What Is Travel Decision Fatigue? + How to Overcome It

Travel decision fatigue results from having to make too many decisions in a short time. This affliction is common among RVers who have to make more decisions than usual as they travel.

While traveling, RVers can become overwhelmed by the number of decisions they must make. These can be big decisions, everyday things, or tiny decisions like where to stay, what to do, what to eat—whether to turn left or right.

These decisions no matter how small pile up and a lot of people experience negative effects mentally and emotionally. It can put a damper on how much you and your travel companions enjoy your trip.

In this article, I’ll explain what decision fatigue is and how to identify symptoms. I’ll also share tips that will help you prevent or overcome decision fatigue as you travel.

Let’s dig right in.

Camping at Sonoran Desert RV Park in Gila Bend, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What is travel decision fatigue?

Decision fatigue also known as ego depletion is the idea that after making many decisions a person’s ability to make additional decisions becomes worse. This increasing difficulty in making decisions taxes our brain and our emotions which is not a great combination.

The psychological effects of decision fatigue can vary but they often lead to making poor decisions, impulse buying, or other avoidance behaviors.

Travel decision fatigue is simply decision fatigue that you experience while traveling. Since you are outside of normal daily routines and more predictable daily life at home, you are more likely to experience decision fatigue while traveling.

Eating lunch at La Posta in Mesilla, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Symptoms of decision fatigue

Many RVers experience decision fatigue and don’t even realize it. More accurately, they feel the effects of decision fatigue but don’t realize it is the cause.

So, it’s good to know the symptoms to help you identify if you’re succumbing to decision fatigue. If you can identify it, you can combat it and overcome it!

The most common symptoms are:

  • Brain fog (inability to think clearly)
  • Frequent procrastination even on simple decisions
  • Irritability and a short temper
  • Impulsivity (Forget it! Let’s just do this!)
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Spending an inordinate amount of time making a decision
  • Feeling dissatisfied with whatever choice you ultimately make
Touring the Painted Churches of Fayette County, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How RVers can prevent or overcome travel decision fatigue

Living the RV lifestyle for 25+ years after retiring from a long career in education as a Principal, I know a few things about travel decision fatigue. I’ve spent my life out of routine and have learned tricks along the way to help me avoid this unique kind of burnout.

It comes down to two strategies. The first is to learn how to make better decisions faster. The second is to minimize the amount of decisions you have to make as much as possible.

The first strategy requires you to exercise your choice-making muscle, so to speak. You practice making decisions quickly and give yourself a small reward when you do even if that reward is a nice pat on the back. This practice can be as simple as giving yourself one minute to decide where to eat.

The second strategy is what I’m going to focus more on today because I have actionable advice specifically for RVers. As RVers, certain kinds of decisions come up often that we can tackle in different ways.

So, let’s jump into those!

Exploring Sand Hollow State Park in southern Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tips for overcoming travel decision fatigue

The most common decisions RVers have to make revolve around what to eat, buy, pack, and do. There are ways to systemize these decisions even if you’re traveling to different places and climates.

1. Delegate decisions

One of the best ways to save your mental energy is to delegate decisions to others. If you have travel companions, take turns making decisions. For instance, you decide one meal and your spouse decides on the next.

When you delegate decisions set the rule that the delegate has the final say! It’s their decision and you go along with it. Or, there’s another great tactic you can use…

One person narrows it down to three options they’d be happy with and then another person makes the final decision. That way, everyone is happy.

2. Minimize your wardrobe

What to wear is one of the daily decisions that can add quite a bit to decision fatigue. After all, deciding what to wear is actually requires many small decisions. You have to consider the weather, your comfort, what looks good, and more.

By minimizing your wardrobe you’ll have fewer options and thus fewer decisions. Here are some helpful tips:

  • Remember, less is more when packing
  • Make a packing list and edit it down as much as possible
  • Build a capsule wardrobe of interchangeable outfits
  • Make a master list of items you use as you travel (noting climate, activities, etc.)
Wandering Joshua Tree National Park in southern California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Systemize grocery shopping

Grocery shopping is always packed with a lot of decisions. And it’s just made that much harder when you’re shopping in a different grocery store every week as you travel.

To make your shopping trip to the grocery store less mentally taxing have a shopping list ready to go.

If you want to take this to the next level have a standard shopping list you take on every trip that includes items you always buy. Things like bread, eggs, milk, cheese, your favorite ice cream, snacks, and drinks. Laminate it and keep it on your fridge!

Then you can make a separate short list of items you need or want for this particular shopping trip.

To further help you avoid a state of mental overload, ask a store associate for help as soon as you enter a new store. Don’t wander around and then ask. You can even take a minute of their time and have them tell you all the aisle numbers for the items on your list.

4. Streamline deciding where to eat

Finding a good place to eat while camping or on a road trip is another thing RVers have to decide daily. The difficulty of making the decision is exacerbated by not knowing what’s good in the area.

I have a few tips to help you decide where to eat more easily.

Tip #1: Assign a type of cuisine to certain days (i.e. Taco Tuesday or Wednesday is Mexican food day). This strategy narrows down all the restaurants in the area to a more manageable number. In remote locations, it might even narrow it down to one!

Tip #2: Let a local decide. Stop at a gas station or find the nearest local and ask them what their favorite restaurant is. Don’t ask questions. Eat there.

Tip #3: Don’t get overwhelmed by Yelp reviews. Look at overall star ratings but don’t read the reviews. Reading too many opinions makes it harder to decide.

Time to relax at Meaher State Park on the Alabama Gulf Coast © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Follow a travel itinerary

One of the best ways to avoid travel decision fatigue is to try to make as many decisions in advance as possible. You can make as detailed a travel itinerary as you think you’ll need. (Just be sure to always leave room for serendipity!)

Worth Pondering…

Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.

—Anne Lamott