boring. Ending the night early because your kids are tired can get boring. We get bored. That’s just how it is. So make sure that you plan for the boredom. Stock your phone or iPod with good music, and make sure it’s charged! Bring a good book with you. Bring a laptop, if you need to! Boredom breeds grumpiness, and no one wants to be (or deal with) a grumpy ADHDer on vacation.

Following these simple guidelines can ensure that your ADHD doesn’t ruin an otherwise awesome vacation.

Now, believe it or not, Erin is no angel on vacation, either. In fact, there are times when I’m the reasonable one and she’s the high-maintenance one! She can get a little stressed out on vacation, and I’m the one who pulls her back in. I redirect us back to fun and relaxation because, after all, it is vacation. So don’t feel too sorry for her that she has to deal with me and my ADHD! 😉

How does ADHD affect your vacations? How do you deal with it? Tell us about it in the comments!


Jennifer Koretsky About Jennifer Koretsky

Jennifer Koretsky, SCAC is the Managing Partner of the ADD Management Group, LLC and Chief Executive Officer of She is a Senior Certified ADHD Coach, and the author of Odd One Out: The Maverick's Guide to Adult ADD.