What’s the Perfect Trip Length for You?

Laos Cambodia trip
Laos, Cambodia

 

As you scroll through your newsfeed and see people’s travel photos, you might be wondering: Could that be me? Will I enjoy it if I drop everything to travel the world? Or is a short trip just good enough?

One of the first things you might think of when planning your trip is figuring out how long you want to go. It can be difficult to choose because you don’t want to book a short trip and realize in the middle of it that you want to keep on going.  But at the same time, you don’t want to plan and book a very lengthy trip and then realize later down the road that it wasn’t for you.

I’ve done the 2-week short vacation, the 3-month Euro trip, and a full gap year in Asia.  Based on my experiences, here were the pros and cons that I took away from each type of trip:

 

SHORT TRIPS

Unfortunately, most Americans only get 2 weeks of paid vacation per year.  I had just started a new job this year and accumulated just 8 days of vacation.  Combined with a weekend, I was still able to squeeze in a little trip, totaling one and a half weeks.  I had been working for months and definitely felt tired, burnt out from the number of hours working at the office.  I wasn’t sure (especially since I had traveled so much in the past) if this quick vacation would be sufficient or good enough for me.  Even though it was short, it turned out to be just what I needed.  I pulled off a quick trip to Mexico and was able to hit up Tulum, Cancun, and Mexico City.  I got to relax on beaches along the coast and was able to explore the cultural and historical side of Mexico.  With a short trip (ie. 2-3 weeks) you can get away, do the same, and visit 2-4 places.

PROS

Good Refresh Jolt To Your System
After working an office job for over a year, I slightly forgot what traveling felt like. When you get away from everything, you are able to focus more on yourself.  You come back to work feeling recharged and refreshed. It’s also easy to get back into “normal life” since not much changed or happened while you were away for only a few weeks.

Smaller Budget
Because this is a short trip, you don’t have to save up as much.  No need to wait months to be able to go for a quick getaway.  No need to try to budget as much. If you want to go shopping or splurge a bit on the trip, you can!

CONS

Feels Too Short For A Vacation/Travel
Sadly, two weeks of vacation per year is the likelihood for most Americans holding down a full-time job.  You get a taste of escape and then before you know it, it’s time to go home!

Limited Places To Travel To
Because it’s a limited time, you would want to travel to countries and places nearby (and not have to take long plane trips) to maximize your available vacation time.  As a result, you have less destinations to choose from.

Short Time = Tight Schedule = Stress
Sometimes you want to experience as much as you can and make the most out of it. After all, it’ll be a full year before you can take another vacation again! As a result, you may end up cramming too many things and end up coming back home exhausted instead. Missing a train or flight can greatly affect your trip. If you pack in a lot in your schedule, it can be stressful trying to get from Point A to Point B on time.

Travel Europe Trip Map
2012 Europe Trip

MEDIUM TRIP

An example of a medium trip would be 2-4 months, maybe even as short as 6 weeks.  Usually this is enough to cover a region or a couple of countries.  My first solo trip was traveling around Europe for three months. I took this trip a year after I graduated college but before I decided to settle into a career because I didn’t know what I wanted to do.  Within that time, I hit about 17 countries, ranging from sunny Spain to chilly Poland.  Transportation-wise, it was definitely a friendly continent to a novice traveler like me.  I was able to see and do a lot in each country and explored many cities. There were short cheap flights available, as well as trains that connected easily throughout multiple destinations in Europe.

PROS 

Variety Of Places You Can Explore
You have more time to go and see different cities and countries. 

You Can Make The Most Out Of Travel Passes
For example, if you’re in Europe, it’s worth looking into getting a Eurail pass.  The same applies to countries such as Japan who have rail passes as well.  If done strategically, a medium length trip won’t cost an extravagant amount.

Flexibility And Enjoyment
A medium length trip is a sweet spot where you can go fast it that’s your pace or go slow without feeling like time’s ticking away.  Living out of a suitcase or backpack feels fine for a few months. It’s not too long of a time to travel where you get bored or burnt out.

CONS

Finding An “Ideal” Time To Go Can Be Difficult
It can be a struggle figuring out if are able to quit work for a couple of months.  Some people may do this when they have a gap between jobs, right after finishing school, or if they’re a teacher/have a job that allows a sabbatical.

Overwhelm
If you’re the planning type, it can be daunting when you feel the need to plan for a trip this long.  I highly recommend planning just a few days in advance.  Once you get on the road, you’ll see how often you end up changing your plans!

Money
For a trip this long, you’ll need to save up more depending on the region (but not as much as you think)!

Getting Home-Sick
It depends on the person but sometimes after a month or two, you may start to miss home.

 

LONG TRIPS

Long trips can range from 6 months to a gap year or even more!  Usually you can cover a whole entire continent within this period of time. I traveled pretty much through all of Asia for an entire year with the money I had saved up from working in Australia. The reason I was able to travel for so long in Asia was because the majority of the countries were very cheap. I started off from the south in Indonesia and went north towards Japan.  It was a very long trip and I definitely felt it as I worked my way up through each country.  It was enjoyable in the beginning.  After a while though, things started to look stale to me.  Temples started to look alike.  Activities started to get old. I felt like traveling became a routine and it felt like a lifestyle. In addition, I had to strategically pack a variety of clothes to prepare myself for all four seasons, especially as it became winter by the time I reached the more northern countries such as South Korea.

PROS 

You Can Explore A Whole Lot
With so much time, you can do a whole region or even a continent! Or maybe even set up a temporary home base if you want to live somewhere for a while.

Your Cost Of Living Is Less Than What You’d Pay Back Home
I was able to live comfortably on $30/day in Southeast Asia (if I wanted to splurge, I spent $50/day).  That’s $900-$1500 per month, which definitely beats my cost of rent in the U.S.  Just rent!  Back home I had to pay even more money for health insurance, car payment, car insurance, car maintenance, and gas.

LOTS And Lots Of Flexibility & Freedom
You can do whatever you want, whenever you want, with whoever you want!  If you fall in love with a place, you can stay. There’s no need to rush around. Also, if you happen to miss a short plane ride, train, etc. you can recover from it, as it won’t hurt your schedule as much (compared to a tight and short 2-week trip).

CONS

You’ll Need To Save Up
If you choose a more affordable area (ie. SE Asia), you’re looking at about $12,000 to live off of for a year.  Because this is a longer trip, you can’t splurge every single day on the road or you will burn through your savings.

Living Out Of A Suitcase/Backpack Can Get Old
It’s hard to not buy anything.  I wound up buying custom made clothes. Eventually when my backpack got too heavy, I shipped it (cargo – which is cheaper) to my parent’s house back home.

Burn out
This by far surprised me the most. You hit a point on the road where you don’t seem to enjoy traveling anymore, which leads you to questioning why you went in the first place. It’s like running a marathon: there are moments where you are pumped for your race. Then there are moments where you are just tired of it all.  Sometimes you just need to have those days where you do nothing in order to recover and recuperate on the road. The weird feeling and thought of “maybe it’s time for me to go home” crossed my mind multiple times.  Even though you make travel friends, there will be moments where you will miss your close friends, family, and bed back home.

 

As you can see, those 3 types of trips are very different from each other.  I wouldn’t have known what to expect from each trip if I hadn’t experienced it myself.  Personally, I loved all of them, but my 3 month Eurotrip was a happy spot for me.  It was just enough for me to explore so many places but I didn’t get burnt out.  I hope my experiences above will help you choose and plan your next trip!

 

Have you traveled for different lengths of time?  Weeks, months, or more?  Comment below on your experiences, thoughts, and what you found worked best!

 



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