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The Perfect Amount of Time to Spend in Any Travel Destination

There’s a travel question that I think gets bandied about far too often, from social media to travel articles to the emails we are lucky enough to receive from readers, and it goes something like this: “I have (insert number of days) to spend in (insert destination), is that enough?”

I’ll be perfectly honest: I hate this question.

The answer is, and always will be as far as I’m concerned: the perfect amount of time to explore a destination is the amount of time that you have available.

Sometimes you have the time to go backpacking through Central America or house sitting in Europe… and sometimes, time is of the essence.

Volcano Acatenango, Guatemala

True, there are some practical limitations with this. Crossing an ocean for a three day weekend, for example, is a quest best left to those who have both too much money and too little respect for sleep.

There are also occasionally people (usually young and/or inexperienced travelers, usually from a continent different from the one they’re traveling to), who attempt to plan insane itineraries that go something like “I have five days in Europe, so I’ll spend one day in each London, Paris, Rome, Vienna, and Budapest”, which is a problem, frankly, that will usually sort itself out the moment flight/bus/train times are estimated.

Also, for the sake of honesty, I feel that I should admit that I once plotted an itinerary through Europe that was almost that bad. I was also 17 years old and had never left the USA before. Live and learn.

Outside of extreme situations, though, I feel that this sort of question often comes from a place of intimidation from fellow travelers.

Travel Budget for Honduras

You know the lines I’m talking about–they always sound a little something like this: “Well, I mean, it’s nice that you went, but you haven’t really seen Mexico until you’ve hitchhiked alone through the entire country, with most of your time spent in cartel-heavy areas, while teaching yourself Spanish to fluency along the way.”

Those people are assholes. Ignore those people.

The question that you really need to be asking yourself is if the amount of time you have available is enough to meet enough of your goals that you personally feel it’s worth the time, cost, and potential jet lag of going.

For crazy travel lovers like Jeremy and I, the answer will almost always be yes.Things to Do in Boston: South Market“I’m going to London for business and have three days to go somewhere else. Is that enough time to see Paris?”

Well, I don’t know! Do you want to teach yourself French, see every painting in the Louvre, climb to the top of every monument, take a day trip to Versailles, and eat at 15 specific restaurants while there?

If so, then no, you don’t have enough time.

Are you willing to whittle down your list, get a taste of some parts of Paris, and save the rest for a different trip?

In that case, you definitely have enough time.

Would I always recommend that someone who dreams of seeing Paris and is already going to be as close as London fly from London to Paris for three days if they have the means?

Yes, yes, absolutely yes.

Read Next: The Perfect 3 Days in Paris Itinerary for First Time Visitors

Weekend in New York CityDon’t fall into the trap of thinking that you need to become an expert in everywhere that you visit.

That’s a lie born of insecurity, FOMO, and too many encounters with travel snobs.

Before Jeremy and I were full-time travelers, we were 9-5-er’s with a desperate desire to travel abroad every chance we got.

In 2014, that took us to Mexico for the first time, where we spent exactly four days staying on Cozumel, with a day trip to Playa del Carmen and Tulum.

Did we accomplish everything that we wanted to do in Mexico at that time? Absolutely not: we’ve already returned for a six week trip since then (at the end of which we declared Mexico one of our favorite travel destinations), and expect to visit many more times in the years to come.

Are we incredibly glad that we went? Yes!Hierve el Agua, MexicoNot only did we have a blast snorkeling in a cenote, zip lining, admiring iguanas, practicing our Spanish, and exploring the ruins of Tulum, that trip was our third time leaving the USA and another stepping stone to going from never having left our home country to becoming full-time travelers in less than three years.

The “point” of travel, at the end of the day, is exactly what you want it to be.

Whether your goal is to try your hand at a new language, eat new foods, attend a festival or event, see famous landmarks, photograph a gorgeous location, or something completely different, you are not wrong.

If you have the means, opportunity, and desire to visit a place in an amount of time that will allow you to at least partially fulfill whatever personal goals you have–even if that goal is simply to have fun somewhere new–then go. Go, enjoy, and bring home plenty of memories.

