There are different schools of thought on the ideal vacation length. But depressingly, the average American vacation is just 4 days. Some research says 8 days is a good number, others 10 days. My personal opinion is that I need a minimum of 3 weeks on a vacation.
- it takes a week to unwind all your work related stress, and thinking about work, obsessing about work, and shaking your compulsion to check your email every 12 seconds as a reflex
- The week before you go back to work your brain is subconsciously back into work mode
- Therefore you need 3 weeks off to get just 1 week of actual switched off proper relaxation vacation time
We often go on longer trips, on average 4-5 weeks, but our longest has been a touch over 6 weeks. This kind of trip presents a few unusual challenges, particularly if you are crossing climate zones.
Why go longer?
Particularly if you live somewhere fairly isolated (i.e. Australia) getting to where you want to go is a massive effort in itself. Think about approximately 20 hours of commuting (minimum) just to North America, and then there is the associated jet lag. So I figure hey, if you’re going to all of that effort you might as well get as much bang for your buck as you can!
Taking a longer holiday gives you the opportunity to see more places, and ultimately tick more off your bucket list (although this does need to be balanced with not feeling like you are packing and unpacking every couple of days which gets annoying).
After doing a few of these longer trips, my partner and I have come up with a few approaches that help us maximise our holidays, both from a relaxation and adventure perspective. I think of this as the ‘big rocks, small rocks, pebbles’ approach (which is actually a productivity/time management approach designed by Steven Covey that applies equally well to holiday planning!).
I don’t mean a literal big rock (although I am sure there are many worth seeing!). What I mean by this is to pick your ‘must do’ places, and decide how long you want to spend in each of those spots. These are your ‘big rocks’. For example, you might have skiing in Park City, Utah as a ‘must do’, and then visit Las Vegas because it is conveniently located and you have the time to spare in between your next ‘big rock’ (so Las Vegas becomes the ‘small rock’ or ‘pebble’). The overnight in LA on the way out of the country is the grain of sand that sits between the cracks of the big rocks and the pebbles, but they have their place!
Some of the great travel experiences I have had have been the pebble pieces of holidays. A boat trip in Turkey, and the cruise we took around the Caribbean are two of my favourites that come to mind – both were kind of ‘fillers’ in our trip and we had pretty low expectations of them, so when they turned out to be fantastic it made our holiday even more amazing than we had expected! Both of these are lifetime memories for me, and to think they were a happy accident because we wanted to do something close by. For me, this is the reason not to sit in one place for weeks on end in a holiday, because your next favourite place might be just around the corner.
Having said that, for big trips like this I would suggest a 5 day minimum in each location. Unless it is a ‘grain of sand’ aka a layover and you really just need it as a bed for the night in transit, moving around too often means you don’t get to experience and enjoy the local culture. It is a fine line to walk but 5 days in one place is usually a good length of time. We have done 3 nights in each place on a really jam packed trip, but as amazing as the places you are in, sometimes having a day of rest and not feeling like you should be sightseeing or exploring is nice. However if you are booking a busy trip, a tip that we have used is planning a couple of points in the trip where you stay in a nice hotel for 2 nights and DON’T MOVE! Unless it’s to go to the pool bar…. which is what we did for the last 2 nights of a massive trip on the go, we parked ourselves in a hotel in the Greek Island of Kos. Didn’t see the island at all in that trip, just the hotel, because we needed the break! (#firstworldproblems…..)
Packing for different climates
“How the firetruck do you pack for a 6 week holiday across multiple climates??!!!!!” I hear you ask. Well, the answer can be simple enough if there are 2 of you travelling and you are happy sharing luggage.
For our long haul trips across summer and snow, we tend to pack one summer bag and one winter bag. That way we only need to have one ‘active bag’ no matter where we are, and the other can be stored somewhere out of the way. Of course there are some items that need to be used in all climates (i.e. toiletries) so you just make sure you have allowed for that in your packing. Packing for the snow has it’s own set of challenges – so I suggest you check out my guest blog on Wood & Luxe on that very topic.
A couple of examples of itineraries we have done from Australia are below, all between 4-6 weeks and most involving skiing/snowboarding:
- Paris/Stockholm/Italian Alps/French Alps/Geneva (winter)
- Barcelona/Pisa/Cinque Terre/Rome/Amalfi Coast/Turkey/Greek Islands (summer)
- New York/Florida/Caribbean/New Orleans/Vail/Utah (winter/summer combo)
And our next itinerary is this one, which I am VERY excited about!:
- Lake Tahoe/Park City/Las Vegas (NYE)/ Panama/San Blas Islands/Quintana Roo, MX
Planning a holiday is a bit like playing Tetris, and I personally love planning a trip as it makes the holiday anticipation even better!
If you have any itinerary questions, drop me a line!