Remember when holidays used to be a pretty predictable affair? You’d work hard at school, university or work and then fly somewhere hot to lie on a beach for a few days. You know – the long, lazy days of reading terrible novels, sipping sweet cocktails and distracting your mind from the daily grind?
This year, I’ve been lucky enough to travel to Kuala Lumpur, Vietnam, Barcelona, Madrid (twice), Amsterdam, Paris, Rome, Munich, Venice and Florence. And, mercifully, I’ve still got one holiday day left! This isn’t because Contiki give me unlimited holiday (though that would be nice, guys). It’s because, with the exception of Vietnam, these trips were ‘micro-cations’.
Image source:Dom Oliver
What exactly is a micro-cation?
A micro-cation is defined as a leisure trip that’s less than five nights. Essentially, it’s a quick getaway or a brief travel fling to make the most of your precious time off. Unlike a mini break – where the intention is usually to do as little as possible – micro-cations are all about maximising long weekends, artfully arranging plans across bank holidays and gifting yourself a sprinkling travel goodness throughout the year.
And research is finding that, amongst young people in particular, micro-cations are increasingly replacing longer trips. According to one study, 57% of young Americans didn’t take a vacation longer than four nights last year. Oh, and there are new studies to suggest that shorter breaks can even make us happier. It’s a no-brainer.
Why are we loving shorter, more intense breaks?
One of the reasons for this new trend is slightly depressing. Young people simply find that it’s easier to take smaller chunks of time off work. 37% of millennials say that they choose micro-cations because their managers look more kindly upon shorter breaks. Money comes into it too. Many travellers say that saving up for a big trip is more difficult than splitting up payments throughout the year (which is why part pay is a thing, by the way).
But also, as I’ve learned this year, micro-cations allow us to travel MORE – and that can only be a good thing. There’s so much world to see that all that culture, food, history and natural beauty can feel a bit dizzying. You don’t always need to spend weeks in a single destination to discover its wonders. Personally, I’d much rather head to an art gallery, stuff myself with local eats, have a night out and then fly home than spend weeks sizzling on a beach like a stiffened seal.
So, if you’re feeling inspired to plan your own micro-cation, here’s my advice for turning travel into something short and seriously sweet…
1. Take travel time into account
Time is of the essence. There’s no point travelling somewhere for a weekend if half of that time is spent cooped up on a plane. Yes, Australian friends, I am aware how fortunate I am to live in Europe, with so much dazzling diversity on my doorstep. But you don’t have to leave your country to have a micro-cation. As long as you’re broadening your horizons and seeing something new, it counts. This year, I took a micro-cation to Manchester – one of Britain’s most storied cities, but one I’d inexplicably never visited before. I journeyed from there to the Peak District, for a long hike along the hazy hillsides, headed back to Manchester for one of the best nights out I’d had in a while, then was back at my desk on Monday morning. Easy.
2. Choose a location that has at least three things you’re interested in
You don’t have a long time to luxuriate, so choose a destination where you can pack a lot in. For example, Madrid has art galleries showcasing some of my favourite artists, the city is surrounded by mountains for hiking and there’s so much amazing tapas to try. Barcelona has a beach, baroque beauty and bars. You get the idea…
3. Scout out local events
If you really want to make the most out of your micro-cation, time your trip with a special event. Whether you’re jetting off to see your favourite band in another country, ticking off a quirky bucket-list festival like Spain’s La Tomatina or Britain’s Cheese Rolling Fest or dropping by an art or museum exhibition, cultural events can make your micro-cation that bit more special.
4. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail
Look, it’s your holiday, and if you just want to take it easy that’s fine. However, my recommendation is to have a plan. It doesn’t have to be a hectic plan (in fact, this can just make us more stressed!). The plan can just be eat here, drink here, walk here, but an itinerary will help you make the most out of your weekend and minimises ‘hangry’ moments and research time while there.
5. Use an annual leave hacker
Pick your days off wisely and use bank holidays. Smartly selecting weekends could almost double the time off you get. Contiki’s traditional annual leave hacker is ready for our Australian readers, where you can get 42 days of holidays from four weeks annual leave in 2020. For everyone else, a bit of Googling and studying the calendar can maximise your year of micro-cations. Happy travels!