If you’re anything like us, you’ll never regret it.

Read Next: How Following My Travel Dreams Changed My Life

18 thoughts on “The Perfect Amount of Time to Spend in Any Travel Destination”

  1. I love the sassy way you write and that you were honest! I always ask myself how long I need in a place, do my research, and in the end I feel that the time was always wrong! Either too long or not long enough. I was in Dublin for a day and it was too long for me, I was in Edinburg for a day and it was too short. (I don’t just travel for a day, it does depend on my money situation, but I try to travel regardless). You do mention good things to take into consideration though. 🙂

    • One day in Dublin was enough for me, too, but I feel like I need to give it another shot! The Irish countryside is just so much more alluring to me…

  2. This is such a candid and well written post. In the world of travel blogging, you always come across smug people who think they’re more travelled because they spent 3 months exploring one country or continent! More power to you if you can do it. Lol on thinking you could do London, Paris etc in 5 days. I live in London, and even Paris will take a good 3 days to really see everything 🙂

  3. “The “point” of travel, at the end of the day, is exactly what you want it to be.” I totally agree with this. What matters most to me when visiting a place is just to enjoy the experience and cherish every moment there. You can never really fully “get” a place, can’t you? No matter how long you stay there. I spent 18 years growing up in my hometown and even now can’t say I’ve fully experienced it. It’s the moments I’ve had there that really matter 🙂

  4. HAHA! Yes, totally agree. Personally, I prefer the slow travel approach, and you are right that sometimes you only have a few days to see that amazing city you always dream of (Paris for three days is an excellent example). The real answer is dependent on your individual style of travel, and ignore the people advocating to hitchhike through cartel-heavy areas!

    • Individual is right! We have definitely slowed down since we started, but a lot of that I view as a luxury–as full time travelers, we get that choice. On our first multi-destination Europe trip, we had 2.5 weeks and went to four countries–and I wouldn’t have skipped any of those destinations for anything! 🙂

  5. I am just like you in that I will use every second I have to visit a new place. Until I quit my job recently, I had very limited vacation time to travel, so I really had to figure out how to use each minute wisely. I also get annoyed at the travel snobs who think travel is useless unless you can live in each place for 6+ months to fully understand the local culture. Would that be great? Of course. Is it practical for 99% of the population? No. As long as you’re getting what you want out of your travels, who’s to say how long/short your trip should be or judge whether your travels are authentic and “worthwhile”?

    • Yes, exactly! I completely view our chance to take our time in places as a luxury. So far, we STILL haven’t had the patience to stay somewhere for 6+ months (there are just so many places!), but maybe eventually we’ll get tired enough of unpacking that we’ll get there. 😉

  6. I love this post! You are absolutely right. There are too many travel snobs out there who think they’re “experts” on travel. Some people don’t have the luxury of time and money to vacation for super long periods and I think it’s unfair to tell these folks that they haven’t experienced a country if they only went for a couple of days.

    • Agreed! I remember our days of budgeting vacation time, driving through the night to buy us an extra day somewhere, always getting home around 2am before work the next day, and resenting every doctor’s appointment as taking away from our travels very well–we’re so lucky to get to do what we do, but I definitely still value those travel experiences from those “shorter travel” times.

  7. I love your candid thoughts about this topic. And I definitely agree with you – you cannot say for sure that xx number of days is ideal to explore xx destination. You need to make the most of the time that you have! It also depends on your budget!

    • Absolutely–time and money are almost always the biggest constraints on travel. That’s probably why you see so many retirees out and about on the road!

  8. I totally agree with you about the question always we travellers face that how much time to be spent at particular place. For me it totally the vibes of place matters. Also you are correct that budget also matters and whatever the time we get, we should enjoy the most.

  9. I often come across people who ask me just about similar questions and I’m always uncertain what to answer. For me it all depends on what the place has to offer in terms of uniqueness, culture, food and adventure. I sometimes spend just a day in a city or a week atleast based on how much I liked the place. Sharing this with my friends so that it andwers some of their questions :).


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