Advice on how to avoid an overambitious travel mistake

I’ve been traveling for just over a year now. No, not hopping from country to country and sleeping in hostels every night, but more like a couple weeks here, three months there, come home to recharge and then leave again.

In doing so, I’ve spent 14 weeks in Thailand, two weeks in Mexico, 11 weeks in Spain, one week in Singapore and a couple of days in Canada since last summer.

Kissing camels are not readily found in the U.S. Photo: Courtesy of David Sandel
Kissing camels are not readily found in the U.S. Photo: David Sandel

I’m now the guy my friends and family turn to when they’re planning an extended vacation or real soul-searching travel. It happens more with the vacation crowd versus the “real travel” group, but the same mistake gets repeated over and over, time and again:

Too many plans, not enough time.

travel mistake
Don’t plan too much. Photo: Courtesy of Sylwia Bartyzel/Unsplash
If you have 13 days off, and you want to go to 13 different places around the country, think again.

RELATED: Tips for experiencing Southeast Asia without breaking the bank

Unless you’re consciously planning a vacation in which you fly to as many destinations as possible in the amount of time you have off, chances are you’re trying to do way too many things in too short an amount of time.

Travel should be about experiencing something — a new culture, a different way of life, learning something new about yourself, just getting out of your comfort zone. If you never stop in any one place long enough to get out of the airport, how do you plan to experience anything other than security lines and customs agents?

Here’s some advice for managing your precious time off while traveling.

Consider all travel time

Did you know there are 2,000-foot bolted sport routes in Mexico? Photo: David Sandel
Did you know there are 2,000-foot bolted sport routes in Mexico? Photo: David Sandel
The reason booking too many destinations doesn’t work really comes down to the amount of time you spend traveling. Sure, a flight from Bangkok to Chiang Mai is only 45 minutes, but what about the 30 minutes you spent getting to the airport, the two hours in the terminal, the hour getting out of the next airport and the 30 minutes to get to your new hotel or hostel?

You’ve just spent four of your 16 waking hours on logistics, which gives you only 12 hours to “experience” your new destination before you do it all over again.

And this is if things go smoothly.

It’s an even worse choice if you plan to travel by train, car or bus, or if your flight is longer than 45 minutes.

Make the most of every minute of your vacation

With views like this, why would you want to leave after just a couple days? Photo: David Sandel
With views like this, why would you want to leave after just a couple days? Photo: David Sandel
If you work for one of those mythical companies that actually value their employees’ sanity and you get multiple weeks off, that’s where the temptation to jam-pack your schedule comes in.

However, most U.S. workers are going to get only seven to nine days. In my experience, that’s long enough to truly, fully experience one destination in one country — not several.

Get there, stay there

Admit it: Spending a whole week here doesn't sound so bad, does it? Photo: David Sandel
Admit it: Spending a whole week here doesn’t sound so bad, does it? Photo: David Sandel
The one-destination-per-week model is the best way to plan your travels, and even then, I’d keep the amount of time it takes to get between destinations to a minimum.

Try to shoot for no more than one day of travel, and that includes all the time associated with changing locations (see above) while still getting there early enough to enjoy the remainder of the day.

Visit multiple countries only if your main destination is already on the border. If it takes the same amount of time (or less) to travel to the other country than it does to hit another place within your anchor country, go for it.

When I travel, I actually won’t go if I can’t stay somewhere for at least two weeks. There’s always so much to see, so many places to go and so many people to meet.

Even then, I sometimes feel like it wasn’t enough time. I can’t imagine spending only one day in one place and then having to move. I’d rather have a staycation in my home and remove the stress of constantly moving.

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