How to holiday: don’t turn the holiday into a commute

By Anthony Haynes

August 2, 2013

Category: Beyond publishing


The first of ten posts, published each work day, on the rules I set myself to create a successful holiday. The rules work for me: I hope they’re of some use to readers to. But they won’t suit everybody. You’re v. welcome to let me know how it’s different for you – and what your own rules might be.

Holiday time is precious to me, so I want to maximise the time I spend a holiday. I don’t want to waste that time merely getting to and from the holiday destination. 

That means one of two things: either ensure that the journey is itself genuinely part of the holiday or avoid going very far.

Say I’m going to take a holiday in Scotland. If we take a train up the east coast mainline and get a good deal on first class tickets, the journey may become part of the holiday itself. I read a book, eat a meal, look out the window at the Northumbrian coastline (looking out especially for Lindisfarne in the distance) . All good. The holiday starts as soon as we get on the train.

Or we could fly from Stansted airport. Arrive early to get the bus from the long-stay car park. Queue in security. Put my toothpaste in a  clear plastic bag, remove my belt. Maybe shoes too. Wait in the departure lounge, resisting the over-priced junk food. All bad. That isn’t holidaying, that’s commuting – the kind of thing one goes on holiday to avoid, for goodness sake.

Flying gets me to the destination sooner, but my holiday starts later because it starts only when I get there, not on the journey itself. 

So the other option is not to go very far. One holiday we stayed at home and went out every other day, visiting all those local places we’d been meaning to go to but never quite got round to. Churches we’d wanted to look inside. Historic monuments we’d driven past but never stopped at. That holiday was twenty years ago, but I’m still drawing on the pleasure of it – knowing what the insides are like.

I wouldn’t want do that every year but I’m struck by how many of my favourite holidays have been less than 70 miles away.

One colleague stayed at home and devoted all her holiday money to buying books from Heffers bookshop in Cambridge to read in the garden. I could see her point.

Sometimes it’s possible to combine the two options, making the journey part of the holiday AND not going very far. One year we drove up to the north Norfolk coast (about 60 miles away) but stopped at several places on the way that we’d been meaning to investigate. Swaffham, for example. Walsingham too. Again, all good.



2 Responses to “How to holiday: don’t turn the holiday into a commute”

  1. I wish we had a better train system here — I live in a train town, but now there is no commuter service, only cargo transport. I know people who have taken the train across country and, while it’s lovely, it’s also rarely on time. You have a much better system!

    Agreed on flying, although with some distances in the US it’s practically the only way to do a vacation unless you have quite a bit of time. Looking at the travel as part of the vacation itself certainly does help.

    I’ve also done local vacationing, which indeed can be lovely. I’ve heard the sort where you visit places near home or even stay home entirely called a “staycation”. I’ve been tempted to visit the hot springs near here, only about 30 minutes’ drive, as a mini vacation — we’ve been there several times already, but to stay overnight in a bed and breakfast sounds lovely.

    • Earlier this year my wife and son had a good holiday, staying 45 miles (and 45 minutes) away from home. That sounds a bit ridiculous but (a) it saved driving home each night, (b) it’s refreshing to be in a different place, wherever that is, and (c) places that are 75 miles from home are only 30 miles from the hotel, so opens horizons.

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