Size Matters: The Long and Short of Trip Length

Far--far, far--off the beaten path on a month-long trip.

Most people overpack their suitcase.  I overpack the trip itself.

I’m not sure how it happens, but I think Google earth might be partly to blame.  Google earth and prepositional phrases.  While mapping out a trip, I start to zoom out.  I think hey–look at that–Utah is right above Arizona.  And if I’ll already be in Arizona…but wait–Colorado is right next to Utah.  I mean how big can these states really be?

And then I start pricing rental cars and intermediate flights and creating calendar-esque schedules.  Trust me, it gets out of hand quickly.  I spent a good part of last week planning my second-to-next trip (which, incidentally, is not to Arizona or Utah or Colorado), and right now it is hovering right around the 18 day mark.  I know, I know, I have a ten-day travel rule–but there’s really no way to make this particular trip any shorter.

Ok that’s a lie.  I don’t want to make this particular trip any shorter.  It will likely be my last big (solo) trip of my year away from work, and I want to make it count.

But I know that longer trips have as many cons as pros, and shorter trips have as many pros as cons.  In fact, my actual next trip–a long weekend in DC beginning next Wednesday–is a really short trip in my world.  Yet I’ve had as much fun on a day trip as I have on a month-long adventure.  So really–which is better?  Many short trips or one long trip?

Short Trip Pros

Having a great time on a long weekend trip to Colonial Williamsburg.


-Short trips are cheaper overall.  You’ll be gone fewer nights, you’ll eat fewer meals, you’ll visit fewer sights.  All of this means fewer dollars spent.

-Short trips are easier to plan.  I can plan a weekend trip to any major city or tourist town in about an hour.  Yes, even if I haven’t ever been there.

-Short trips require little to no packing.  I’ve gone away for the weekend with no more than my phone charger and a spare dress tucked in my purse.

-Short trips are perfect for my OCD approach to planning.  If you only have two days to visit a city, town, or attraction, a packed trip itinerary may be your best bet.  And even if it is a busy two days–hell, it’s only two days!

Short Trip Cons

One of my few--and crummy--pics of our super-short stay in Amsterdam.


-The per-day cost of a short trip is often higher, especially if transportation costs are high.

-It is very unlikely you’ll get to see and do all that you want during the course of a short trip.  I visited Amsterdam for 36 hours.  I saw the VanGogh Museum but I missed the red light district.  Was this a good trade off?  Probably.  But still.

-It is also very unlikely that you’ll get outside of the touristy areas or, in the case of a city-break, the surrounding countryside.

Long Trip Pros

Relaxing at the end of a long hike in the middle of a long trip.


-Your per-day cost is less.  This is where I really get myself into trouble.  I get in the ‘well if I’m going to pay to fly here I might as well also…’ mindset.  Additionally, using apartment rental sites (such as Home Away or VRBO) often results in huge savings in comparison to a hotel or even motel.

-If you are moving around a lot, a longer trip allows you to stay in one place longer as well as to see the places in between.  Sure, I could have driven to Nova Scotia over the course of two days, stopping once to sleep.  But instead, I made it take a week and a half, and stopped for one or two nights at various places along the way.

-A longer trip can be a more laid-back trip.  During our two weeks in Paris, I spent one whole day just sleeping in, shopping, and cooking dinner.

-The weather is more likely to cooperate at some point during a longer trip.  I was in Jamaica for eight hours last month.  And it was pouring and windy the whole time.  Had I been there for, say, a week, I surely would have had at least one sunny day to enjoy.

Long Trip Cons

Longer travel often looks a lot like being home--this is me cooking in a cabin on Cape Breton.


-They typically cost more overall.  Please note my use of the word typically.  I know that this isn’t always true, as I’ve read all about people who travel around the world for a year on very little.  And I’ve gone away by myself for a week or more for less than I’ve spent on a long weekend in New York with my husband.  But that’s because my husband really likes fancy restaurants and expensive beer.  But still–spending fewer nights away is typically less expensive.

-It is harder to schedule long trips.  Holidays get in the way, as do family obligations and that pesky little thing called work.

-Planning a longer trip is often overwhelming.

-Your house and garden will suffer.  We returned from our road trip last summer to find that our squash had squished our tomatoes, cages and all.  It had also grown pretty far into several of our neighbors’ yards.  So I guess I should add to this ‘longer trips will piss off your neighbors’.

-If you are traveling solo–as I frequently do–longer trips can get lonely.  And husband can get sick of eating pizza while you’re gone, too.  Oh–and your dog will probably miss you (and develop a strange anxiety about backpacks.  My dogs cry hysterically if they see me carry my backpack out to the garage.)

As I plan my second-to-next trip–and think about how on earth I’m going to shorten it–I do take all of these things into consideration.  But still–how much do you want to bet that it will remain an almost-three-week trip?

What do you think?  Do you prefer multiple short trips or one big long trip?  Why?  Share your personal pros and cons in the comments below. 


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