If you’re anything like me, you probably have a travel wishlist a mile long but can count your vacation days on two hands. So, short on time but big on wanderlust? Make the most of the time you’re given with short breaks! Following are some of the things I think about when I’m planning my next compact adventure.
This is the big one, folks. My vacation days renew on July 1 every year, so come May I’m chomping at the bit to start using them up. I plan out the times throughout the year that I want to travel (let’s say 4 days over Labor Day weekend, 2 weeks around Christmas, and another 4 days around Easter weekend) and then base all of the rest of my planning off of these chosen dates. Holiday weekends are the key here – you only need one vacation day to pull off a full four days away from home. Maximize that time!
Since you’re limited on time, you’ll have to plan your actual travel time carefully. Pro tip: Book evening or overnight flights! If you’re traveling Friday through Monday, you can leave directly from work on Thursday to hop on your night flight. Yes, it will cost an extra night at the hotel, but you’ll have the entire following day for exploring. I would also recommend sticking to destinations that involve less than 7 hours travel time – you don’t want to spend half of your short break in an airport or shared van!
Since I already know when I want to travel, I now need to pick where I’ll go (I know, I know. Most people decide on this first. I don’t.). My travel wishlist is extensive enough that I’ll always be able to think of some amazing destination. So, with my dates in hand I immediately hop on Google Flights. If you haven’t yet used Google Flights, it is a dream come true. You can enter up to six departure points, allowing you to see fares from surrounding airports.
Pro tip: Leave the destination blank to explore destinations! After entering your departure airport(s) and date ranges, you can click on the map to bring up a view of Google Earth with prices for every destination imaginable. Click and drag to compare prices to Latin America, East Asia, and everywhere in between!
With only a few days to spare in your destination of choice, you need to take advantage of every minute you’re there. One resource I love is Viator. You can browse activities by destination, and you can book everything from walking tours to multi-day excursions all in one place. Think of it as the Travelocity of activities.
Pro tip: Book a walking tour for your first day to orient yourself. Not only will this help you get the lay of the land, but you might end up hearing about points of interests you’ll want to take a closer look at in the coming days. You’ll get a lot more out of it if you have a knowledgeable local guide, and you can ask them for their personal suggestions on things to do and places to eat!
- Getting Around.
You’re not going to have a month of leisurely backpacking ahead of you, so you’re going to have to make your point to point transportation as efficient as possible.
I highly recommend booking car or shuttle service between the airport and your lodging in advance. This can be done through your hotel, or through a website like Viator. When you land, you’re going to want to get off the plane, get in your vehicle, and get going! By pre-booking you avoid the hassle of navigating the terminals (and potential plethora of illegal taxis). Pro tip: If you’re staying in a city with great public transportation and plan on using it to get to the hotel, get the exact directions in advance and put it in the notes field of a calendar entry on your phone. This way you’ll be able to access it away from data/WiFi.
While you’re traveling, if you’ve booked excursions through a site like Viator they often include transportation options for being picked up at your hotel or a central locations. When you’re out and about exploring, try getting around like the locals! Renting a bicycle, navigating the trams, or hopping on a ferry will not only get you where you’re going, it’ll also give you a unique view of the place.
I’ll post more tips in the future, so be sure to check back and follow along as I plan my next adventure!
Where will you wander?