Ask anyone what their favorite things to do are and travel will be somewhere on the top of that list. But most people aren’t taking gap years or long term backpacking trips, they are taking short holidays. My recent reader survey showed that over 50% of my readers take a holiday that is 4 weeks or less. So when you can’t spend months in France, how do you make it feel like you just did? When my friends ask “Matt, the wife and I are going to Europe for two weeks. How do we make the most of it?” this is what I tell them:
Go off the grid – They say it takes 2 days for people to relax and settle into “travel mode.” To expedite that process, turn off your electronics, get off Facebook, and don’t even think of opening your inbox. Disengage yourself from the real world and spend your time thinking about your trip and all the wonderful things you’re going to do while you’re on the road. Keeping yourself plugged in means you’re simply keeping yourself back home and not where you are.
Judge Distance – My friends sometimes ask me, “Can we go to Rome when we visit Paris?” When you don’t travel often, judging distances between places can get tricky. Friends of mine once tried to put Perth into a 12 day Australian trip. Plan your trip according to the distance you are traveling. Don’t try to jet-set all over the place. You’ll spend more time packing, unpacking, and traveling than actually seeing anything of interest. I know there’s a temptation to see as much as you can, but with travel try to remember that less is often more. Stick to one geographic area.
Staying Close to Home – If you have a limited amount of time for your trip, don’t jet off half way around the world. An exotic far away place sounds like a good idea but with limited time, going far just wastes your precious travel days. My rule of thumb is that for every two weeks you have, don’t fly more than 7 hours. That way you get to spend more time in your destination and less time in the air.
Travel like a Turtle – I already mentioned above that less is more when you travel. Don’t feel like you have to see everything and go everywhere on your short trip. There’s nothing wrong with taking your time in a place and getting to know it. Most travelers check off the major sights and then move on to their next destination. You can do better than that. Get to really know London instead of trying to squeeze half of England into your trip. You can always come back. Running around like a chicken with its head cut off ensures you only have time for pictures.
Do What You Want – When people get to a destination, they usually open a guide book and head straight for all the main attractions. They rush around feeling like if they don’t see X, Y, or Z, they’ll miss out on “seeing the place.” But there’s no such thing as a ‘must see’. See whatever you want. It may sound stupid, but a lot of people go places because everyone else does. If you don’t like art, skip the Louvre. If you hate scrambling around on ruins then avoid going to Angkor Wat. Don’t like fish? Skip the Tokyo fish market. It’s your trip, not Lonely Planet’s.
Relax – This is your vacation. You want to relax and rest and experience your trip your way. When I go to a new place, I like to get into the pace of life there. In places like Barcelona, for example, that means sleeping late and staying up late, and in place like Fiji it means early to bed and early to rise. Go with the flow, relax, and enjoy your trip. It’s not the number of things you do but the fun you have that matters.
Even though you’ve only got a week or two for vacation doesn’t mean you can’t have a great time. You can make these two weeks feel like forever when you take the time to plan your trip properly and scout out the things that you really want to see and do. Make the most of a place. Get to know it well. That’s the key to successful travel.