On April 21, three words go into effect that can make even the most resilient traveler feel on edge: Mercury in retrograde.
Three times a year, for a few weeks each time, the planet Mercury appears to go backwards in the sky. When that happens it can seem, at least to many astrologers and their loyal followers, like parts of everyday life that it controls go completely awry.
“Mercury is the planet that rules travel, communications, and technology, so when Mercury goes retrograde, it can be that there are certain challenges and difficulties,” says Bracha Goldsmith, an astrologer whose YouTube channel has more than 450,000 subscribers.
Canceled flights? Crashed computers at check-in? Arriving at your hotel to find that it’s overbooked, or your booking was lost in the computer system? If that happens during Mercury’s retrograde period—which, this time around, will last until May 14—it’s easy to feel like the planet might be to blame.
So much so, that some frequent travelers are taking Mercury into account when they’re planning trips, with the goal of avoiding potential disruptions. Take New York-based jewelry designer Brent Neale, who intentionally scheduled a flight home from a work trip this month for April 20 instead of on the 21st, to avoid Mercury-induced snarls that could happen when the retrograde period begins the next day.
Neale says she keeps upcoming retrograde dates in her calendar, and knows that trips during those times, like a summer vacation she’s planned during Mercury’s next retrograde in August and September, might not go exactly as planned.
“The preparation is just knowing that probably things can go off,” Neale says. “Then you’re more relaxed about it.”
Although most astrologers advise that Mercury’s retrograde period isn’t an ideal time to sign contracts—like, say, the agreement with an operator for a safari or lavish cruise—traveling during that time is fine.
“I travel all the time with Mercury retrograde,” says astrologer Susan Miller, founder of the popular website AstrologyZone. “But I do not buy a ticket when Mercury’s retrograde. If I buy the ticket, no matter how hard I try to be sure I’m coming back on this day, I wind up calling the airline and begging to move the ticket, because things are happening on the trip.”
Those changes, incidentally, aren’t always bad. “They’re good things: you want to have that extra meeting, or a few extra days,” Miller says.
“Mercury in Retrograde has this bad rep for being super-daunting, when really you just have to start with words that start with ‘re.’ It’s the time to rejuvenate, revise, rethink, refresh, recalibrate, reschedule,” says Cherie Rose Martin, who describes herself as a travel designer and matchmaker and frequently uses astrology in her work.
It’s also worth considering the position of planets other than Mercury as you’re deciding when to leave for a trip, as Allen Frame, an acclaimed photographer who travels regularly, does. “If you can find a day when otherwise the aspects are good to the Moon and to Mercury, for instance, you can kind of override the serious derails or upsets that might happen with Mercury retrograde.”
With Mercury’s position on many people’s minds, some hotels and resorts have created packages to help guests deal with its potential impact. At L’Auberge de Sedona in Arizona, there’s “Retrograde Reset,” which was launched last December, around the last Mercury retrograde period. It includes sound healing, chakra realignment, and a spa treatment that incorporates sage and turquoise, which is believed to promote balance and self-expression.