When planning a travel experience – be it a simple week in the sun or a longer-term trip that will span several months – it is easy to quickly fill your itinerary with a thousand and one different ideas. Whatever your destination, there simply seems to be so much to do and so many experiences you want to enjoy that before you know it, you’ve filled every day of your trip with a seemingly endless list of activities.
While it is entirely natural to be hugely enthused about your intended destination, when travel schedules become too overloaded, they can quickly become problematic.
What problems can a packed travel schedule list cause?
The first issue you may experience is a simple matter of feeling overwhelmed. When visiting a different country, there’s a huge amount to absorb and adapt to; you’ll be eating unusual food, negotiating unfamiliar transport networks, trying to decipher signs written in languages you may not speak, dealing with jet lag – and much more besides. Of course, these differences are usually one of the main reasons to travel, and immersing yourself in a different culture and way of life can be hugely enjoyable, but they’re also a lot to process. As a result, adding a hectic, non-stop schedule on top of the culture shock can easily become too much to deal with.
So it’s best to keep your activity plans sparse?
Not necessarily, though it does seem like the most sensible option on initial inspection – after all, limiting yourself to just a few activities for the duration of your trip is just one way of ensuring you don’t become overwhelmed. However, the idea of cutting down a destination to-do list is anathema to the majority of travelers; the idea is to explore and enjoy the area, to see and do things that they wouldn’t be able to do anywhere else in the world – who wants to enforce limitations before even arriving in their destination country? If you feel you can cut back your list of activities beforehand, then by all means do so, but if you dislike the idea, it’s clear that another solution is required.
Thankfully, there is a middle ground; a way of arranging your travel schedule that allows you to avoid being overwhelmed, but also ensures you are able to see, do, and experience everything your destination has to offer: you can include rest days as part of your travel schedule.
What are rest days?
Rest days are days that are included in your schedule, but are not specific ‘travel’ days – instead, they’re more akin to a Saturday or Sunday you would spend at home. If you want to do something fun on a rest day, then you absolutely can – there’s no need to stay in your hotel and literally “rest” if you don’t feel doing so is necessary or beneficial. Alternatively, you could use your rest day to catch up on work emails, or if you’re enrolled in an online course such as MSN program or MA degree, you could catch up on the latest assignments – the point is, the day is yours to use absolutely as you see fit on the day. No plans; no scheduling; no pre-booked appointments – just whatever works for you in the moment.
Why are rest days so important?
When traveling, a heavy itinerary can quickly begin to seem like a chore, especially if you begin to feel overwhelmed. The list of must-see sites and adventures can quickly begin to chafe; while the list may have seemed excited and action-packed when first compiled, in practice, rushing from one thing to the next can quickly become tiring.
As we have emphasized, rest days are simply an opportunity to do whatever you want on that specific day – there’s no list of sights to follow, no things you have to do. Essentially, rest days give you a sense of freedom.
Why not just make every day a rest day, if they can be used for anything?
You could do if you wish, but most travelers tend to respond well to some form of structure to their overall plans, especially if the list of things they want to see, do, and experience is long. There’s something reassuring about having a set schedule on some days, but allowing your plans to be more relaxed and flexible on others. You’ll benefit from the reassurance that you’re still going to do everything you want to do thanks to the active days, and also from the sense that you can do anything – or nothing, if you prefer! – on rest days. Essentially, a mix of activity and rest days allows you to get the balance of every trip just right.
How many rest days should I plan into the schedule for my next trip?
The number of rest days you plan for your next trip is entirely up to you – there’s no perfect answer that works for everyone. For some people, a single rest day over the course of a two-week vacation is more than enough; for others, a higher number of rest days tends to work better. Unfortunately, there’s no way of knowing how many days will work for you specifically if you have never tried the idea before.
Due to the above, it may be best to plan just a single rest day for your next trip. This allows you the chance to experiment with the concept and see if you find rest days useful, but doesn’t dominate too much time in your original plan, so you can still ensure you see and do everything you want to do. When you return, you can then reflect on how the rest day felt, and decide if just the one rest day worked well, or if you might benefit from more rest days in future.
It’s entirely natural to want to see and do as much as possible, but incorporating rest days into your schedule can help to ensure you find the perfect balance between “too much” and “not enough” every time you travel.