Not having to plan a holiday this year is a blessing in disguise

Earlier this week, when I picked up my phone (three seconds after waking up, as always) Facebook Memories threw reminders of the holiday I spent in Greece with my fiancé last June into my still-sleepy face.

My heart sank, knowing that, thanks to coronavirus, this year there will be no white-sand beaches, midday naps and afternoons spent sampling cocktails. Of course, there are plenty of bigger things to be worrying about right now – but many of us will be feeling a private pang over missing out on our annual break.

Flicking through the photos, wondering why 2019 Me hadn’t put more sunblock on my bright-red nose, I felt a stab of jealousy – until my disappointment morphed into a feeling I definitely wasn’t expecting: holiday JOMO. (That’s Joy Of Missing Out, if you’re not down with the kids).

I felt a sudden rush of relief at missing out on a yearly ‘treat’ that often causes me more stress and headaches than any amount of relaxation can make up for.

Like most people, I love sunny summer holidays. I love sunbathing, paddling in the sea and exploring new towns and cuisines. I even love composing my out of office message – ‘So long, suckers!’ (or something slightly more polite).

But what I really hate is organising trips away, and the accompanying acute sense of obligation to get everything just right.

It’s not enough to book a hotel that looks as bug-free as possible, slap on some fake tan, and forget the rest of the world exists in a fog of 11am mimosas and sunstroke anymore.

Now that we can all compare our holidays to a million others via the joy of social media, the pressure to book the perfect break can sometimes feel like a weighty responsibility.

Holiday FOMO means you don’t want to miss out altogether – but if you get your biggest expense of the year wrong, you could end up spending the rest of it wondering if you should have got the boiler repaired instead.

My fiancé is the laid-back type, happy for me to take control of holiday planning (one could argue that he disguises basic laziness as generosity of spirit, but I wouldn’t want to cast aspersions), which means it’s always me who has to find the ideal hotel in the ideal week in the ideal city in the ideal country. And all within a fish-and-chips budget, rather than a caviar one.

One year, I spent 16 hours researching a holiday in Barcelona, until I was certain I had nailed it. As soon as I announced my triumph to a friend, they told me they’d been mugged within hours of touching down at El-Prat airport – which planted a seed of doubt that was big enough that I started all over again.

The existence of the Mullies Weather Curse (a term coined by my travel journalist friend Helen, and is totally a real thing) also adds an unwelcome frisson to holiday planning.

Before choosing a destination, I scour weather charts for the best possible time to visit. Then, from the moment I book my flights, I check my weather app daily, working myself into an escalating spiral of panic as the weather gradually worsens as my holiday approaches.

So far, the curse has resulted in freezing sandstorms in Dubai (hotel rep: ‘This never happens!’), two weeks of non-stop rain in Mauritius (hotel rep: ‘This never happens!’) and an actual volcano grounding all flights out of Morocco (airline rep: ‘This never happens!’).

I’m more than aware that the luxury of seeing holiday planning as a chore is certainly a very privileged situation to be in, and it’s a pretty nice problem to have. But a quick survey of my friends shows I’m not entirely alone in experiencing holiday JOMO during lockdown.

One admitted to feeling a sense of relief at not having to worry about missing out because money had become so tight this year, while another confessed that as a single 30-something she hated the fact that girls’ holidays had been growing few and far between – for once she doesn’t feel like a spare part.

Another friend who is a mum of two said that they’d found themselves under increased pressure to do the next big thing when it came to family breaks – basically whatever new roller coaster or water park is being advertised on TV – and that it was awesome to be in the position to rediscover back-to-basics fun with the kids during lockdown.

This year, those of us who find holiday planning stressful can relax. Yes, being stuck at home sucks. But everyone else is stuck too, so there’s no FOMO urging you to hit Expedia.

I’m looking forward to leaping onto our flat’s shared driveway with a fold-out camping chair and a home-made piña colada whenever the sun decides to shine, ordering takeaways instead of room service, and having Netflix to hand in the evenings.

Maybe I’ll even use the money I’ve saved to pay someone to book next year’s holiday for me.