Travel time is a precious resource so it's important to make the most of every opportunity. Whether it's a three week trip or a weekend break, here are some tips for fitting that dream holiday into the time you have.
Travel Time is More Important than Distance
Although it's natural to consider the distance to a destination, the journey time is far more important. From the UK, it's not unusual to travel 15 hours by car and ferry for a week in France. Spending a week in the Philippines however seems unreasonable, even though the journey takes the same amount of time.
Travelling In The Philippines
Japanese people take very little time off work so they often travel long distances for a very short holiday. A good friend of ours once spent a long weekend in Australia, an 8-hour flight from Osaka. His reasoning was simple. He wanted to go to Australia but only had 3 days off, so he went to Australia for 3 days. It can be done, if you're motivated enough to do it.
Fitting More Adventure into Less Time
Independent travel is a great way to explore a region and immerse yourself in the culture but it takes longer. Organised tours on the other hand, can be a very efficient way to cover a large area in a short space of time. This is especially true in countries with poor infrastructure and long distances between the most interesting places. Generally speaking, the more you rely on other people, the more you will have to pay for your holiday. Try to get a balance of independent plans and organised activities that will suit the travel time you have.
Hagia Sophia, Istanbul
When we visited the Maldives, we also stopped in Istanbul for a week on our way home. As avid scuba divers, the best way to see the underwater highlights of the Maldives was by boat. Our dive liveaboard had a pre-planned itinerary and was basically the diving equivalent of a package tour. Istanbul however was more compact with good public transport. This meant it was easy to book a hotel and explore the delights of this ancient city on our own.
What's the Best Time of Year for this Trip?
If your travel dates are flexible, then it's worth finding out the best season for your chosen destination. Getting the right weather is a major consideration but also check local holiday dates. If the entire country has a day off, major attractions can get very crowded so it may not be the best time to visit. If your travel dates are fixed, work out the best destination to visit at that time of year.
Many of Japan's most famous attractions are seasonal. If you want to climb Mount Fuji, visit during the summer climbing season, but if you would rather see the Sapporo Snow Festival, you'll have to go in February. Some natural spectacles like the spring cherry blossom last for just a few weeks. Whilst the exact dates vary across the country, it can still be difficult to time your trip accordingly.
Cherry Blossom, Japan
Why Should I Plan Ahead?
Flights and trains are nearly always cheaper if booked in advance and the best accommodation options can book up early. This is especially true if you are going to a popular place at a peak time. Book early to save money and avoid disappointment. Especially if your travel dates are fixed, booking early is the best way to get the holiday you want.
Booking tickets for attractions in advance can often mean discounted rates and the chance to avoid long queues. We once waited in line for over 3 hours to get into Comic Con. Anyone who'd booked online in advance could walk straight in without queuing. We won't make that mistake again! When visiting the Burj Khalifa in Dubai however, we booked our tickets online beforehand. We were glad we did as this cost around half the price of paying at the door.
Sunfish At Sapporo Snow Festival
What About Last Minute Deals?
Last minute deals are great if you have flexible holiday dates but there can be drawbacks. These special deals are offered when an operator can't fill all of the places they've allocated on a particular trip or package. This is often because it's somewhere people don't want to go or it's out of season.
You can save a lot of money on activities with a last minute offer but waiting this long can be risky. Cruises to Antarctica are often heavily discounted at short notice, when spaces are available. If the cruises book up early however, you may end up missing out.
Unless you can make mega savings, a last minute deal may prove to be a false economy. Flights often cost more at short notice so any savings on a holiday may be cancelled out by the extra cost of flights.
If you can't spend more time travelling, then it's worth fitting more into the travel time you have. With a bit of advance planning and a pinch of imagination, it's amazing how much you can see and do in one holiday.