Europe is bigger than you think

Losing Time in Transit

Your vacation time is limited. Whether you have a long weekend or a few weeks, you want to make the most of your time. This might lead you to squeeze in several destinations so you can see as much as possible. I can relate! I once planned a trip where I visited eight destinations in five countries on two continents, all in two weeks. What I realized on that trip is that getting from place to place takes more time than I originally thought. I was losing time in transit, which is why I highly recommend resisting the urge to add too many places to your itinerary.

Losing time in transit on flights

Flights might seem like a time saver on paper, but it’s not always the case. Even a two hour flight doesn’t tell the whole story. You have to get to the airport ahead of time, often two hours before your flight leaves. Airports are rarely located close to the center of a city, so you’ll have to account for more time to get there. The same is true once you land on the other side.

If you checked luggage, you’ll have to wait around for your bags. If you’re flying internationally, you’ll also have to go through customs and immigration. Plus, there are times when you’ll have to deal with layovers taking up even more of your time.

Suddenly that two hour flight is taking a five to nine hour chunk out of your day! Do this too many times during your precious vacation time, and you’ll start to feel like your whole vacation was spent in airports and airplanes.

losing time in transit

Losing time in transit on trains or buses

Traveling by train or bus is often appealing because there are less hassles then with flying. You can usually show up to the train or bus station a few minutes, or maybe a half hour, before your departure time. But these are slower forms of transport. Unless you’re going somewhere really close, you’re still going to lose a good portion of your day sitting on a bus or train.

One way around this is to take an overnight bus, or better yet, an overnight train with a sleeper car. Traveling overnight means you’re paying for your accommodation and transportation in one, which can often save you money, and you won’t lose precious daylight hours in transit. But keep in mind that this is rarely a good night’s sleep, and that can greatly affect your ability to hit the ground running once you arrive. It’s a trade off.

losing time in transit

A better approach to your vacation

Instead of trying to pack it all in, focus on one or two destinations. Try not to stay in any one place for fewer than three or four nights. Do some research on your transport options and how long it will really take you to get from one place to the next, and let that guide you on how long to stay in each destination.

Think about the city you live in, or a city you know well in your area. Would you ever recommend to someone that they visit that city for only a day or two? Isn’t there always more to see, explore, taste, learn, experience? The same holds true when you travel abroad. Sure, you can find whirlwind tours that will show you the major highlights of a city in one full day, but there are always things you’ll miss.

Check out the slightly less famous sights. Take a food tour. Relax at a cafe with a good book for a couple of hours. Pick up a local meal to go and have a picnic in a park. Use your destination as a base to take a day trip or two to a nearby town. Sign up for a cooking class or an art class or a photography workshop. Look for quirky walking tours that focus on one neighborhood.

losing time in transit

The possibilities are endless. Don’t plan such a jam-packed schedule that you end up losing so much time in transit. Any destination worth visiting is worth exploring a little deeper over a few extra days. Your vacation is about seeing the sights, but also learning about the food and culture, trying something new, and recharging from your day-to-day life and stresses. Don’t add more stress by switching locations every two days.

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  1. Alix

    Yes, I agree if the transit is flying, but !
    Train journeys are wonderful and very much a part of the trip. Travelling around Italy and Sicily by train is a feast to the eyes !

    1. Author
      Ali Garland

      I do have to agree with you on the train journeys, they can certainly be a wonderful part of the trip! But I think if your intention is to travel to 5 cities in 12 days, and they’re a decent distance from each other, you’ll spend a lot of time sitting in trains instead of seeing the cities you wanted to see. With the right mindset, that could be fine, but I think a lot of people don’t really take that time into account.

  2. Caroline

    Minimize flights and trains and you open up more time for discovery … great post!

  3. Damon and Jo

    You’re right with constantly feeling like you’re “losing” time when traveling, and we tend to the feel the same way – which is why we prefer busses and trains for the exact reason you mentioned – to not waste time in getting to the airport, security, transfers, etc.

    We’ve done EuRail twice and made the mistake the first time to see a city’s main tourist attractions, and then get on a train to the next city. It was super stressful feeling like the clock was constantly ticking and we had to BE at the airport or train station at a certain time. We’ve now learned to spend more time in less amount of cities, to really get to KNOW those cities!

    With all that being said, good post! 😀

    1. Author
      Ali Garland

      Thanks! Slowing down is really a great way to see a lot more of each destination and really enjoy your trip.

  4. Christian P

    I agree. Do not put too much on your itinerary if your visiting from place to place. Research, research, research, then streamline to only what’s important. You can make lists of your top 3s or top 5s. Also distances should be realistic. Thanks for sharing your tips!

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