In order to answer your upcoming trip's obvious questions like, "Where am I going to stay?" or "How much are my flights going to cost?" you need to first figure out what the overall length of your trip is and how many days to spend in each of your trip's destinations.
The first of those two questions is generally easy to figure out based on your life and budget.
Your answer may be that you're flexible and while you were thinking of traveling for a month, there’s nothing stopping you from extending your adventure if you can afford it. For others, you may be dealing with stringent vacation restrictions like the popular "two weeks a year" most full-time jobs come with (*barf*).
Take a second to mull over which of those two time frames is true for you, flexible or stringent and roughly how long of an overall trip you're looking at taking. Don't worry, if you can't come up with an answer yet, you'll still get a lot of value from this article! I just think you'll get even more if you have a time frame in mind.
So, without further ado...
How Many Days Should I Spend in My Travel Destinations?
When trying to cook up the perfect answer as to how many days you should spend in your travel destinations, I always recommend starting by guessing (very scientific, I know)!
Let's take the itinerary from an upcoming trip I'll be going on soon as an example:
- Dublin, Ireland
- Paris, France
- San Sebastian, Spain
- Barcelona, Spain
- Santorini, Greece
For this trip, I know I have a strict two weeks to travel. Because of that, I’m going to split up two weeks worth of days across my destinations based on how much time I feel I'd like to spend in each spot.
You should do the same for your trip's itinerary if you have destinations picked out already and follow along. Remember, there are no right or wrong answers at this point!
Here's what my itinerary looks like now –
- Dublin, Ireland (3 days)
- Paris, France (3 days)
- San Sebastian, Spain (2 days)
- Barcelona, Spain (3 days)
- Santorini, Greece (3 days)
Now that I have my purposed day amounts on paper, I can start digging into what's actually feasible.
Looking at my itinerary above, given that I'll be leaving from Los Angeles to start my trip in Dublin, between the 10-hour flight duration and the timezone change I'll experience, I'm going to lose a day of my trip just on travel time!
I'll have the same problem coming back at the end of my trip.
Since I have a non-flexible two weeks to travel, I need to budget for those two days of travel time and consequently, I'll either need to dilute the number of days I'm spending in each city on my itinerary or drop a destination from my itinerary altogether...
I wouldn't want to spread myself any thinner than I already am so I'm going to ax a destination.
I choose Barcelona since I already have another Spain destination on my itinerary that I prefer, San Sebastian.
Here's my new itinerary having redistributed the three days I originally allocated to the now ELIMINATED Barcelona -
- Los Angeles TO Dublin (1 travel day)
- Dublin, Ireland (3 days)
- Paris, France (3 days)
- San Sebastian, Spain (3 days)
- Santorini, Greece (3 days)
- Santorini TO Los Angeles (1 travel day)
If your overall trip duration is flexible, the time you'll spend commuting shouldn't be a huge concern since you can just build that time back into your trip. If you're on a strict timeline though, be very aware of transit time and timezone changes so you can factor them into your schedule.
You can quickly estimate how long it takes to fly between destinations by going on Google Flights, typing in your origin and destination city, and checking the "travel time" section of any direct flight (no lay-over flight) being offered.
Now that I have a more solid plan as to how many days to spend in each of my cities, I'm ready to move on!
At this point, our proposed itineraries are built on what we think is an optimal amount of days to spend in our destinations based on mildly informed interest in each place. We want our final itinerary to be more informed than that though!
We need to make sure our itineraries are reasonable.
What Does It Mean to Have a Reasonable Itinerary?
Let's pretend that hypothetical you has the Italian cities of Rome and Venice on your itinerary with only a week to split between the two of them. You decide to assign 5 days to Venice because the idea of romantic Gondola rides has been your travel muse for as long as you can remember and two days to Rome because you think it could be a cool city.
While everyone is different, I’d wager that you’d find (given Rome’s size and varied experiences) that two days in Rome would make it so you see next to nothing of the city, while five days in Venice might be excessive given its relatively small scale.
To help us not fall into that trap and optimize our itinerary so it's "reasonable", we need to find out what people who have traveled to our destinations have to say about our proposed day allotments.
To get the ball rolling on figuring that out for my itinerary, I’m going to start with examining Dublin by asking Google, “three days in Dublin what to do” (feel free to ask a similar question for the first destination on your itinerary now, EX: "six days in Lyon what to do").
This question should turn up itineraries and discussion forums on the subject of what to expect when spending three days in Dublin (or whatever your day count and city is) and whether or not that time frame will work for you.
If you’re not getting good results from Google, try rephrasing your question like, “is X days in Y enough” (replacing X with the number of days you’re proposing and Y with your destination). It may be that there are no results that have the exact amount of days you're curious about. In those instances, reading articles that are discussing a number of days close to what you're considering will be fine.
Once you've found websites where you can read people‘s discussion of your question, take the time to review everyone's opinions and when you're done, ask yourself if you still feel comfortable with the number of days you're thinking of spending in the city on your list.
If you do, great! You can move on to asking Google about your next destination (or if you're only traveling to a single place, you're done!).
If you’re not comfortable with your days anymore, you need to adjust your itinerary using one of these three options:
- Borrow days from one of your other destinations
- Add time to your overall trip
- Ax a destination from your itinerary and redistribute its time
Fair warning, you're going to run into a lot of opinions on how much time you should spend in a place. Make sure that you weigh a combination of what you read and what your level of interest in the place is to decide on whether or not your itinerary needs to be adjusted.
It’s easy to find some crazy person online screaming about how big a disservice you’re doing humanity by only spending three days somewhere and then get scared into extending your visit.
Don't give into that fear and remember, how many days you need to spend somewhere is a matter of personal taste. After doing some research, just go with your gut.
For my example trip, I’ve just finished asking Google about each city on my itinerary to determine if my initial day estimates were reasonable.
This is what my trip looks like after reading online input:
- Los Angeles TO Dublin (1 day)
- Dublin (3 days)
- Paris (3 days)
- San Sebastian (3 days)
- Santorini (3 days)
- Santorini TO Los Angeles (1 day)
Exactly the same.
(I'm a stubborn man)
Wrapping up Figuring out How Many Days to Spend in Any Place You Travel To
Assuming you've been playing along with me throughout this article, did you find that your itinerary changed with research?
If it did, that's good! Most people will make at least one adjustment after some digging.
If it didn't, that's fine too! When you start booking flights, you may find that your transit time between destinations makes it so you have to shake things up because you're not spending enough time in places. Stay mindful that building the perfect itinerary is a fluid process that you'll revisit a lot all the way until when you start booking flights and accommodation!
If you're still not feeling confident in your ability to decide how many days to spend in your travel destinations, leave a comment in the box below or email me directly!
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