How to Plan an Extended Vacation


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Lars Leetaru

Having two or three weeks off for your next vacation is undoubtedly a luxury, but, depending on how you plan, the trip could be time well spent or wasted, according to Sam McClure, the owner of Small World Travel in Austin, Tex., who specializes in creating customized extended itineraries.

“A couple of weeks away may sound like a long time, but it’s not as long as you think, and there are several factors travelers need to consider to get the most out of their trip,” she said.

Here, she shares tips on planning a successful multiweek vacation:

AVOID OVERSCHEDULING With a few weeks off, it’s tempting to hit several destinations, but Ms. McClure advised against too many stops. “You’ll end up spending all your time on planes and trains, everything you see will be a blur, and you’ll burn out,” she said. Instead, keep travel to a minimum by sticking to one country or focusing on an area of the world where there are interconnected flights so traveling is less of a hassle. Examples include Botswana, Zimbabwe and Namibia in Southern Africa and Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand in Southeast Asia.

BUILD IN DOWNTIME Sightseeing is fun, but overdoing tours and visits to historical sites on a longer-than-usual trip can lead to information overload. Balance your itinerary with unstructured time — ideally, the equivalent of two days for every week you’re away — so you can relax on a beach, wander through local markets or people-watch in cafes.

CHOOSE A HOME OVER A HOTEL If you’re sticking to one destination, Ms. McClure recommended renting a home. “You will get a rhythm of local life that a hotel won’t give you,” she said. She recently helped clients rent a house for two weeks in the Dordogne region of France, for example, and although the family had been to France on multiple occasions, they told her that living in a home gave them a far more fulfilling perspective of the country.

DON’T OVERPACK If you’re visiting multiple destinations, limit your luggage to a bag with wheels, ideally a carry-on, and a backpack. Navigating airports and train stations, packing and unpacking, and keeping track of your belongings, especially on a longer trip, are much more manageable with less luggage.

CONSIDER VOLUNTEERINGEngaging in community service is an opportunity to connect with a destination in a unique way, but your entire getaway doesn’t have to be devoted to volunteering. Ms. McClure, for example, recently planned a three-week vacation in Ecuador for a family that included volunteering at a children’s home near Quito, followed by a visit to the Galápagos. “They taught English to the kids in the home, soaked up the wildlife in the Galápagos and saw the country through two different lenses,” she said. Companies such as Wilderness Safaris, Abercrombie & Kent and andBeyond offer volunteering opportunities for their clients. And, in many developing countries, hotels support charities and can arrange volunteer opportunities for guests.

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