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Are Long Weekends Better Than Taking a Weeklong Trip?

We compared short excursions vs. one long trip so you can make the most of your vacation time.

Planning your next vacation? If thoughts of either requesting time off or using up a good portion of your summer break send you into a panic, fear not. More and more travelers are finding short weekend trips provide just as much adventure and relaxation as weeklong journeys.

“Due to limited vacation time, shrinking personal budgets and the increased cost of living, people are opting for shorter, less expensive vacations,” says Alison Lowenstein, author of City Weekends: Greatest Escapes and Weekend Getaways In and Around New York City.

“Anecdotally, we are seeing much more interest in long weekends in the media, as short vacations are typically affordable, close to home and, by their nature, meant to be relaxing or to allow you to focus on one set of interests (beach, museum, theater, mountain hiking or kayaking, [for example]), rather than the potpourri of a longer trip,” adds Robert Firpo-Cappiello, Editor in Chief of Budget Travel magazine.

But that’s not to say there isn’t still value in taking one longer vacation every year. It all boils down to personal preference. So we’ve tallied a list of benefits for each to help you decide what works best for you. Take a look:

Benefits of Weekend Getaways

1. Easier to plan. Being away for a full week or more can be difficult, not to mention planning is a huge time commitment. The good news about shorter trips is you can often get away without having to take any time off, especially if you opt for holiday weekends with built-in days off.

2. Decreased transportation expenses. Most people opt for destinations within driving distance for weekend getaways, which is considerably less expensive than flying, particularly with the cost of gas as low as it’s been. Though you’ll likely spend more money on hotel rooms (see point #1 below), there are lots of weekend getaway deals that can keep costs down, adds Lowenstein. “Check out the travel section in your local paper or peruse local blogs, ask friends and look at spots where people have second homes. Many railroads offer weekend getaway packages.” If you do have to fly, Firpo-Cappiello suggests following all the major carriers on social media and signing up for their e-newsletters for sales or promotions. “We are especially fond of JetBlue Getaways, which include airfare and lodging for short trips, like Curacao airfare and three nights for under $700.”

3. Cover more ground. Rather than being stuck in one place for a week, travelers who opt for several weekend trips can visit a handful of different places throughout the year, further expanding their horizons.

4. Increased anticipation. “As the Boston Globe summarized earlier this year, the benefits of a vacation are the anticipation, the experience itself and the reminiscence, all of which boost happiness,” explains Firpo-Cappiello. “But anticipation is the most effective at making people happy, so planning several three-day vacations, in theory, provides more anticipation than planning one big vacation.”

Benefits of a Weeklong Getaway

1. Decreased lodging expenses. Though you will ultimately need a hotel room for the same number of nights if you take a seven-day trip or three, three-day trips, many hotels offer the third or fourth night free, so you’ll likely save money on lodging costs if you take one longer trip.

2. Full immersion. Though you can experience multiple destinations with several shorter trips, you can’t immerse yourself as much in each place and go as in depth. “The familiarity of [spending more time in a place] is one of the reasons we are able to truly unwind and slow down,” says Lowenstein.

3. Increased relaxation. Longer trips give you more time to really unplug and refresh, providing that feeling of taking a real vacation as you engage in activities that are a world away from your normal routine, says Firpo-Cappiello. “That cannot be replaced by several long weekends.” Adds Lowenstein: “During a short trip to a new city, we try to do so many things at once, [often returning from] overbooked trips [feeling like we’re] in need of a vacation.”

4. More time. “On shorter trips, you often have to drag yourself away, not ready to return to civilization so quickly,” admits Firpo-Cappiello. But on longer trips, you can often accomplish more and return to reality refreshed and rejuvenated.

Where to Go?

Longer vacations are best spent in destinations far away or abroad, which allows you to recover from jet lag and fully immerse yourself in a new culture, says Lowenstein. Firpo-Cappiello agrees: “For long vacations, I think multi-city tours of Europe are knockouts, as are America’s National Parks. Get to know every corner of, say, Yosemite or Yellowstone, and enjoy the relaxing that comes with an extended stay and leisurely pace.”

On the other hand, if you opt for shorter trips, American cities are a great choice, particularly medium-size cities that are more laid back, like Nashville, Savannah and Charleston, says Firpo-Cappiello, who also recommends beaches for quick trips. “Fly to Aruba via JetBlue for a winter weekend, or book three days on the Jersey Shore in summer—some travelers don’t want a week or 10 days of sand and surf, and the long weekend can be ideal.”


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