Before you start booking flights and hotels for your next big holiday, ask yourself one question: what percentage of my total holiday will these travel and lodging options eat up?
If the least expensive flight includes a four-hour layover, for example, that’s four hours of your holiday that you can’t actually spend on holiday. If you book a low-cost hotel that’s an hour’s commute from the sights you hope to see, you’re losing at least two hours of your holiday, every day, to getting to and from the place you plan to sleep.
Since many of us don’t get as much holiday time as we need (and only some of us use all of the holiday time we’ve earned), asking yourself how much money you’re willing to spend in order to maximise your ability to relax and enjoy your holiday is now an essential part of travel planning.
And don’t assume that the internet will necessarily provide you with the best options. The Washington Post reminds us that discount travel booking sites often try to sell us on flights and packages that might not actually be a good use of our holiday time:
Online travel sites promote deals that suck time and resources from your trip. These include flights with long connections or circuitous routings involving multiple carriers, and hotels located so far away from your intended destination that you might as well stay home.
Last summer, I attended a family reunion on the other side of the country and booked a flight on points that included a return leg with two different connections. One of the connecting flights got delayed, I missed my second connection, and I ended up having to pay to spend a night in Chicago—and although I technically had trip delay insurance through my airline credit card, my claim got denied because my total delay time was 11 hours and 46 minutes, not the 12-hour minimum required for them to cover the cost of the delay.
What does that mean for your next holiday? Well, you might want to ask yourself what kind of flights you’d like to take—direct flights that leave between 8 and 10 a.m., for example—and then search only for those flights. If your search results include the super-cheap flight that leaves at 5 a.m. and includes a four-hour layover, you’ll start asking yourself whether it’s worth spending the first day of your holiday exhausted, sitting in an airport, just to save a little money.
(And remember, at least some of the money you save on a more time-consuming flight might get spent on, like, airport food.)
Same goes for hotels, sightseeing itineraries, and anything else you might be planning. Ask yourself if your plan feels more like a holiday or a hassle, and adjust accordingly.
Maybe that means you spend more money on a conveniently located hotel and spend less money on dining out (if your hotel’s conveniently located enough, you can buy groceries and take them back to the room). Maybe that means you narrow down the sights you plan to see, so you can spend more time relaxing and less money/time rushing from place to place.
I’m not saying that you should overspend your holiday budget, of course—I’m just saying that you should spend both your money and your time wisely.
And don’t forget to plan your return travel so that you don’t get back home exhausted. After all, you probably won’t be able to take another holiday day from work for a while.