The Travel Binge

By Jessica Goulart

Photo courtesy of Denise Krebs.

You have two weeks vacation time and a round-trip ticket to somewhere in Europe. That’s 336 hours, and you sure as hell aren’t going to waste them.

But do you jam pack that time with five different cities, spending two days in each to hit the highlights on a whirlwind tour that may miss some local flavor? Or, do you forgo a few ticks off the bucket list and focus on just a couple places, really soaking them in?

To travel binge or not to travel binge, that is the question.

As host of BreakThru Radio’s new travel podcast, Twenty-Something Traveler (TST), I think the answer depends on one simple factor–how much planning are you willing to do.

Travel binging means you won’t have much time to experience a place, so you’ll need a detailed itinerary. If you try to be spontaneous, you may end up wasting your only night in town.

Consult a “best 24 hours” series to figure out what you absolutely can’t miss. The New York Times offers a fantastic travel column called “36 Hours,” while Fodor’s developed a series of one-week guides. On TST, each episode features the best 24 hours in a different destination, with advice curated by a respective local.

You might consider using an app like TripIt to help organize yourself. TripIt will create a comprehensive itinerary for you when you forward your reservation emails for flights, hotels, and restaurants. The app tells you about nearby attractions and lets you share your itinerary between multiple accounts.

Also, if you are going to travel binge, avoid share communities like Couchsurfing. Yes, the prospect of crashing at a local’s apartment for free has its perks, but the opportunity should be reserved for longer trips. You’re too much at the mercy of your host, and if something goes wrong you won’t have time to enjoy the place you visit.

But then if you’re missing out on such interesting experiences, is binge traveling really worth it?

Photo courtesy of Moyan Brenn.

“In my opinion, travel binging is maybe not the best decision,” Daniel Gennaoui, founder of an amazing new information-sharing database called Niume, tells BTR. “If you have to see a city like Florence in three days, you’re going to miss everything. Chances are, you’ll see what every single other tourist always sees; the same cathedrals, the same museums, you will basically follow everyone else’s path.”

The cliche beaten path does not grant you opportunity to get lost in places, an activity Gennaoui embraces on his journeys.

Even if you’re planning your binge-travel trip ambitiously, don’t underestimate the power of jet lag upon arrival. Vivek Jain, medical director of the George Washington University Center for Sleep Disorders, told The Washington Post that jet lag is a result of sleep deprivation, as well as your body being suddenly out of synch with the local time zone. She explained that because your internal clock is better at gaining time than losing it, traveling west you will always adjust quicker, so try to plan accordingly.

Does all the planning sound like a hassle? If so, you’re probably better off picking one or two destinations and spending some quality time there. Concentrating your travels allows for more spontaneity and relaxation, plus the chance to try again if you have a bad day.

Roo Martin, founder of The Hanging Tent Company, tells BTR he once inter-railed around Italy to Pisa, Florence, Rome, Sorrento, Bologna, Venice, Verona, and Vernazza in just two weeks. Though he loved it, the trip wasn’t much of a vacation.

“A couple of days does give you enough time to get a little of what everyone talks about, however, if you are looking for a ‘holiday’ then one or two locations is a more relaxing option,” he says. “There are times when it’s just best to stop and ease yourself into the culture around you!”

If you’re strapped for time to travel, embrace being a local! You can surf around some blogs about the place you’re in, strike up a conversation with your bartender, or visit parks you’ve never seen. Try giving yourself a scavenger hunt, like finding and photographing all the red doorways in the city, or discovering the region’s best craft beer.

Certain apps allow for locals to reach out to incoming travelers. In turn, the latter party, whether binge or long-term traveling, can avoid tourist traps. A new app called Party With a Local allows fun-loving residents who are going out on the town to invite out-of-towners.

The app’s founder, Daniel Fennessy, tells BTR about how he was once invited to a dinner party for 80 people by the owner of a nightclub he randomly began chatting with. Believably, the event became one of his favorite travel experiences of all time. Being social is always a great way to enjoy a place.

“Apart from using our app, you can also try asking for directions to break the ice with a stranger, I’ve always found that works well,” he says.

Spotted by Locals is another fantastic resource. The website features info on destinations as curated by paid locals who will keep you up-to-date on their favorite places.

Crowdsourced topical tours are available through Vayable, a site that lets people who live in the area organize them. For example, an architecture student will walk you to famous buildings throughout New York City, or a Parisian artist will give you a one-hour tour of The Louvre.

Whether or not you travel binge, what’s most important is that you get out there and explore.

“My best advice is to research your destination, see how long others recommend spending there, and base your itinerary off that,” Megan Jerrard, founder of Mapping Megan, a database of blogs from around the world, tells BTR. “Worst case scenario, plan a travel binge to figure out which destinations you want to go back to on your next trip abroad!”

For more from these experts and many, many more, check out TST’s Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and tune in for new episodes of TST only on BreakThru Radio.