How to Get the Most From a 4-Week Vacation
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INSIDER SECRET: If you’ve got four weeks of vacation time, taking several smaller trips makes more sense than using all of your time at once. But that’s a personal choice.
The average American gets about two weeks of vacation each year, but that number has been increasing in recent years because employers are offering extra vacation days as a benefit to attract prospective employees.
How to Get the Most Out of a 4-Week Vacation
If you are lucky enough to get four or more weeks of vacation, then you are in the minority of American workers. This is an opportunity to experience travel in ways that shorter vacations don’t allow. Start the preparations here:
Plan One Trip Per Quarter
One approach is to spread a four-week vacation throughout the year in one-week chunks.
A week is the perfect amount of time to visit most destinations. It provides ample time to see the major sights, get a sense of the culture, enjoy some great food and still have time to relax so you return to work refreshed and renewed.
Also, if you take four different one-week vacations, you’re never more than a few months away from your next adventure.
Popular destinations that make great one-week vacations:
- New York City
- San Francisco
These destinations have easy access and plenty of activities to keep you busy for a week. All the major airlines fly to these places and all major hotel chains have locations there so it’s a great way to start earning or using airline miles and hotel points.
Visit Hard-to-Reach Locations
One of biggest advantages of more vacation time is that you can visit destinations that require more than a week to explore because they are hard to reach or complex to visit. Here are some possibilities:
Rich with wildlife found nowhere else in the world, the Galapagos Islands can be reached by flying first to Ecuador and then taking a long ferry ride to the islands. Each of the 19+ islands has its own unique wildlife and geology, so you will want to spend time hopping between islands to see them all.
Easter Island is a small island in the Pacific Ocean that is home to the world-famous Moai, statues of humans carved out of volcanic rock by an ancient culture to honor their ancestors. This island is one of the most remote places on earth and usually requires two full days of travel to and from the US. Because of this added travel time, most people will never have the time to experience this bucket-list destination.
Although it is possible to visit Australia in a week, usually two or more weeks are desirable because it is a very long flight and there is so much to do once you arrive. Australia is a vast place, roughly comparable in size to the Lower 48 of the United States; it takes a lot of time to move around.
Want to snorkel or scuba dive on the Great Barrier Reef? If so, add a few more days just for that.
New Zealand is another stunning nearby country that many miss out on because of the extra travel time required after getting to Australia.
Yes, visiting Antarctica is surprisingly practical now, if you have at least two weeks. To see the end of the earth, you usually fly to Argentina and then take specially equipped charter ships to Antarctica.
Antarctica is a fragile ecosystem that shouldn’t be ruined by tourism, so hire a tour operator who is part of the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) and follows strict rules to keep this area and its wildlife safe.
If Machu Picchu is on your bucket list and you have enough vacation time, this is a practical destination. Although it is possible to fly into Peru, take a train to Machu Picchu, check it off your list and head home in about a week, I think it is preferable to spend around two weeks visiting this area. For the best experience, you can walk along the sacred way of the Incas and witness the sunrise over Machu Picchu. These hikes can be grueling and require camping, but they offer the truest Incan experience.
Plan a Grand Tour
Often most of the time spent on vacation is wasted just getting to and from a destination. If you want to see more places and spend less time traveling, consider booking a grand tour.
This is a good option if there are several countries you want to visit but only have a few days to spend in each. You can hop between nearby countries while minimizing major travel days.
Here are a few ideas for grand tours, if you have two to four weeks for a trip:
Southeast Asia (Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore)
Although there is plenty to see in each of these countries, because of their close proximity it is easy to visit more than one destination on the same trip. All offer amazing food, temples, historical sights and unique culture.
Angkor Wat in Cambodia, the largest religious monument in the world, usually takes about three days to visit.
National Parks in the US
There are 58 national parks in the US. It would be impossible to visit them all in four weeks, but you could plan a small regional tour to explore a bunch of national parks on a single trip.
For example Utah has five national parks that can be visited together if you have a car. California also has nine national parks that could be visited as a group, including the famous Yosemite National Park.
Europe by Train
One of the biggest benefits of Europe is how easily accessible it is by train. With one long-haul flight between the US and a central European country, you can hop around Europe by affordable and comfortable train.
This is a fun way to see some of the hot spots in Europe, but also visit other countries that receive less traffic such as Belgium, Luxembourg or Monaco.
If you are fortunate enough to have four or more weeks of vacation, then a whole host of new travel opportunities are available to you. You can plan unique vacations to take advantage of this extra vacation time or you can space out your vacations so that you are always looking forward to another one.
We recommend these three techniques for getting the most out of your four weeks of vacation time:
- Plan frequent one-week trips to travel often.
- Use the extra time to travel to hard-to-reach destinations.
- Coordinate large “grand tours” to visit multiple nearby destinations during one trip.
Don’t let any vacation go to waste. Be sure to use all your available time off and implement these ideas into your trip planning to get the most out of your time.For the latest tips and tricks on traveling big without spending a fortune, please subscribe to the Million Mile Secrets daily email newsletter.
Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)