Time to Travel: How long is long enough for a trip?


Never enough time to travel?
Never enough time to travel?

Even with more time to travel, it seems like there is never enough. Travel writers weigh in on how long is long enough. 

Time is a precious because it’s so finite. It’s always a challenge for travelers, even experienced ones, to figure out how to use their time. How much of a trip should be scripted and planed ahead, and how much should be left open for spontaneity and discovery? How much time is long enough to justify the expense and time away from home? How much time is necessary to really see a destination?

Recently, there was an announcement of a 3-day travel conference in New Zealand on one of the travel writer forums I follow. With favorable hotel rates and flight fares, it sounded like an intriguing opportunity. Understandably, some people on the listserv were wildly enthusiastic about attending but others began to speculate just how much time would be required for a trip to New Zealand. Some thought a week was ample, including going there and back. Others disagreed strongly.

I decided to post the generic question to some travel writer colleagues. How long is long enough for a trip? Clearly, there is no one-size-fits-all answer but here are some considerations:

Where you live 

If you live in a large city with many non-stop flights to far-flung destinations, it may be more feasible to travel faraway on a whim. If you live in a remote location or depend upon secondary or tertiary airports, you might have more reasons for pause:

It depends on how long it takes to get there. For a distant destination, like New Zealand, I would want three weeks to a month. When I go to a fairly close destination, at least a week of two.

–Billie Frank 

From where I live (Hawaii) it takes a minimum of two days to travel to many destinations, so it has to be worth the time and effort to get there.

Noel Morata

If I had to go to New Zealand, it would take at least two days to adjust to the time difference.

–Marcia Mayne

I once did New Zealand to Ireland for three weeks and by the time you lose three days on planes and three days to jet lag, I’d never do it again.

Lis Sowerbutts

Where you are going 

Is your destination circumscribed in terms of either geography or what you want to see? Sometimes a short amount of time is all the time you need: 

A day can be long enough in some places. Right now, I’m in Dutchess County at a horse farm/yoga retreat. We arrived yesterday at 4PM. I ran all around the horses this morning, will go riding in an hour, take a nature walk, do yoga, visit Rhinebeck and the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome and go home tomorrow early morning—having had a total experience in 1.5 days.

Margie Goldsmith 

I’m a fast traveler when it comes to cities, where I find 4-5 days are my maximum. To visit a country, a month traveling throughout seems to be the best for me. Beyond a month, I start getting cabin fever so I’d rather split the journey and come back another time.

Leyla Giray Alyanak 

Your personality 

Some of us our comfortable with whirlwind trips, even at the last minute. Others are adverse to risk and doing anything quickly or at the last minute: 

We’re all different. We took a long weekend from San Francisco to London and Paris. Was it a crazy whirlwind? Sure! But it’s one of my favorite travel memories.

Catherine Sweeney 

My favorite trips have been at or over a month. I am a hub-and-spoke travel style person.

–Jerome Shaw 

N.B. From Princess Cruises Fourth Annual Relaxation Report:

The majority of Americans aged 35 and older report that it typically takes them two or more days to settle into their vacation, perhaps needing extra time to unplug from the office. In fact, nearly two out of three Americans surveyed prefer at least a full week away on vacation, as opposed to a day off here and there, to completely check out and feel relaxed.

Your travel style

Everyone has different ways of traveling that characterize their style:

Some people are grazers—they take in the highlights, following a hit parade of starred attractions, checking them off as they go, and never veering off course. Others (I’m in this camp) are unable to resist the invitation of a back road, museum, artisan shop, food outpost, historical/architectural/archeological site, or a cup of tea with a local character.

Hilary Nangle 

Quite a few boomers prefer (and are able to) travel for longer timeframes. Home exchanges and guest exchanges allow boomers to stay in one location longer and save costs. Not only are you staying in a fabulous home, but you get to absorb the culture, food and lifestyle.

Noel Morata 

Your philosophy 

Perhaps inseparable from personality and travel style, some of us want to cram in as much as possible, especially when it comes to travel: 

My philosophy is to seize every travel opportunity. See and do what you can and try to go back again for more. Seeing a little bit of any place is better than seeing none of it.

Catherine Sweeney 

I take whatever I can get just in case there isn’t a next time.

Donna Leftwich Hull 

Practical stuff 

Regardless of how we prefer to travel, deciding how long often boils down to practicalities: 

How long I visit an area depend on the amount of time I have. While I prefer longer stays, that’s not always possible.

Donna Leftwich Hull 

Of course, it has to make economic sense!

Catherine Sweeney 

After I spent more than three months in Barcelona, I didn’t want to go anywhere unless I could spend at least a month or more.

–Marcia Mayne 

Considering the increasing price of airfares (particularly to Europe), we generally schedule our trips to last a month or five weeks, and develop an itinerary that will cover different areas but give us at least a week or two in each.

Jackie Humphries Smith

My husband has colleagues who will fly to Japan or Australia for 3 nights. My husband finds that he is so affected by jet lag on those long distance trips that it’s not worth making the trip for that amount of time because he feels wasted for days after that. They say it takes a day to recover for each time zone.

–Suzanne Fluhr

You do what fits your lifestyle, budget, available time and goals.

Hilary Nangle

People work all their lives, they want to see as much as possible in a short time…

–Geoffrey Kent, founder of Abercrombie & Kent, in the New York Times

N.B. Thanks especially to the Facebook group of  Boomer Travel Bloggers who weighed in on the question.

Do you have thoughts about how long is long enough for a trip? Have you risked traveling somewhere for a shorter or longer period than you thought optimal? I hope you’ll share your thoughts and experiences.

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  1. Thanks so much for including my input. It really is true that we are all different when it comes to travel styles. Indeed, our own styles can change depending upon circumstances. The important thing is just to get out there and travel in whatever way suits you!

  2. We’ve been taking longer and longer trips lately. On our recent Africa visit, we were fortunate to spend almost 6 weeks on the continent. Traveling at a slower pace really enables one to soak up the local culture, learn about the destination in detail and absorb the travel experience in all its richness and layers.

  3. Usually, ten days is about the limit for my husband but sometimes I can stretch it to two weeks. We always like to get home to see our family at that point!

  4. Thanks for including me! I agree with the comment above – I consider 6 weeks pretty much a minimum these days. When my partner was offered a permanent job with the employer he’d been contracting with, the quetion was – can you take unpaid leave – if the answer hadn’t been correct he wouldn’t have taken the job.

    The next trip is 6 weeks in the US’s east coast – well part of it – I’d prefer 3 months but …

  5. So interesting. And depressing! I wish I had six weeks to stay and visit one place. But I don’t. And I’m not the best traveler – I always arrive exhausted no matter how much I prepare. So, I lose a day to travel and at least one or two more until I get acclimated…and then it’s almost time to turn around and go home and suffer on the other end.
    But that hardly stops me. I just push through and do what I can!

  6. Excellent post, Irene, thanks for including me. I guess it boils down to what’s important. I went to London for a long weekend – Friday to Monday – to attend my sister’s wedding, and did the same for my cousin’s wedding in Jamaica. But weddings are different. Generally, I prefer going slowly rather than doing a ‘drive by.’

  7. It’s so much fun to read what other people think about this question. As a part-time traveler, there are a lot of things which dictate my length of trips, and I’m ok with that. I think you either are content with what you have time for, or you change your lifestyle if you are not.

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