Speed Vacationing

Going somewhere for the short weekend.  My cousin flew up here to San Francisco from LA to get some dental work done.  She arrived at 8am and was back on the plane by 1pm.  Her unique healthcare plan looks illogical on the surface, but she actually saved a good amount of money on the work.  This led me to two thoughts.  First, we do seemingly irrational things to find a good deal, and second, our gauge of value is expressed in our behavior.  Traveling to find healthcare carries a different value set from traveling for pleasure.  My cousin would have never purchased these same flights for a four-hour vacation.  But why not?  Why couldn’t speed vacations, in a culture that knows how to get the most from its time, become a legitimate form of travel?

Why couldn’t speed vacations, in a culture that knows how to get the most from its time, become a legitimate form of travel? 

When I picture my vacation plan, I build a whole day around a single site-seeing event.  I find value in allowing myself time to steep in the culture of a location, and I will behave irrationally, at least according to my parents, to achieve this value.  I have at some points sacrificed stable jobs in order to open up my schedule for my dream excursion.  But most consistently, I will sacrifice time and energy planning every way to maximize my experience .  (This generally includes a precise string of events involving local eatery, tourist traps, local events, and natural and cultural scenery.)  One major site per day therefore is totally justifiable if it’s enhanced with a pairing of local experiences.

By no means then do I believe you have the opportunity to truly absorb a place or its culture by zipping out and back through its airport security.  I do think it is possible though for a speed vacation to be appropriately enjoyable, and that I might find value in the amount of money I spend for the roundtrip flight.  Until I actually achieve my first sped vacation to tell about, here are some ideas on what a potential plan would be.

The Plan

  • Consolidated location  A city that has quick and simple transportation is key.  This means you need to find the best ratio possible of more time spent at sites to time spent getting there.  A place like San Francisco will have a heap of sites in a walkable distance.  Places like San Diego are more spread out, but if you have a car, you can zip from coastal town to coastal town, maximizing scenery every inch of the way.
  • Exotic but not far away   A place that is the perfect balance between being new enough to be exciting yet not so exotic that it takes the whole day of your day trip to get there.
  • Simple airport  Likewise, the airport can’t be a maze.  You either need to know your way around the place, or make sure it’s the kind of airport you can draw a direct line from off-boarding to taxi.
  • Off hours  There’s no time to afford for baggage check-in traffic and security checkpoint lags.  Book a flight in the off-hours of that airport.  If you can find an airport-less-traveled, then that’s all the better.


  • No Hotels  Since you are not staying overnight, your potentially biggest expense will be eliminated.
  • Any day is a holiday  Don’t wait for the next MLK holiday weekend.  Any weekend, or even half weekend is game for the speed vacation.


  • Just as in my last post I conceded that less packing space means for more packing strategy, I have to admit now that less time in a location means for tight time coordination.  Everything will be planned minute by minute.  This calls for some real coordination skills.

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