Micro vacations are one answer to experiencing the world on limited time and money!
We spent US Labor Day holiday in Switzerland. Before that, we spent President’s Day in London and in Thanksgiving, we will take off for a getaway to the historic city of Berlin. Our home base is the east coast of North America so these destination spots are not exactly a “hop”. Any country in Europe would be 6-8 hours flight from NYC.
Most everyone would immediately dismiss a European vacation more so for lack of time than lack of budget. Perhaps waiting until “someday” is a wise and well-thought-out strategy for some but it won’t do for a travel hungry soul like mine and perhaps, it won’t do for you either. If you share my dilemma, dispel the notions of excuses and adopt a new perspective when it comes to vacations.
Forget setting aside a small fortune and waiting years to find the right two or three week slot of earned vacation. Think instead small, dense, and compact. Think a micro vacation!
A Micro Vacation is a short yet dense vacation for a 3-4 day period – preferably out of your home country – to destinations which may at first seem out of reach but are in fact completely practical and worthwhile.
Lest there be any misunderstanding, I sincerely believe a real vacation needs to be between 2 weeks to a month long because we need that time period to truly relax and disconnect from our busy world. A micro vacation neither replaces a real long vacation nor advocates shorter ones as necessarily a better alternative. A micro vacation is in its own class; it is a powerful idea to help you explore possibilities of traveling further than the beach or the mountains next time a holiday is on the horizon. It is another angle to fulfilling travel dreams.
5 Compelling Reasons: Why take a Micro Vacation
Vacation styles are as personal as packing for one. Forethought and planning should go into finding the perfect vacation style for each of us. In my case, I never thought I would consider any European destination for only 3 or 4 days but this year alone, I have vacationed in that exact style twice with one more on the horizon because I found compelling reasons to consider a micro vacation. Perhaps you may be persuaded by these reasons as well:
1. You have responsibilities and priorities at home that you cannot possibly leave behind for 2 weeks. I sincerely believe the primary reason people shy from vacations is psychological: they simply cannot tear away from home. It is completely understandable and that is why a short getaway is a great idea for many.
2. You do not need to save up for weeks and weeks to earn enough vacation hours from your day job. If you take your micro vacation around a public holiday, you may need to take only one extra day off work. For instance, when a public holiday falls on a Friday, we take Monday off of work and leave on Thursday late afternoon or early evening and return Monday night. This gives us Friday, Saturday, Sunday and part of Monday at our destination.
3. The cost of a micro vacation becomes more palatable. Logically, when your vacation is shorter in length, you spend less on lodging, eating and other costs.
4. You visit a place for just long enough to leave you wanting more – a return trip becomes imminent but you do not have time enough to grow homesick. Believe it or not, I think becoming homesick affects your reluctance about future vacations – and you should do your best to avoid it. A micro vacation leaves you no time to become homesick or to grow tired of your vacation spot.
5. You put more planning, thought and effort into maximizing your time away from home. If you have 10 days or more, you may do half as much planning and space out your activities further apart. For a micro vacation, you know time is of the essence so you take care to use it wisely and as a result, your short getaway is more organized and better planned, and more fruitful.
5 Useful Tips: How to Plan a Micro Vacation
1. Allow Flexibility on Selecting a Destination:
Where you go for your micro vacation is no small decision but it pays to exercise some flexibility. Instead of having your heart set on Paris for that Thanksgiving weekend, focus on the best flight routes and offerings which give you optimal time in a new and exciting European city. Stay loyal to a single airline if at all possible; we fly American Airlines so we focus on American’s best deals. It is also beneficial to know your tolerance for total travel time. For instance, our total travel time to Zurich was 12 hours and that is well without our comfort zone for a 4 day trip. A great portion of flight was overnight so we did not miss out on daylight. We were able to spend a few good hours exploring the city following the red eye and a nice afternoon nap set us straight with 3 full days of vacation ahead.
2. Make Use of Public Holidays:
The most practical way to plan a micro vacation is to use the public holidays. This strategy allows you plenty of time to research and book your travel in advance because public holidays are set in stone. With one single extra day off work – if you have a standard employment – you will have 4 full days at your disposal. Airlines tend to offer more packages and destination options during holidays also and while the prices vary, this will help you choose from a variety of options.
3. Pack Light and Do Not Check Luggage:
The image of lugging around heavy luggage is unappealing enough but to do this on a short getaway is an absolute no-no! Be sure to read the short series on Travel Like a Pro where I persuade you to never check in luggage and give you 21 tips on packing light and smart. Use these and take even less to a 4-day getaway. Remember you will not need as many clothes as your days would be more packed with activities so most likely you will have one attire all day long so travel super light!
4. Plan for Transportation in Advance:
One of the biggest time savers is knowing your transportation needs in advance. In most large cities, the metro (subway) is the best way to get around innercity and trains are ideal means in all of Europe and many parts of Asia for city-to-city or country-to-country travels. Yet what you may not realize is the time you spend in lines waiting to buy tickets! To minimize this, research the one or multi-day passes for metro and trains. For instance, London’s Oyster card and Tokyo’s Suica card are pre-paid options for frequent use of public transport. While these two options are mostly for local residents, they are just as excellent for a visitor but you must buy them in the city after arrival. However, you can purchase your train passes in advance – such as Japan’s Railway Pass and the Swiss Rail Pass– online before leaving on the trips – both of which turn out to be huge cost-savers!With these types of tickets, you do not need to wait in any line. You just get on the train of your choice and go!
5. Leverage Smart Phone Technology:
It is impossible to deny the advancements that technology has afforded us in making travel accessible to everyone. This is especially great news for micro vacationers! We love our iPhones to no end but these ideas can be available on other smart phones as well. You should think about having information such as offline subway maps, timetables and schedules, GPS and maps of the area. These fundamental tools help you to never get lost and have a good sense of your surroundings and your way around. Furthermore you can use yelp for finding nearby stuff with user reviews, TripIt for your entire offline itinerary, Dropbox and EverNote for your travel documents such as copies of passports, ID forms, confirmation numbers and other relevant information. You can also take it further and look into podcasts for foreign languages to learn the essentials on the go and travel books online – Lonely Planet has some nice ones out.
There is no better finish to this post than the quote below which articulates my travel sentiments and the impetus for urging you to travel, even if in micro vacation style!
“Once the travel bug bites there is no known antidote, and I know that I shall be happily infected until the end of my life.”
— Michael Palin