Planning a Short Vacation
While it would be amazing to be able to take months off work to travel the world and explore every corner of every country, most of us have to be a little more realistic and turn to short vacations if we want to travel. While longer holidays obviously give you more time, a week or two can be sufficient to see a lot of the things you want to see if you follow a few basic steps.
1) Flights (arrival times, layovers)
If you’re dealing with a particularly tight travel schedule, being careful about your choice of flights can make a pretty big difference. Check for weird and lengthy layovers and avoid them if possible; the last thing you want to do is waste half a day in an airport if you only have a week or two to travel. Maybe you won’t get the cheapest flight but in the end, you’ll spend more time where you actually want to be and less time in airports.
The same applies for arrival times; nobody likes to get up at 3 in the morning to catch an early morning flight but odds are they will give you a better arrival time instead of eating your day away. Sure, you get to sleep in, but if you arrive at your destination after dinner, you pretty much wasted a day. Consider getting up at the crack of dawn to avoid wasting hours you could use to explore a new city.
2) Jet lag
Jet lag can put a big dent in your travel plans if you’re not careful and although it isn’t as simple a step as the rest, there are some things you can do to avoid feeling the effects of jet lag too much. Obviously, if you can sleep on the plane, then you’ve got a head start, but not all of us are lucky enough to be able to catch some ZZZs. Make sure to drink plenty of water (or non-alcoholic beverages) to stay hydrated and make yourself follow the local time as soon as you reach your destination. If you can eat and sleep at regular times on your first day abroad, odds are you won’t be feeling the effects of jet lag too much. You probably won’t avoid being tired but if you can keep busy enough to stay away from those short afternoon naps that turn into 12 hours nights, you’ll go to bed early on the first night and be able to hit the ground in perfect form the next morning.
I usually keep a pretty light schedule on the first day because I know I’ll be tired and I don’t want to miss out on any of the big things I was planning to see and do but I always make sure to go for a long walk to explore the city, get some fresh air and stay away from my bed for as long as possible. It usually works till early evening and then I do a little writing before calling it an early night; which means I’m usually up at 6 the next morning, ready to do some serious exploring.
3) Planning ahead
Obviously planning ahead goes without saying but when you’re dealing with limited time and you want to make the most of it, planning becomes pivotal. Make sure to know if there are holidays during your trip or if any special event such as an election falls on the day you planned on visiting museums that may not be opened due to those special circumstances. If you plan on seeing a lot of attractions such as museums, make sure to schedule accordingly so that you don’t end up paying the entrance fee and rush through the museum because it’s closing in half an hour. Not all museums and attractions in general follow the same schedule so keeping an eye out for opening hours, free admission days or days/times during which certain exhibits are closed can make the difference between actually seeing the Louvre and missing out on it.
Sure, it would be amazing to see every single thing there is to see in every country and city you visit but it’s simply not doable on a short trip. You could spend over a week in most major European cities and not even see half of the sights and attractions. The truth is, you should prioritize and plan what you really don’t want to miss. When you have some free time, you can add a few other things to your itinerary but at least you’ll be able to cover the things you absolutely want to see. If possible, try to do as many of those “must dos” at the beginning of your trip; that way, if some unforeseen circumstances come up and force you to change your plans down the road, you won’t have to skip something you’ve been meaning to see for a long time. After all, do you really want to come back from Sydney and say that you didn’t get to see the Harbor because you spent too much time in random museums?
5) Be realistic
Yes, you can see 25 things in a day if you want your trip to be a blurry montage of rushing through foreign streets and checking off landmarks as you go but this isn’t The Amazing Race; you really shouldn’t plan your trip as if it was. After all, you do want to remember the things you see and you also have to consider several outside factors that will impact the time it takes you to see attractions or travel in-between them. There will be crowds, bad weather, strikes and some places simply have weird hours of operation. Unless you plan to spend every waking hour traveling between monuments and landmarks, make sure you plan realistically and worse comes to worst, you can always add some things you hadn’t picked as priorities along the way if you see that you have some free time.